One of the interesting things about a lot of the people who claim to be United Methodists is that we don’t even know what our official denominational stance is on a great many issues. Hell, I was shocked at the number of employed UMC clergy who have not yet read our Social Principles completely. Some of us like to get dogmatic on issues without knowing things we should know.
Now, I’m not one for towing the party line just because. People are free to believe a great many things. That said, I thought it would be helpful to provide a series of reflections on the United Methodist Social Principles in bite-sized chunks. If we are going to say we are Methodists, then let’s ponder what it means to be a United Methodist today.
I’m going to start with the Preamble of the Social Principles, which you can read here.
For the sake of space and copyright issues, I will not paste the whole text. I encourage you to read the specific sections addressed on your own. Instead, what I will do is point out a few sentences that catch my eye. I will probably give my own ideas as well. Hopefully, this will be a resource for people who want to know more about how we should order our lives around United Methodist belief. With introductions out of the way, let’s get started.
“we affirm the goodness of life and confess our many sins against God’s will for us as we find it in Jesus Christ.”Preamble, Paragraph 2.
It is so easy to read over this one while missing a HUGE point, that God’s will for Christians is to be found in Jesus. Now, that might seem like an obvious point to some of you. But, judging by the number of times as a pastor that I have had to answer the “what does God want” question, I am guessing most people either miss the obvious or just don’t know how to determine God’s will.
As United Methodists, and really this should be a Christian generalization, God’s will for our behavior and thinking should start with our relationship with Jesus. Jesus really boiled it all down to two things: love God, love neighbor. If whatever you’re doing or thinking doesn’t fit into those two categories, then it probably isn’t God’s will.
We affirm our unity in Jesus Christ while acknowledging differences in applying our faith in different cultural contexts as we live out the gospel.
Preamble, Paragraph 3.
Especially in such a divisive time for the UMC*, it cannot be overstated that our unity as United Methodist, and Christians at large, comes as we relate to Jesus. We are not united by dogma, doctrine, practice, or ritual. We are united in Jesus.
There are a great many conversations and positions we can take within that scope, but nothing should tear us apart if we are united in Jesus. The problem, especially today, is that we are united against our enemies rather than united in Christ. Jesus would puke if he saw the crap being carried out in our denomination over the LGBTQ+ topic. He would stand on a hill and preach out against injustices being called for and carried out in the name of security and wealth building.
Applying our faith looks different in various contexts. One realization that is missing for most people is the one that reveals that, like everything else, context changes over time. But our unity in Jesus does not.
What are your thoughts on this? Also, if you like this or any of the posts on this blog, please share on your preferred social media platform. These are a lot more fun to write when others engage.
Next time, we will ponder what United Methodist believe when it comes to the natural world around us.
- *At the time of this writing, we are about to enter into the 2019 Special General Conference to determine the official United Methodist position on homosexuality.