Surprised by the Methodist!


#1

I’ve been considering my options, now that I’ve come to believe in UR. Because of most churches’ exclusive Statement of Faith, I cannot in good conscience join them knowing that I disagree with their SoF and knowing that it is such a big issue with them. And I am not one to just attend, fill a seat, and not get involved. I’ve tried to do this for a little while now and just cannot continue to do so. On top of that, I continue to get increasingly frustrated with these exclusive elements of the church we’ve been attending. From my perspective, UR vs. Hell or Annihilation is not an issue that should divide us and keep us from working together; I believe there needs to be room for differences of beliefs on this and many other issues. I believe that if we’re loving God and loving one another then the rest of the stuff can work out.

Anyhow, this weekend at a wedding, I shared UR with some people I met and they said that’s what they believed, they just didn’t know that Universalism is what it was called. Their church focuses loving God and loving people in very practical ways and is open to a wide variety in beliefs and doctrine. They personally believed in UR, believing that such empowers them to stop worrying about who’s in and who’s out and simply love people, leaving judgment to God! It was an awesome conversation and I was greatly encouraged! And they attend a United Methodist congregation.

So in checking out this I’ve come to see that they are open to their members having a variety of beliefs. In fact, their focus is on praxis, practically loving one another and reaching out with love to those who do not know the Lord. Their focus seems to be more on “How to” as opposed to “What if”.

I had never even considered the possibility of me becoming a Methodist, but the more I read about them, the more it seems that at heart I already am one, sharing their values and philosophy of life and ministry! I didn’t know that there was such a denomination. I do wonder though how rigid they are and how open the local congregations are to growth and change. And coming from a Charismatic/Pentecostal background I’ll likely miss the passionate and expressive worship, assuming that the worship services are more traditional. We’ll see though.


What church could I attend and work at being a Universalist?
#2

Hi Sherman,
i’m not sure what differences (if any) exist between the Methodists over there and the Methodists over here, but i can agree that i am quite favourable to them.
the style of service i’ve attended (while visiting my non Christian yet girlfriend) have been very similar to Church of England.
they seem quite liberal, and in fact the message preached at Easter was asking the question about why Jesus died…it interested me because rather than taking the normal route, the pastor(?) spoke about God intending to address man’s fear of death. ie, if Christ demonstrates God’s power over death, what is there to fear?
it was very interesting and thought provoking!

my assumption is that they are quite liberal and open-minded in many ways, and so it’s been fun getting to know them, and instructive for me. i don’t know if they are UR proponents but they are probably open to discussing it.

if this is in any way similar to the group you’ve found, i wish you well in joining with them!


#3

My take is that there is a wide range of Methodist theology.
The “we accept everybody” motto, which doesn’t jive well with the concept of Church discipling is how they advertise. In my reading of Scripture, God’s Spirit is not so “tolerant”. It seems to me that the holiness of God is manifest in his punishments and discipling (ECT or UR or CI all claim this).
On the other side, I have heard of some biblically committed Methodist who haven’t become intoxicated with the “spirit of the age”.


#4

I suppose I’ve come to the place that if I err, I choose to err on the side of Grace, Mercy, and acceptance and leave judgment to God. I’ve seen so much negativity, judgmentalism, and fear in the church that I’m sick of it! (The negativity, judgmentalism, and fear, not the church.)

From experience, I’ve found that church discipline is usually, almost always, rooted in pride, self-righteousness, fear, and even selfish ambition. I don’t know that I have ever actually seen church discipline done in a manner and spirit that actually accomplished reconciliation. And I’ve never seen it done following the principles set out by our Lord.

So bring on a little liberalism and generosity and acceptance!


#5

But don’t we want to accurately represent God, the fact that He asks us to repent of our sins?
Whether congregations discipline like Jesus is a different matter than whether we teach what God has revealed.


#6

Of course we want to “accurately represent God” as best we can. And teaching and preaching what is right and good can be done in the context of grace, mercy, and acceptance. Yes we need to teach repentance; but it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance! It’s the love, acceptance, grace, and mercy of God that empowers us to live right. Of course we need to teach what God has revealed, but/and we need to do so in the Spirit that He gave it.

Yes we need to call for change, a change of heart, mind, and lifestyles! God desires to give us an abundant life, a life filled with His love, grace, mercy, righteousness, and truth! And it requires repentance to embrace such. He desires for us to be whole personally and relationally, for our towns, cities, countries to be filled with the knowledge of His Word and Truth because He loves us. We who have been reconciled are called to a ministry of reconciliation!

