And Are We Yet Alive?
Could we, too, not want to be held accountable for the things we have said that may have, in retrospect, been unwise or even profoundly un-kingdom of God-like?
Could repentance, the key to a life of grace-filled and healing love, also escape us? – Rev. Christy Thomas, “‘Trumpian’ or Christian?”, The Thoughtful Pastor, January 28, 2016
We cannot escape the toxins of our society, as much as we might wish to do so. And this is, indeed, a “pox upon all our houses” omment, because I am well aware of my own failures in this regard; confession and repentance begin with our willingness to say, “I have failed my sisters and brothers through my words and actions.” Would General Conference begin with a service of confession and repentance, one honest and heartfelt – perhaps with a collective covenant renewal – it might yet be possible to salvage something from the wreckage. I fear, however, the answer to Charles Wesley’s “And Are We Yet Alive?” is, “Yes, but it really isn’t a life worthy of the God who has saved us.” – Me, comment on “‘Trumpian’ or Christian?”, The Thoughtful Pastor, January 28, 2016
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside by thee.
Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen. – A Covenant Prayer In The Wesleyan Tradition, traditionally part of New Year’s Eve Watch Night Services
I’ve backed quite a ways away from controversies in the United Methodist Church. It seems no good comes from stating one’s views, or criticizing those of others, beyond mutual rancor, recrimination, and the inevitable nonsense of who is the worst Christian ever. It serves no good end. I, for one, have nothing invested in being correct or orthodox or socially or theologically or politically correct, because I believe none of us are (I’m one of those old-fashioned Christians who believes in original sin). As I am no one of consequence, it seems there is no need to be seen as a controversialist.
My love for the United Methodist Church runs deep. Its history and heritage, the special Wesleyan emphases on personal and social holiness, on an engaged and evangelical Body of Christ, and the practice of mutual accountability in our lives of faith are both worthy of admiration and offer the universal church so much. These are the things that keep me anchored in a denomination that nevertheless breaks my heart on a pretty regular basis as I watch so many prefer to be right rather than faithful; as I see the poisonous public sphere invade my beloved Church, creating factions and making faithful Christian Conferencing ever more difficult; as I hear accusations of heresy and apostasy bounce around like dodge balls in a junior high gym, seeing how many people can get knocked out of a conversation until only those one favors are left. Worst of all, I see and hear far too little of the work of the faith in our local communities and places around the world as our increasingly limited resources of money and energy are diverted to matters only peripherally related to the primary work of the Church, spreading the Good News of New Life and New Creation in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.
This year our denomination meets for its quadrennial world-wide General Conference. For two weeks in May, Portland, OR will be flooded by over 900 delegates and thousands of visitors, pages, lobbying groups, protesters, and press, waiting and watching while, by and large, the gathering argues over procedural details and various factions try to use arcane parliamentary rules to stop others either from discussing matters of real import, or force upon the whole body agenda items of limited worth. This, at least, was the goings-on at our last General Conference, in Tampa, FL in 2012. This year holds the possibility of being far worse, bearing nothing of the stamp of those who may very well have stated the words of the Covenant Prayer above yet decided that governing part of the Body of Christ is too important to be left up to the meek and poor in Spirit.
My hope for General Conference is simple: That the life-giving and renewing Spirit may yet blow upon Portland, lighting upon those present so they may yet place the good of our whole Church, our witness, and our identity as The People Called Methodist above their own personal views. My fear, and the source of much despair, is that in fact the air has already been infected far too much for any cure to save. The realities of the desire for power’s retention, to be correct rather than faithful (believing that in the former lies the latter), and the disappearance of humility all point to a meeting that will, at the very least, weaken further an already teetering structure. It way well be the work of building the Kingdom of God goes on without our unique and important practices, our history of the pursuit of holiness in our selves, our congregations, and our world. Few things would sadden me more than this.
Right now, I think the only proper answer to Charles Wesley’s hymned question is the one I gave in the comment quoted above. The truth is we aren’t worthy of the work to which God has called us. For this we should repent before we do anything else.
And I just don’t see that happening.