UMC: A New Question

I have waited to write a blog post at the mid-point of General Conference until more was known about what came out of the first week.  I find myself deeply saddened, with words in short supply.

For the past several years, I have wondered what General Conference would do with respect to our three institutional identifiers: United, Methodist, and Church.  Each of these has been under scrutiny in one way or another in the years leading up to GC 2016.

But now, with recommendations forthcoming which are devoid of even the milk of human kindness, I am now wondering what General Conference will do with the word ‘Christian.’ 

Lord, have mercy!  Christ, have mercy!

About jstevenharper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 31 books.
This entry was posted in UMC. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to UMC: A New Question

  1. Bonnie Beuning 2 year#32 says:

    It’s such a sad year. My heart is broken by the praise and following for the crudest and most hate-filled of candidates. My life-long love affair with my UM church has borne great damage the last few years, and it seems the cracks may be widening. I need to learn what has saddened you so–I haven’t kept up. God can sutvive all assault, but at times I wonder if I can. Then I remember that the denomination doesnt own our spirits nor our souls and that all will be well if I follow wherever God leads me. And do as I am called to do.

  2. jolhowell says:

    “You are nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing, parading around as actual ministers and leading your flock down every road of sin” . . . Regardless of ones biblical, theological and moral understanding of the current issue at hand, lobbing this all-inclusive charge against a whole denomination of men and women who have most likely devoted their lives to a costly pastoral call, belies the spirit of the Gospel. Neither UMC or RC in my religious affiliation, it is nonetheless inspiring and hopeful for me to realize that in Pope Francis’ proclamation of 2016 as “The Year of Mercy” and John Wesley’s consistent focus on “works of mercy,” they both reveal their understanding that no matter which side of an argument one stands on, “mercy triumphs over judgement” (James 2:13).

  3. Tom says:

    In the 70s your church thought it clear that same-sex marriage was not marriage. Now you lament the unwillingness of all the church to change its mind. Your “church” has no convections. It has no beliefs. It has no foundation. It is simply the mood and feeling of the times, controlled and swayed by the zeitgeist as easily as any secular man or woman. The UMC is heading for fracturing and to God’s glory I hope it does. You are nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing, parading around as actual ministers and leading your flock down every road of sin.

  4. Tom says:

    Any church not founded on the rock of St. Peter will fail. Stop being heretics and come back home to Rome sweet Rome.

  5. Thanks for your witness, Steve. Lord, have mercy — indeed. Such reshaping of friends into enemies is breathtaking (Spirit robbing) and a true illustration of that which is pure tragic irony. How to respond? Prayer — yes; encourage honest and healing in local places — yes … and this morning, for me at least, I think of poet David Whyte’s marvelous image of “turning sideways into the light.”

  6. Jim Cook says:

    Steve,
    I have arrive in Portland last night to work in the Prayer Garden for the week here at General Conference. I read your blog with a sinking heart. I think many of us will have a time of searching to discover how God may be allowing us to find our way personally toward connection with God’s self and others who share common convictions that are not being shown by the larger group here. Oddly enough, in this election year in our country, fracturing may seem to be the atmosphere in the US on lots of fronts. The church is not exempt. Please hold us in prayer ss we work in the Prayer Garden here at General Conference this week. Jim Cook

  7. Carl says:

    Sad indeed! I feel the situation is hopeless. There seems to be no sign of grace. I weep for our church.

  8. mteston says:

    The dis-ease over the last few decades has been largely invisible or at least there was a degree of cover over the matters you have unpacked over the last few weeks in your blog in regard to the United – Methodist – Church, although I am of the opinion it is not unique to the UMC at all. After 27 years of service as a pastor, I retired quite early recognizing, even while the congregations I served were numerically growing, that there was a spirit that meandered through each community served. Attempting to create safe and hospitable community seemed always to be at risk, always tenuous. Much of my time and energy was spent running interference, blocking the most vulnerable from those who felt it was there agenda to point out what divided us from them (and in this case I am not speaking of the questions around human sexual identity). The most vulnerable were not primarily those persons largely being addressed at the General Conference in these weeks. There were many more persons choosing to gather with us who didn’t talk like us, look like us, act like us, and laughably didn’t think or do systematic theology as they should. It became clear to me they were a target. What these persons had in common was a desire to be loved like most who filled the space created, to be shown that there could be a place where love was the first and final word. After almost 3 decades I realized there were too many other agendas at stake that undermined the hospitality I imagined and envisioned for the community of faith that centers around Jesus Christ. My sense is that the current debate is the final culmination, the exposure of what has been a subtle spirit that has called for new wineskins for decades. Because, in the last years, it has been too painful to look at this spirit for what it is, there has been a dragging of our feet to own what is seen across the landscape of the institution, it can not hold the new wine of the Kingdom. Obviously, it is painful and then some to come to such a conclusion. Although it will appear that the final nail will be over the human sexual identity issue it goes much deeper, yet this complex and profound matter exposes the need to confess, maybe, something much larger and smaller at the same time, that the heart of the institution is too small to embrace the world as parish, that we, that I, am too small. I remember almost 30 years ago sitting in a class at ATS listening to a student question the professor about what caused him to leave the local parish. The response has been seared into my memory, the response was not spoken, the professor wept and I have carried that picture for decades. I now understand.

  9. Jack Harnish says:

    I’ve had the same feeling…when punishment takes the place of “just resolution”, we are on the verge of becoming a narrow, bitter church.

  10. JEFF BLAKE says:

    Profoundly grievous times.

Comments are closed.