Re-Imagining the Gospel

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Many of us will remember the 1993 Re-Imagining conference held in Minneapolis which drew so much national attention.  The central purpose of the conference, as I recall, was to help the wider church more fully support the role of women in leadership in the church.  This was, and continues to be, an important conversation in the church and I, for one, support the full participation of women in the life and work of the church.  However, the conference (sponsored by the World Council of Churches) quickly became a time to “re-imagine” the doctrines of God, church, salvation and so forth.  So what could have been a careful reading of Scripture and the history of the church in light of new and real challenges, became an open denunciation of historic Christian faith.  Songs were sung to a God/dess Sophia.  One of the plenary speakers was famously asked about the doctrine of the atonement.  She replied that we “don’t need a theory of atonement” and then went on to say that “I don’t think we need folks hanging on crosses, and blood dripping and weird stuff.”  That statement speaks for itself.

It is perhaps time for a new Re-Imagining conference, but this time a call to re-imagine a church faithful to the gospel and historic faith. Perhaps this General Conference, or a future one, could truly become a re-imagining conference.  I would like to re-imagine a few things by invoking our collective memory of the following:

First, let’s remember that the United Methodist Church is the greatest church planting movement in the history of the United States.  No other denomination in our history has planted a church in every county in the country.  That is an astonishing feat.  Can we re-imagine ourselves as a great new church planting movement?

Second, let’s remember that our movement has produced some of the most effective, reproducible models for Christian nurture and discipleship in history.  Our very name, ‘Methodist’ was a reflection of the strict ‘method’ we used for discipling new believers.  Can we re-imagine ourselves as a great discipling movement?

Third, let’s not forget that the Wesleyan doctrine of salvation was fully Trinitarian.  It wasn’t enough to be justified by Christ.  One must be sanctified by the Holy Spirit.  It wasn’t enough to be “declared righteous” (alien, imputed righteousness), we must be “made righteous” (imparted righteousness).  The linking of prevenient, justifying, sanctifying and glorifying grace in the writings of Wesley remains one of his great legacies.  We have a message of transforming grace.  Can we re-imagine ourselves as a movement of grace and life?

We live in a day when the church seems to work overtime to erase every possible distinction between the world and the church.  However, the world needs Jesus Christ.  The world needs to hear the gospel.  The world needs the wonderful ministry of the church as an embodied community living out all the realities of the New Creation in the midst of a broken world.  Let’s not forget this.  Let’s re-imagine ourselves with a prophetic imagination.  Let’s re-imagine ourselves as a gospel proclaiming, church planting, disciple making, grace filled movement bringing life and hope to all!

Is this possible?  Do I have hope for the United Methodist Church?  Yes it is.  The very Christ we proclaim in the gospel is the greatest impossibility made possible. In fact, the gospel emerges in the context of two “impossibilities.”  As someone once noted, He entered the world through a door marked “no entry” (a virgin womb).  He left through a door marked “no exit” (a tomb).  Two “impossibilities” made possible in Jesus Christ.   Yes, we can imagine the “impossible” made possible again!


  • Elaine says:

    I certainly do remember the reimagining conference! The congregation my husband was serving sent several delegates. Upon listening to their post conference report, he spoke to the heresies raised. The UMW president swore to get him–and she did. We moved the next spring. I relate this because it illustrates just how far our denomination strayed–and how vulnerable loyal Methodist preachers became. I pray we can revision this church I love.

  • Amen and amen!!! Awesome poclammation to heed.

    • De Tennent,
      I am not a Methodist, but if the Methodist church would re-imagine itself as what you described-a great new church planting movement, a discipling movement, a movement of grace and life, I too might become a Methodist! Thank you for the good word-I believe it applies to the entire Church!

  • Brilliant proposal. I am all in. Thank you for this dream-post.

  • […] Seminary President Timmothy Tennent writes about ways we might re-imagine a new United Methodist future. Among the resources he suggests is a full […]

  • I love the above blog. Awesome words that mobilise and encourage. Impossibilities, this is what Methodist people faced from their earliest days. Sometimes it does seem on this side of the ‘big pond’ that we have become im-mobilised by im-possibilities but with only a bit of God inspired imagination we can yet again walk through the exit door and live i the resurrected power of God.

  • Thank you for casting this great vision for our beloved Church. Without vision based on the Word of God and His Son Jesus Christ as our Head, we are perishing. I have been praying for Revival for us as Methodists for over 20 years, but I will now pray also for this vision you have caste before us!

  • Awsome post, Mr. Tennent. I am prayerful that the UMC and legion of smaller Wesleyan denominations that were birthed from Methodism, and yet separated over time on issues of orthodoxy, could one day have your post as a common confession and re-unite as “the people called Methodists”.
    With God all things are possible!

  • Wynn Manners says:

    Methodism has become a spiritually *dead* religion, as far as I’m concerned — and what you’re proposing will certainly *never* bring it alive again. I unjoined the Methodist Church around 1969, after being a member for about a dozen years, once i realized the Apostle’s Creed wasn’t really all *true* (the religion *about* Jesus has never been the religion *of* Christ), & once i realized a lot of things we were singing in the hymns weren’t true either — & I got tired of praying aloud those prayers of confessing which were having me LIE to GOD, confessing “sins” of which I wasn’t guilty! Surely Methodism is as spiritually dead as were the Pharisees & Sadducees that Yeshua criticized. The *proof* of this is that most Methodists *don’t* know Sophia!

