This is a time for clarity. So, let’s be clear: The United Methodist Church is committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This has been and will continue to be our mission. Sure, we might take umbrage with aspects of it (like who does the actual disciple making—us or God), but the basic point is unambiguous: we’re interested in following Jesus Christ and helping others to do the same.
Contrary to so much of the fearmongering being done by those encouraging disaffiliation, this commitment is not changing. I’ve lost track of the number of click-bait, cringe-inducing posts that claim the post-2024 UMC will have renounced Christ for pagan tree worship or some other outrageous claim. Yet, for all of their misdirection, there is at least one thing they have right about the post-2024 UMC: those of us who remain (80% at this point) will not all think the same way.
If you are looking for a denomination where everyone will be forced into lockstep about Scripture, about what discipleship looks like, about whose love is worthy of God’s blessing and whose is not, then disaffiliation from the UMC might be the right path. If, however, you are willing to sit in the same pew with someone who thinks differently than you, if you are willing to err on the side of grace, if you believe that we don’t have to think the same way to face in the same direction, then the UMC is your church!
To be clear, the post-2024 UMC will (and should) include those who identify as “traditional,” as “progressive,” and as “centrists.” Inclusion is not just about human sexuality but also about beliefs. No one in the United Methodist Church is kicking anyone out. There are only people leaving who cannot tolerate differences. There is a place for everyone in the UMC.
This is nothing new.
John Wesley once preached, “Though we can’t think alike, may we not love alike?” When given the opportunity to add creeds to our first Articles of Religion, Wesley intentionally omitted them, not because he disagreed with the foundational tenets they professed, but because he understood how they could become stumbling blocks to faith. In other words, Methodists have never been about uniformity of belief, but rather uniformity of mission—to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world!
To be even clearer, the current exclusionary language in our Book of Discipline around LGBTQ marriage and ministry is a stumbling block to faith for many. It is standing in the way of our mission and keeping generations of people from a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. The irony, of course, is that this legalistic adherence to a few obscure Scripture passages is exactly what Jesus warns against in the Gospels. We should not be caught up in legalism, and neglect “the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.” (Matthew 23:23)
The Methodist movement has always tried to strike a balance between right belief and right action, between the outward and inward expressions of our faith, between vital piety and social holiness. The way we’ve found that balance is together. The truth is, we need each other in all our diversity to make sure we are pointed in the right direction. Because if our social witness does not align with our professed faith, then we are not only failing in our mission, but we are doing a disservice to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is a time for clarity. Let us remain clear in our mission. Let us remain clear in our call. Let us remain clear in our commitment to one another.
To paraphrase Wesley, “If your hearts be like our hearts, then take our hand.”
Mainstream UMC needs your support, please donate today. www.MainstreamUMC.com/Donate
Articles on Next Steps:
- Honesty: https://mainstreamumc.com/blog/next-steps-1-of-3-honesty
- Clarity: This Article
- Manage Expectations: https://mainstreamumc.com/blog/next-steps-3-of-3-manage-expectations
Rev. Stephen Cady, PhD
Asbury First United Methodist Church
Mainstream UMC Advisory Board
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