What’s your next step?
It’s a good question – in this case as it relates to the United Methodist Church – what’s our next step? General Conference is a (sort of) distant memory; our regional Jurisdictional Conferences have come and gone. Various groups and people have publically staked out their claims about keeping their covenants or breaking them. So what’s next?
Now that my PhD work is officially over I’ve begun trying to catch up on my reading. Jason Vickers’ book, Minding the Good Ground: A Theology of Church Renewal was a timely read in the aftermath of all the church politics that have unfolded thus far in 2012. The book is full of important insights that are particularly relevant to the current state of affairs in the UMC. I hope to explore some of those insights over the next several posts.
The first idea I want to highlight comes at the very end of the book – literally the next to last page. Jason writes:
…Many liberals and evangelicals are blinded to the shifts taking place around them precisely because they cannot take their eyes off one another long enough to take notice. It is as though evangelical and liberal Protestants are locked in a death embrace in which both sides are equally obsessed with killing one another. All the while, we keep buried in our basements the solid food for which a spiritually hungry generation is searching far and wide.*
I’m not sure I’ve read a better description of General Conference 2012. But more than that – Jason is spot on in his insight when it comes to the overall UMC. That’s what troubles me. How can we really understand the nature of the church, of what God has called us to be and do in the world, if we are so distracted?
Many folks these days talk about reviving the ‘movement’ nature of Methodism as a way of renewing the UMC. I find that somewhat ironic since in its institutionalism, the UM of today resembles the Church of England of John Wesley’s day. Being or behaving like a movement seems unlikely. A better option might be Wesley’s own approach of seeking ‘the lost sheep of United Methodism.’**
For that to happen though, we’ve got to take our eyes off each other long enough to recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit, on whom the very life of the church depends.
*Jason Vickers, Minding the Good Ground: A Theology for Church Renewal (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2011), 106
**In Reasons Against a Separation from the Church of England, Wesley described his work as being for ‘the lost sheep of the Church of England.’