So you want to be a Methodist. Responding in a public context is difficult. My role as a father is to affirm and encourage – while also giving my opinion – even if it is different. Let me be clear – I do not dispute the United Methodist Church as anything less than a profound movement to do good in the world, to meet the challenge of Christianity, and to bring people together in following the mission of Christ. I am very happy for you and your family. I am very happy that you have found a sense of direction, purpose, and conviction – and that you are able to act on those convictions. That takes great courage – and courage is a character trait that I admire.
As you know, I am a student of secular Christianity – I have studied the history, development, society, economies, impact on governments, and conflicts of theology from about 2100 BCE through Reformation Europe. My notion is simple – Belief systems have consequences. That is to say that if a person claims a particular allegiance, a particular set of ethics, then there should be evidence in that person’s life of that claim. The horrors of Christian abuse of others throughout history is a consequence of people abandoning their beliefs – in the pretense of defending their beliefs. This is the source of my anger with the Religious Radicals of modernity.
It is a fundamental to my understanding of mental health. Do the values you claim match your behaviors. The greater the disparity – the greater the break with sanity.
With all of that said, I had to do some research on the United Methodist Church before I could intelligently respond to your decisions.
Notes on John Wesley: The very first thing that strikes me is the irony of John Wesley. Methodist comes from the methodical habits of the founder, of purposeful deliberation, and faithfulness to the cause – Wesley himself started a new movement – thus the irony.
John Wesley was a true Christian, this is my notion. True in the sense that he was committed to learning and keeping an open mind. There is substantial evidence. Wesley was educated and he considered carefully the teachings of history. He was a student of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Cardinal Sadoleto of the Catholic Church. Wesley struggled to find resolution in the conflict between the central theological argument of works, faith, and grace. While Wesley used the Bible as the central text, he carefully considered the interpretations of others. He blended his learning into his own thoughts. I like that. Wesley has earned my admiration.
Notes on Methodist theology: I will just present some quotes from the attached link to the United Methodist Church: “salvation involves a change in us… we’re justified through God’s grace through faith… compassion to human need… work for justice… align with God’s will… faith should inspire service… Christian Doctrine and Christian Ethics…a life of service… a passionate commitment to seeking justice and renewal in the world… no religion but social religion, no holiness but social holiness… a nurturing community and a servant community…nurture through giving to the poor, visiting the imprisoned, and working for justice and peace in the community… to spread scriptural holiness over the land… two kinds of believing – One is faith and the other, doctrine or theology…”
Given the historical time line and the similarity of thought – it occurs to me that John Wesley was probably a great influence on Karl Marx.
This is fascinating stuff, son. Here is my thought, the advice of a father. Every quoted statement above has ramifications and has been debated over time, and we will be debating these issues. Join this church and do as John Wesley did – continue to read and study and listen to those of other faiths, other denominations, other cultures. Never surrender your individuality – you are too valuable to your Creator.
John Wesley was a good example – he had the courage to be different.