A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Will Theology Get Trumped Yet Again at General Conference?

Jason Vickers from United Theological Seminary writes a guest post on John Meunier's blog. I'm with Jason on this one.
O For a Thousand Dollars to Save: A Lament on the Eve of General Conference

I have no illusions. I get that the United Methodist Church has money problems. Moreover, I get that money problems need money solutions. Nor am I reluctant to talk openly with friends and strangers about money. If anything, I am convinced that we have a money problem in America and in United Methodism in part because, along with sex, we have made money a taboo topic for polite conversation. So let's talk about money. And let's talk about sex. I'm game.

I am more troubled by what United Methodists will not be talking about at General Conference. For example, what are the odds that United Methodists at General Conference will have a lively conversation about the Holy Trinity or about the need to recover a more prominent role for Mary in United Methodist beliefs and practices? And what are the chances that we will have an animated conversation about the nature of holiness or about whether two sacraments are really sufficient?

What troubles me most, however, is that we don't seem to realize that these things are related to one another – that our money problems and even our sex problems are largely a function of the utter staleness of our theological life together (my emphasis). Just now, the world around us is awakening from its dogmatic slumbers, which is to say, from the long sleep of Enlightenment. People everywhere are increasingly curious about God. Even Hollywood is once again making movies with plots driven by theological questions (see the Oscar-nominated Tree of Life). At such a time as this, I have yet to hear one good theological question set for debate at General Conference.

So what questions would I set before General Conference? Before taking up (again) the matter of whether two people of the same sex can be married, I would like to see us (just once) take up the more theologically profound question of whether we should add marriage to the list of sacraments. Similarly, before taking up (again) the matter of whether gays and lesbians can be ordained, I would like to see us (just once) entertain the theologically tantalizing questions of whether ordination itself is a sacrament and whether Mary might be a better model for the ordained life than Peter. And before we decide whether to downsize or to restructure, I would love to see us tackle the question of what it would mean to think about church polity and organization in a decidedly Trinitarian way.
Thanks, John, for posting this.


Donald Sensing said...

If theology mattered to the GC of the UMC, it would not have "improved" Jesus' mission statement to the church in 2008. Until then, the mission of the UMC was "to make disciples." At 2008, the GC shanged it to read "to make disciples for the transformation of the world."

That means that discipleship is not the objective at all, it's simply a means to another end - and be clear about this: "tranformation of the world" is a political objective. It is oriented exclusively on the here and now and ejects the church's historica and apostolic concern with participation in God's eternal kingdom.

"If we have Christ in this life only," wrote Paul, "we are of all people most to be pitied."

And that's exactly where the UMC is now.

BTW, I am an elder in the UMC.

Chuck Tackett said...

Before Jesus told us to make disciples he commanded us to love God with all our heart, with all our mind and with all our strength and to love one another as we love ourself.

How about we start there.

Allan R. Bevere said...


I appreciate your sentiments here, but if after two thousand years, we can't get the basics right, we are in desperate shape. Moreover, our theology and our ethic are intrinsically intertwined. The problem we UMs have had is that we have wanted to separate them. Once that is done you end up with, in Vicker's words, a stale theology and ethic.