This was originally posted by Paul E. Chilcote on Facebook on April 9, 2022. My thanks to Reverend Chilcote for allowing me to post this.
My roots are deep in The United Methodist Church. Like most “preachers’ kids,” I went through a period in which I questioned my inherited faith tradition, but I came through that process with a deeper appreciation and love for the UMC and all it represents. “Ten Reasons Why I’ll Join the Global Methodist Church,” by Jay Therrell, President of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, Florida Chapter, has recently made a new appearance on Facebook. If you read through that document closely, the portrait of the GMC he paints is congregational in polity (not connectional), creedal in orientation (not oriented around “faith working by love”), and essentially exclusive (not inclusive in vision, despite its “global” title).
I co-chaired the World Methodist Council/Baptist World Alliance Dialogue, and the ten reasons document “feels” like something my Baptist colleagues may have drafted. I do not mean that pejoratively in any way. I love my Baptist brothers and sisters, but the UMC offers a different vision of Christian faith and practice. What concerns me most about this blog is the way in which it diverges sharply, in my humble opinion, from a genuinely Wesleyan vision.
As May 1 looms large for many of us who are United Methodists, here are my five reasons to stay in the UMC.
1. The UMC has a wide, gracious, and loving embrace. The church I think most people yearn for is a community of faith that puts love at the very center of its life and vision. This openness to all people as unique brothers and sisters deeply loved by God characterizes the UMC I know. All God’s children are invited to put their gifts to use in the service of God’s reign of reconciliation.
2. The UMC aspires to be Christ-like in practice. Countless surveys over the past decades demonstrate that the majority of people in the United States view the church as judgmental. Jesus gives us a different model of relating to the world and others. The UMC seeks to cultivate disciples of Jesus who are like him – merciful, compassionate, forgiving.
3. The UMC is shaped by a dynamic view of scripture. The UMC is strongly biblical in its orientation. The Bible is the bedrock upon which the faith of United Methodists is built. But its view of the Bible is not simplistic; rather, like Wesley, it embraces a dynamic conception of scripture as the “living Word.” Antithetical to literalistic views of scripture, the United Methodist view offers a rich, robust, but yes scriptural foundation for life in the triune God.
4. The UMC is deeply concerned about growth in grace. Not so much invested in believing the right things, its primary passion is translating God’s love into action in life. It elevates the importance of practices of piety, like prayer, but also advocates acts of mercy – compassion and justice for all. The UMC offers a holistic spirituality that refuses to separate the spiritual from the concrete realities of life.
5. The UMC is missional in character. The UMC does not live for itself, but for others. It is missional in its design to partner with God in God’s great work of love in the world. Its fundamental orientation is outward, spun out in the life of the world to wage peace, work for justice, and to emulate the “beloved community” God desires for all.