And I believe that the above is best accomplished in a spirit of humility, grace, and acceptance. Such a presence is like cool spring of water to a man dying in the desert. After displaying tremendous acceptance grace and forgiveness, Jesus encouraged the woman caught in adultery to “go and sin no more”. But the “go and sin no more” followed the grace and forgiveness.


#7

Officially, the United Methodists do preach repentance from sin unto salvation.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Methodists

umc.org/

They’re relatively conservative; but I’ve heard for some time that they unofficially allow universalism to be held privately and debated among specialists without penalties as a legitimate theological opinion so long as it isn’t claimed to be the official doctrine of the church or in such a way as to interfere with necessary doctrines. (i.e. much the way the Eastern Orthodox do.)

Officially, though, they’re Arminian and so non-universalistic:

Worth looking into anyway. :slight_smile:


#8

Sherman, thanks for sharing and let us know how it goes. Maybe this is an option for Gene and I to try too. We have one in our city. In fact, it was the church Gene attended as a little boy. I wonder what his thoughts are on this. I’ll have to ask him. I agree, too, with you, better to err on the side of mercy!


#9

Well Sherman, as one who has read and admired your contribution and witness here, I think this is just cool.
But keep in mind, you may have simply stumbled upon a particularly enlightened congregation.
So where ever this goes, whatever you do/decide, I bless you to the top of my lungs! (I love mixed metaphors!)

But here’s a thing… And I wrestle with it all the time…
… IS my task to “find” a place where I feel comfortable? A place where they seem amenable to the beliefs I already hold?
… OR – am I being called to bloom where I am planted: to be a witness to the truths I hold dear, in a place which has not yet (takes optimism this…) seen this vision…

No matter what you do, or where you go, this always holds: Be faithful to the vision of the Lord you now adore and worship…
He will bless you if you do this no matter what/where you decide to go…

My take
TotalVictory
Bobx3


#10

But you guys, WHY ERR?


#11

:unamused: I don’t think they’re saying we should insist on erring on the side of mercy when we know the truth is the other way.

The concept, rather, is that where the result is ambiguous we should risk erring on the side of mercy rather than of non-mercy, since we have been explicitly told (especially by Christ!) what’s going to happen if we refuse to act in mercy.

It’s also a popular argument to risk erring on the side of non-mercy, so that any errors won’t be disappointing. :slight_smile:


#12

I trust you said that tongue-n-cheek. I appreciate the humor.


#13

Jason,

You’re correct, UR is not the Methodist official doctrine, but one they are open to. Their philosophy of ministry is different from Protestant churches. Their foundation is not their Statement of Faith, but their common love for God and love, respect for one another, and mission to make disciples of Christ. In fact, they have two statements of faith, at least the United Methodist do, one Methodist and the other from the Brethren church. The Methodist one doesn’t mention punishment, but the Bretheren one does mention eternal punishment. Their foundation not being their Statement of Faith though affords members the room to have personal convictions on many different issues, including UR/Hell/Annihilation.

It’s a significantly different philosophy of ministry from Protestant churches that are founded upon specific systematic theologies, where the Statement of Faith is the tool used to Exclude others. Apparently Protestants believe that we cannot love and worship God “together” unless we all agree upon various lists of beliefs. There is little or no room for honest and respectful disagreement. And yet from experience I’ve found that most believers do not ever even read the Statement of Faith, and many don’t agree with everything in their chruch’s SoF.

Well, I haven’t visited a local Methodist church yet, but hope to do so soon. There are three in my little town.


#14

Thanks Bod, I appreciate you too.

The passage where Jesus said that one should not take new wine and pour it into an old wine skin speaks powerfully to me. This is especially true for “new” doctrines to Protestant churches. When a new doctrine comes in, it usually, if not always, results in the church splitting, and some people getting so disallusioned that they just give up on church all together. In the Charismatic movement I’ve seen this happen a lot.

Now church splits are not totally bad; in fact, I think they are one of the primary means that God uses to expand the Kingdom. Splits are often a “dysfuntional” way of planting new churches, kinda like a C-section instead of natural child birth. C-sections are invasive, violent, and dangerous, but sometimes necessary.

Thanks for the encouragement Bob. I’ve wrestled with starting a fellowship but the door has not opened for that yet. And I’d much rather work with an existing fellowship than start a new one. Right now I’m just looking for a fellowship where my wife, family, and I can worship together in peace. I’ve tried to set my passions and gifts aside and just sit on a pew, enjoy worship, and keep my mouth shut - but it kills me. I’ve always participated and it’s difficult for me to just sit. Well, anyhow, thanks again for your encouragement.

