(This is copied from my other blog, the Methodist Reveille.)
“I don’t know how you do it.” The question was asked of me by my co-worker. “How can you hang in there in a denomination where you face so much opposition? You are a believer, but you have so much disagreement with other Christians in your denomination, as well as historical disagreement. Somehow you manage to stick around in a denomination where there is so much darkness in the leadership.”
He gave me a lot to ponder.
It’s true, I do have some major disagreements with a great many of my fellow believers in the UMC. I am far more Calvinistic than most (but ironically far more Wesleyan than most as well!). I am far less liturgical. I tend to hold to a typical protestant paedobaptism position, but am very Zwinglian with regard to Holy Communion. I believe very firmly in continuing scriptural education for the adult Christian, unlike the usual attitude that the Bible is too hard to understand so just pay attention to the pastor’s sermon on Sunday.
Don’t get me wrong, I am very definitely a Methodist; a Wesleyan Methodist. But there was one incident I remember some years back when I was teaching an adult Sunday School class, when one woman stormed out of the class calling me a Presbyterian, and that I was condemning her son to hell because I was so bold as to point out that God is sovereign, as the Bible so clearly says. Now I never said a word about her son, in fact, the subject of her son never came up. But who knows what baggage some folks are carrying around?
As I said, I am a Methodist; a Wesleyan Methodist. And I know for a fact that many who fancy themselves as Methodists today, who claim to hold to a Wesleyan theology, would actually condemn John Wesley himself as a Calvinist. (Wesley himself claimed to differ from Calvin by only a “hairsbreadth”!) Most of those who come up against what I say are those who don’t understand this.
Now we all know how deeply the rivers of theological liberalism run in the UMC. It has gotten so bad that, here in the north, one would be hard-pressed to find any United Methodist congregation that has heard any vestige of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ in the last fifty years. Our pews are filled with people who have never heard the Gospel, and wouldn’t know it if it hit them smack dab in the face.
So how do I, as a believer, put up with this situation?
I would be lying if I said it is easy. Having a pastor who holds to a high Christology is a big help! When the pastor tells folks in the sermon that the answer to some of the deepest problems in our lives lies in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit through a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, well, that warms the cockles of my heart! But how do we put up with other pastors and bishops who deny the very deity of Christ?
Well, part of it is that I’m used to being a lone voice in the church. But it’s also important to realize that, no matter how much I study and learn, the vast majority of the members of our church are, and will continue to be, biblically and doctrinally illiterate. There will be no debate of eschatology; there will be no debate of soteriology; there will be no debate of the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism in our church. Our church needs milk! It has no teeth to bite down on the meat of the word; it can only handle the milk! And anyone who feeds them milk is a friend of mine!
I cringe when I see a Bible study advertised in the church newsletter that says it will be a nice, easy, quick overview of the scripture, and not a “heady” Bible study. But then I remember that these people have no teeth! They can’t handle a “real” Bible study.
I’ll do the real Bible study myself, and i will offer it to people who are finally looking for something they can really chew on. But at this point, I content myself with fellowship among people who have no teeth. If I can give them some milk, protect them from the wolves among us, and help them along their walk with the Lord, I have done what God is calling me to do in this church.
And if I am doing the will of God, what more is there?