The Post-Denominational “Network” Solution

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

I often tell my senior leadership team that when they come to me with a problem, they should endeavor whenever possible to also come with a solution. This is a good principle which applies to the church as well. We are all aware of problems in the church, but workable solutions have been scant. I do not want to be someone who just rehearses all of the “woes” and “bad news” without also seeking to find the redemptive, prophetic hope which is always present in times of crisis.

Sometimes we look back wistfully to some imaginary time in the past which was idyllic. This is mostly mythical since the church has always faced challenges to our faith and witness. I am reminded of the words of the Dutch theologian, Hendrick Kraemer when he said, “the church is always in a state of crisis; our greatest problem is that we are only occasionally aware of it.” It is actually a “means of grace” that we all seem to agree that we are in a crisis. We all agree that this crisis demands a faithful response.

I recently posted a possible solution for the current crisis in the United Methodist Church. It is based on the following five principles and assumptions:

Principle of Preferred Unity

1. It provides a way forward which allows us to remain a united church while providing a faithful path for those who remain committed to historic faith in all of its theological and ethical dimensions.

The Hope inherent in Global Christianity

2. It anticipates a revival and renewal of the global Wesleyan movement and invites those inside and outside the current structure of the UMC to be a part of it.

Grace in our Relationships before the eyes of a watching world

3. It acknowledges that those who disagree about same sex marriage do so out of moral conviction and allows us to pursue distinctive visions without mutual condemnation.

Historic acknowledgement of the history of revival and renewal

4. It assumes that a “top down” solution arising from either General Conference action or episcopal leadership from our Bishops is unlikely, despite the noble efforts of a handful of bishops.

Covenant

5. It restores the lost covenant and acknowledges that the broken covenant is actually the source of the crisis.

I appreciate the dozens of clergy and laypersons around the country who have found in this solution a possible avenue of hope. I also recognize that some will find the solution inadequate for a wide variety of reasons. I know I speak for many when I say that we are eager for solutions, not just a listing of the problems. If a solution can be found which is more faithful than the one I have proposed then I want to have the grace to recognize it and to embrace it.

Let’s keep talking to one another. May we demonstrate that the “people called Methodists” can emerge from this crisis with a renewed sense of mission and faithfulness in our time.

Comments

  • Ken Cole says:

    I commend you for taking the leadership in moving toward a solution. We can no longer go on as a denomination under the suggestion to “agree to disagree”.

  • Aybido says:

    This could be a good opportunity for Methodists to think afresh what we mean by the word “church.” We hear terms like “community of faith” or “gathering of believers” or “worshiping community”. But what/who makes a gathering a “church”? And what constitutes a network of “churches”? Faithfulness to the “apostle’s teaching”? Canon? Creed? Sacraments? Ordination? We may be in danger of creating another man-made structure when scripture tells us that the Church is created by our Lord who said, “I will build my church.” Further, can this exploration of a new Methodist future be done without reference to the other faithful churches of our world? On what basis would they recognize a new “network” as a church with whom they should be in communion?

  • Mary Page says:

    Awesome! A conversation with a solution. How Methodist. 🙂

  • Chris Horton says:

    Though not a Methodist, I stand in the Wesleyan tradition theologically and have close relatives who are Methodist. As an interested ‘outsider’ I commend your faithfulness to the historic traditions of the church and to the scriptures, together with your commitment to honouring those of different persuasion who still affirm faith in Christ. It is all about Him. So we belong to all who belong to Him.

    It seems to me, as an “anabaptist”, that church should be defined by the voluntary covenant of those who choose baptism as believers (or, in a more Methodist context, those who choose to commit to away of understanding the tradition). I would suggest that the concept of covenant is stronger than the organisational unity that is breaking down in the Methodist denominations worldwide, and it allows the flexibility of staying within the denomination while staying true to conscience. There is historical precedent in various monastic or similar movements, including the Brethren of the Common Life, the Franciscans, the Northumbria Community and, of course, first methodist societies within the Church of England. I urge you to keep exploring this.

  • Dan Johnson says:

    Tim, I really appreciate the spirit in which you write in this blog, and the invitation to continue the conversation. I especially resonate with your point under no. 2 – that we might have “grace in our relationships in the eyes of a watching world.”

  • Betsy says:

    A view from the pew of a lifelong Methodist of more than a few decades who finally had to distance myself from all things church to learn the truth about basic orthodox Christianity at the hands of a Presbyterian pastor, a Reformed Church pastor and the Heidelberg Catechism: It is way overdue for those within the United Methodist Church that believe in the validity of orthodox Christianity with a Wesleyan accent to become a more cohesive/unified presence.