“Reasons Against Separation” Calmly Considered (Pt. 4)

In this last post we look at Reasons 10-12 of John Wesley’s “Reasons Against Separation from the Church of England” as a model for the UMC.

(Wesley’s words are in bold).

10. BECAUSE the Experiment has been so frequently tried already, and the success has never answer’d the Expectation. GOD has since the Reformation raised up from Time to Time many Witnesses of pure Religion. If these lived and died (like John Arndt, Robert Bolton, and many others) in the Churches to which they belonged, notwithstanding the Wickedness which overlowed both the Teachers and People therein; they spread the Leaven of true Religion far and wide, and were more and more useful, ’till they went to Paradise. But if upon any Provocation or Consideration whatever, they separated, and founded distinct Parties, their Influence was more and more confined; they grew less and less useful to others, and generally lost the Spirit of Religion themselves in the Spirit of Controversy:

We, too, are in danger of losing “the Spirit of Religion” in the “Spirit of Controversy.” We’ve seen it happen too many times, even in our Methodist tradition. We’ve seen splinter group after splinter group, with narrower and narrower expressions that tend to breed controversy from generation to generation and increasing levels of schism on one issue or another. To quote Rosanne Rosannadanna, “It just goes to show you that it’s always something.” Separation means that our influence is more insular and more confined. It means that the great common mission projects that we have mutually supported for many years will suffer and wither. Wesley didn’t want to be just another sect, he wanted to change the world. What we need is not another denomination, but a new Methodist movement. More on that later. 

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“Reasons Against Separation” Calmly Considered (Pt. 3)

John Wesley’s “Reasons Against Separation from the Church of England” as a model for the UMC. In this installment, Reasons 7-9.

(Wesley’s words are in bold)

7. BECAUSE, whereas Controversy is now asleep, and we in great Measure live peaceably with all Men, so that we are strangely at Leisure to spend our whole Time and Strength, in enforcing plain, practical, vital Religion, (O what would many of our Forefathers have given, to have enjoyed so blessed a Calm?) This would utterly banish Peace from among us, and that without Hope of its Return. It would engage me for one, in a thousand Controversies, both in Publick and Private; (for I should be in Conscience obliged to give the Reasons of my Conduct, and to defend those Reasons against all Opposers) and so take me off from those more useful Labours, which might otherwise employ the short Remainder of my Life:

I am not in agreement with the direction the majority in my annual conference have gone on many issues, but I have also not been persecuted for my beliefs. Controversy is certainly not “asleep,” but I have always been “at Leisure to spend [my] whole Time and Strength in enforcing plain, practical, vital Religion.” Wesley is right that compared to our apostolic “Forefathers,” and even our ecclesiastical ones, our climate for continuing to preach the gospel is still a blessed calm. Indeed, as a member of the orthodox minority whose church is growing I have many clergy colleagues and members of the Cabinet who are interested in learning from us about our process for growing disciples. Working toward separation, engaging in posting charges against other clergy, or making loud speeches and protests at conference and denominational meetings tends to “banish Peace from among us, and that without the Hope of its Return.” Wesley saw talk of separation as a quagmire of controversy that would “take [him] off from those more useful Labours which might otherwise employ the short Remainder of [his] life.” I can’t help but think the separation talk is preventing us from redeeming the time we’ve been given as well.

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“Reasons Against Separation” Calmly Considered (Pt. 2)

Part 2 of a series using John Wesley’s “Reasons Against Separation from the Church of England” as a model for evangelicals in the UMC.

In this installment, we begin looking at Wesley’s “Reasons Against Separation from the Church of England” itself and how it might instruct us in the present crisis facing the Church. Wesley had twelve reasons for not separating the Methodist movement from the Church of England, and here we look at the first six along with some commentary on how we might apply them today.

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“Reasons Against Separation” Calmly Considered (Pt. 1)

John Wesley "submitting to be more vile" by preaching in fields.

John Wesley “submitting to be more vile” by preaching in fields.

I returned on Sunday afternoon from the Rocky Mountain UM Annual Conference session in Pueblo and after a few days of rest and reflection (some necessitated by an intestinal virus I picked up while there), I’ve been pondering the question the Bishop posed in her Episcopal Address—namely, given the deep divisions in the church right now over homosexuality and other issues, “Where do we go from here?”

I am one of a small minority of colleagues in the Rocky Mountain Conference who are theologically orthodox and who believe that the Discipline’s current language on the particular issue of human sexuality accurately reflects the biblical witness and the history of the church’s thinking on the matter. I respect that others disagree with me on this issue (and many others), and yet we have remained friends since I entered the conference in 1998. I learned a lot about being an ecclesiastical minority while serving for seven years in Utah, where Protestant Christians are heavily outnumbered by their LDS neighbors and yet I gained some great friends from among those with whom I have little in common theologically. Those lessons are still instructive to me in the current unrest and calls for schism in the United Methodist Church.

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Business as Usual: Annual Conference Day 3

With the emphasis on Sand Creek during this conference session, we managed to do most of the “business” portion of the weekend on Saturday. This is one of those years when there isn’t that much legislation to ponder, which is nice in advance of next year’s pre-General Conference voting and petitioning. So, today was all about hearing reports from various conference agencies, voting on the few petitions we had in legislative committees, and spending the afternoon in clergy and laity sessions—all the things that our Discipline requires of us.

I was humbled to hear some of the stories told this morning about the ways in which members of our annual conference pulled together during the devastating fires and floods that ravaged Colorado this past year. It seems to me that we Methodists are consistently at our best when helping others, which was also evidenced by the mountain of health kits and flood buckets in the main entry hall of the convention center which were ready to be loaded on trucks for shipment to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) Depot in Salt Lake City. From there, those kits will be shipped out to make a difference in the lives of people around the world.

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