Blessings,
Sherman


#15

The issue here seems to be looking for a church that accurately teaches Jesus’s teachings. I’m not sure that we have to compromise regarding the matter of how God “accepts people”. This seems to me to be at the heart of the message of the Gospel: how to be reconciled with God. I think that a church that “accepts people as they are” as their message is being unclear about the message. Did Jesus “accept people as they are”? No, I don’t think He did. I think that He clearly asks everybody to change.


#16

But Jesus did accept people where they were at, and then showed them how to change for the better. That is the difference.

The inclusivist says, come and join me on my journey. The exclusivist says, convert or die (or these days, be excluded from the group).

Sherman seems to have found a group that takes the inclusivist route.

Which one are you likely to want to change to be more like?


#17

Sigh,

I think topics got conflated somehow back upthread.

You had expressed concern that the big-tent inclinations of the UMs (despite the very conservative foundational docs of the United Methodists) were for some congregations so big that the inclinations conflicted with “discipling”. (Actually, the UM bishop assembly has regularly defrocked clergy who insisted on operating outside doctrinal boundaries, but whatever.) I took this to mean doctrinal discipling, but Sherman seems to have thought you were talking about “disciplining”. The two topics are related, of course, but as you yourself mentioned afterward “Whether congregations discipline like Jesus is a different matter than whether we teach what God has revealed.”

Sherman agreed that there was a distinction between them; acknowledged that they were also necessarily related; affirmed that accurately representing God as best we can is something we want (and ought) to do as faithful Christians, and that we need to teach what God has revealed; affirmed that teaching repentance and a call for a change of heart, mind and lifestyles is part of our evangelical duty–all of which fits with affirming the importance of “discipling” and of not watering down the doctrinal an penitent importance of “discipling”–and then went on to connect this with “disciplining” by concluding (on the basis of some standard theological doctrines) that any disciplining ought to be done in better ways than what he had experienced and was complaining about. (A complaint you seemed to agree was valid but distinct from the larger process of discipling.)

Amy agreed with Sherman about erring on the side of mercy when it comes to the church discipline process that Sherman was complaining about never being done correctly in his experience (not when it comes to larger questions of making disciples).

Your reply to her agreement about this was “But you guys, WHY ERR?”

Frankly, I wasn’t sure which topic you were asking about (since you had seemed to agree that an unmerciful church discipline process was wrong but distinct from doctrinal and penitence evangelism which you were concerned the United Methodist congregations weren’t strong enough on. Assuming you had the UMs specifically in mind, which is who Sherman and the others were talking about, and not Methodists in general or another Methodist body.) Were you emphatically asking “why err” on the side of mercy in the church discipline process?–which is what they were talking about. Or “why err” on the side of mercy in promoting and teach church doctrines and penitential evangelism?–which they had already agreed shouldn’t be done. (Thus Sherman’s guess that you were trying to be tongue-in-cheek humorous.)

Consequently I tried to phrase my reply so that it could apply either way. Which, although I thought I was being usefully multi-purpose, maybe didn’t help matters after all. :wink:


#18

Actually, I think Jesus did accept people as they are. Sinners, prostitutes, tax-collectors were drawn to Him. Did He encourage them to change? Of course he did. But his acceptance of them was not based on them having already repented. Rather His acceptance of them produced in them the desire, will, and strength to repent. Grace produced repentance. Repentance is not a requirement of grace.

To me the heart of the Gospel is that God was/is in Jesus reconciling all of us to Himself. The good news is that God loves us, accepts us, and desires a relationship with us no matter how big of a mess we’re in or we are. That’s good news for someone who is as big as a mess as I am! If grace and salvation was dependent upon my goodness one iota, man, I’d be in a world of hurt. It was God’s love and acceptance of me that drew me to Him. And it was the love and acceptance of people that revealed to me the love of God.


#19

I always appreciate your participation Jason. Thanks.

And on threads like this, not discussing a specific topic, it’s okay to ramble, I think, and just go wherever the conversation takes us or those involved want to go.


#20

It seems that the Methodist have a significantly different Philosophy of Ministry. Protestantism is founded upon their Statement of Faiths, doctrines that they believe to be correct. Ultimately, it really doesn’t matter how much one loves God and loves people, if one does not agree with everything in the SoF, then one cannot be part of that fellowship. Mutual love and respect for God and one another is not enough and there is little, if any, room for differing understandings of scripture. I look forward to visiting a few Methodist congregations and will keep you informed.