UMC: Round Table #2

Today, I continue the exploration of E. Stanley Jones’ concept and practice of the Round Table as a model for us to learn from as we move toward General Conference.

The first thing Jones noted was that the Round Table was offered, but not everyone accepted the invitation to come to it.  He described the refusal by writing, “Their native air is debate and they were not quite at home in the atmosphere of quiet search for truth and reality through sharing.”

This means that any practice of holy conferencing must be an “all in” commitment–a substantive involvement, not a perfunctory one.  Christian Conferencing is not a posturing, it is a participation.

After a decade of using the Round Table, Jones summarized his learnings in his book, ‘Christ at the Round Table.’  In the rest of this post, I will let him largely speak for himself in these points….

(1) “a great deal of intellectual and spiritual culture was represented through those who participated”– the interdisciplinary breadth and depth at the Round Table.

(2) “no one has a right to teach others who is not also learning from them”–the spirit of those who came to the Round Table.

(3) “we were all being called upon to face religion and life in a new way”–the sense of ‘kairos’ at the Round Table.

(4) “human beings are incurably religious”– the essence of the Round Table.

(5) “humanity is fundamentally one”–the universality of the Round Table.

(6) “the fundamental need of the human heart is redemption”–the missional aim of  the Round Table.

(7) “given time and space, there was not a situation in which Christ was not in moral and spiritual command”–the faith at the Round table.

Set against the biblical backdrop of Jeremiah 32:27 and the Wesleyan context “to serve the present age,” I believe the Round Table method offers us a mindset and means for remaining The United Methodist Church, and eschewing schism.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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