I just recently finished a 3-week New Member Inquiry class in which I ask individuals and families what drew them to our local church; give the history of our local church; cover expectations they should have of our church; what the church expects of them; and the history, beliefs, and structure of The United Methodist Church. In our last meeting together I ask them for any questions they might have specifically regarding our beliefs or anything they have heard United Methodists “believe.” Almost without fail the perception that an individual can believe anything and still be a United Methodist gets addressed.
It is becoming increasingly obvious to me within my local setting that we are failing to communicate what it means to hold a Wesleyan perspective. Having a theology built on grace is not the same as having no accountability or lacking standard beliefs. Instead, grace creates the space for you and me to wrestle with faith, ask difficult questions, and keep from putting God, ourselves, and each other in a box. One of the other foundational blocks of Wesleyan theology is holiness, which when combined with grace, naturally creates a loving accountability.
Maybe some of this misconception comes from the space we give ourselves as United Methodists to wrestle and think. And while we certainly do value tradition, reason, and experience, we do not hold them as more important than scripture. We recognize that each individual brings these three things into his/her reading of scripture but it is the Living Word that serves as the primary and authoritative influencer in one’s pursuit of holiness.
The next post in this series will spend some more time with the “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.” idea. Your thoughts are always welcome.