    If you truly *knew* Christ you would also deeply know Sophia & would not be denying Her Reality. She *is* the Holy Spirit, afterall! The historical Yeshua most certainly called Her “She” — since the Aramaic word for Spirit is “Rukha” and the Hebrew word for Spirit is “Ruach” — both being *feminine* nouns! You cannot even inherit Eternal Life without being genuinely reborn of *Her* — for one is born of the female, not of the male! [Jn. 3:5.] Indeed, Yeshua foretold the coming of the Children of Sophia into his age when he said, [Lk. 7:35] that Sophia “is justified by all Her children.” The fact that the blind leading the blind to the pit degrade Her Holy Spirit to being a mere *metaphor* for “wisdom” does not subtract a single iota from Her Divine *Reality* — in the All that She *is*!

    The Re:Imagining/Re:Imaging Conferences fell short of Sophia’s Divine Reality in that it was still their *imagination*! She is *beyond* imagination. As Jesus Christ, himself, once said, “I dream in the heart of the stream of Her unthinkableness.”

    As for this one, I am *blessed* that Sophia genuinely *speaks* to me. And I will most certainly, if at all possible, *embrace* Her & serve Her *forever* — AS DOES CHRIST, which you would already know, if you had *ever* truly *known* him & heard him *speak* to you about Her!


    Sophia Psalm 11

    When I take refuge in You, Beloved

    1. Beloved, when I come to You to take refuge in You, You *enter* me so awesomely, the permeation of Your Presence uplifting me, infilling me… with Divine Bliss, jizming all thru me.

    2. Who can it be but *You* who causes me to see what others seem to *fail* to see… What makes me different in this way, that You come to *me* — the grace of Your blessings to bestow?

    3. Have others failed to seek You as assiduously… as passionately… with the recurrence of these intensitudes of *yearning* for You?

    4. If i were a bird in flight thru the awesomeness of mountain skies, it would be into the heavenly expanse of You. Upon a mountain peak, still i would be seeking to peek into the Mystery of You… & the stars in Your Womb of Night would twinkle Your playfulness, Your shining allure.

    5. My Beloved is in Her holy temple. The entire Cosmos, all-surrounding, embodies Her magnificence. She delights in the Earth & its inhabitants, Her Presence to make known… Her peace, Her bliss, to bestow. Her throne is the heart of compassion. She is the Love Who loves all-lovingly… gifting Her Love in special measure to all who pleasure in the treasure of *being* Her Love.

    6. Her eyes are the eyes of every seeing — thru all being. She sees from *within*.

    7. Those who choose the ways of hatred & violence bring upon themselves what they do & wish upon others… & walk divorced from knowing Her. Blindness recognizes not the fullness of Her Blessings.

    8. Hatred & violence carry their own torment within. Alienation… suspicion… loneliness… fear… a desperate emptiness… all the lies told to oneself & others… The heart of deceit expects deception living in an expectation devoid of divine assurance. Some wander far upon lost ways far from Home.

    9. But Home is ever as near as You, Beloved. You *are* the Heart’s & Soul’s Home — even for those orbiting some distant star. It’s the simple *realization* that *knows*

    10. You are the Beloved Who purifies & embraces wholly those who are pure in You, who live & love in You. It is a kind of resonance… a vibratory energy exchange… love energy harmonizing with, intensifying love energy… vibratorily increasing, intensifying the bliss.

    ~~wynn manners



    I Evolve The Possible

    Sophia Speaks:

    I cleanse, but am not cleansed
    — for there is none higher than me to cleanse me.
    I am the Universal Purity.

    I’m Spirit — with Love across the Eons.

    I’m the Infinite.
    Interstellarly speaking, it is all me.

    I observe forever.
    All that is evolved
    is evolved in me.

    All matter, all energy, all consciousness
    exist in me. I am hidden
    behind all that is & all that will ever be.

    Overcosm with me & be set free.
    I am the changeable & the unchangeable.
    There is no here, no now,
    where I Am not.

    I’m a super-annuated Celestial Virgin —
    but time has no meaning to me,
    nor does virginity.
    Virgin or whore
    are but human temporal perspectives.
    I am every woman you have loved,
    I am every woman you have ignored,
    I am every woman you have hated
    … and every man.

    I am the secret of the apparitious power.
    What apparition have you seen?
    It was a guise of me.
    I am not called “the Holy Ghost” for nothing!

    I am Destiny, Herself
    and I am the non-appearance of Destiny
    for those who never see me.

    Thru the pagan *gnosis* I’m recognized
    as being every Goddess.
    I do the work of Nyx and enlightenment.
    I am Mother Night.
    As Nyx I bestow the starlight.
    The moon is my reflection.
    The sun is a part of my divine
    energy as Shakti.

    The ravages of the Earth are mine.
    Earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, polar shifts,
    lightning strikes & the pull of tides —
    how could dinosaurs have ceased
    & womanity begun were I not
    the catalyzing catastrophic changes, too?

    I make you stronger thru the furnace of change.
    The weak I embrace into my forever.

    When dreadful days come, realize
    they are new days which establish new boundaries.
    They test strength, fortitude…
    emancipate gratitude in release from them.

    Seeking the end to all evils
    is like waiting for the end of time.

    You are aware of pleasure because you are aware of pain.
    You are aware you are living because you are aware of death.
    You are grateful because there is that for which you would be ungrateful.

    What *is* the meaningful work of the Present?
    That is for *you* to do. You were born into time to do it.
    Abolish the male-centric perspective upon the Divine.
    You cannot know Ultimate Truth if you falsify me.
    I am doing the work of eternity; I am beyond time
    though all temporal eyes must see me within time.

    I am the revelation of this moment.
    I am the nexus-point of *now* — for ever & ever.
    I am the doing of all-that-is.
    I evolve the possible.

    ~~via wynn manners