Several years ago I read a column by Donald W. Haynes — and its content has stayed with me. Haynes used to write a regular “Wesleyan Wisdom” column for the United Methodist Reporter. (I always appreciated what he had to say.)
The one I’m thinking of was titled “Like Wesley, do we seek an ‘inward witness’?” It appeared in November of 2012. It was about the experience of the assurance of salvation. First, Haynes talks about Wesley’s religious life prior to his famous Aldersgate experience. Was he seeking God? Certainly. Was he seeking a holy life? Certainly. Did he have faith? Yes. But, there was a vital and missing element: an experience of inward assurance. It was this that he found at the prayer meeting at Aldersgate. Haynes writes:
Wesley’s doctrine was sound and his self-discipline was exemplary, but he still lacked what Paul called “witness of the spirit.” Wesley admitted later that he did not understand his father, when the old Anglican on his death bed in April 1735 told him that “inward witness” was the “strongest proof of Christianity.”Surely, many of us know how Wesley must have felt. In the years since revival altar calls gave way to confirmation classes, very little has been said in most United Methodist churches about an experience of assurance that one’s sins are forgiven. Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist children once learned a little chorus: “I’ve got the peace that passeth understanding down in my heart . . . down in my heart today.” The second stanza was the same except the last line, “down in my heart to stay.”
How many of us must confess—while we believe that God loves us, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died to save us from our sins, that the Bible is the Word of God, and that we are to reach out with deeds of kindness and acts of mercy—we still have a missing link in our relationship with God? Deep in our soul, there is an empty spot which only the Holy Spirit can fill. Is this not the Achilles heel of multiple millions of Christians? Is this not one important clue to the net loss of 650,000 United Methodists already in the 21st century?
Since 1985 I have been involved in the Walk to Emmaus movement of the United Methodist Church. When the Chrysalis weekends (for teens) began in Michigan, I quickly became part of that. More recently, I have been a part of the Keryx prison ministry movement which is a similar weekend but held for the inmates of prisons here in Michigan. (In other parts of the world, the comparable prison ministry is called Kairos.)
All of these are an outgrowth of the larger Cursillo movement that began in the Roman Catholic Church, in Spain in 1949. As Protestants became interested in the Cursillo, many Protestant versions began to arise. The Walk to Emmaus is simply the United Methodist version. Chrysalis is the United Methodist version for teenagers. But, there are many other Protestant versions of Cursillo as well, including: Pilgrimage (Presbyterian), Via de Christo (Lutheran), Episcopal Cursillo, Tres Dias, DeColores in Christo, etc.
It is characteristic of most of these Cursillo-type weekends that at the beginning of the several talks (traditionally called “rollos”) given on the weekend some version of the following prayer is recited by the participants: (more…)
Well, as you can see, I am taking a bit of a blog break. I’ve been slightly tired this week, and I need to get feeling better for next week. Tiredness affects my attitude about being at the computer — I get concerned about the possibility of vertigo. And, in addition to that, I have been doing some reading to prepare myself for next week — which will be a busy week, indeed.
One of the many things in which I’ve gotten involved these days is the Vital Church Initiative in the West Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church. I have a Peer Mentoring session to lead next week on Tuesday, and directly from there I am off to Flint to participate in a Consultation Event at the Asbury United Methodist Church. That event will consume Wednesday and Thursday of next week. In preparation for the Peer Mentoring session (a meeting of clergy) I read the book Managing Transitions by William Bridgers — a very good and quite readable business management book. The session will be about managing transitions in the local church. So, having finished the book, I am now preparing myself to lead that session. And, yet ahead of me, I have some reading to do to prepare for the consultation event after that. (more…)
Recently I mentioned that back in June, Richard Peck and Tim Tanton contacted me by email, asking if I would write a brief personal essay about my own perspective on sexuality issues. They said they were collecting such essays to be a part of an online forum of sexuality issues which would be hosted on UMC.org.
Well, the Forum is up and it is located here: Sharing in Faith: A Forum on Sexuality and the Church.
At the site it says:
Welcome to “Sharing in Faith,” where United Methodists can share perspectives on human sexuality and better understand one another’s journeys on this issue.
The perspectives are offered in the first person, not with the intent of persuading or dissuading but of helping people understand one another as persons of faith dealing with a challenging issue.
People are invited to share their own experiences on the forum. Some simple suggestions are given.
This is an opportunity to listen and learn from one another.
Well, my summer blogging slump has arrived. I didn’t think it would — but it clearly has. Taking a break from blogging is often a good thing — but I hadn’t thought it would happen this year. We will have to see how it goes.
In other years I’ve had to take a hiatus from updating this blog during the summer. This is because I am busy with other things during the summer — and last year it was because of my struggle with Menier’s Disease. I am much better now, and expect to be able to be more active at this site — but, (as I said) we’ll see how that goes.
I worked outside ar0und the house on Friday last week — which was great, but I think I overdid it. I felt a little dizziness coming on Saturday, and was slightly dizzy on Sunday when I got up. Dizziness is a serious issue with me and I don’t take it casually. Because staring at the computer screen makes me extrememly dizzy when I am in that state, I’ve stayed away from it. So, nothing is “in the pipeline” to be automatically posted this week.
While I expect to post some at the beginning of this week, I will be attending the 2014 Session of West Michigan Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in the later part of the week. I always look forward to seeing old and new friends there — but I no longer care about the “issues.” The United Methodist Church is, generally speaking, in a very bad place — aging, declining, and fractured over sexuality issues. It may not be possible to pull it out of self-destruct mode. I know I can’t help much. Nonetheless, I love the Wesleyan tradition and appreciate the many people who are faithfully serving within the denomination. (more…)
“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:20-24 NRSV).
Well, I guess I should say something about the latest brouhaha over homosexuality and church trials and the United Methodist Church. I’m really not highly motivated to comment on all this, but I’d hate to give you the impression that I’ve got my head buried in the sand. I am aware of what’s happening and of the posts flying back and forth about it. (more…)
I think I must be some kind of Methodist “throwback” or something. But, I’m actually rather glad about it. My early experiences in the faith included Revival meetings and Camp Meeting and Prayer Groups and Evening Worship Services and Midweek Prayer Meetings, etc. They were all aids to discipleship. They were important.
But, I don’t mean that the “form” was important.
I know many of these are considered to be the evangelistic techniques of the past. It is felt that they need to be laid aside for new techniques. And, I’m fine with that. Really. I strongly believe in function over form. Times change. Strategies change. They should. Great. I’m all for new and better strategies.
But, here’s my (major) gripe about the present state of United Methodism: what has replaced the old techniques? (more…)
This post is from John Meunier’s blog, one of the most widely-read United Methodist blogs. I’m posting it here because it is also a reflection on John Wesley’s interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount — something I alluded to in my comments about the Beatitudes. At one point Wesley says:
The Son of God, who came from heaven, is here showing us the way to heaven; to the place which he hath prepared for us; the glory he had before the world began. He is teaching us the true way to life everlasting; the royal way which leads to the kingdom; and the only true way, — for there is none besides; all other paths lead to destruction.
John writes: “I am a 46-year-old nearly life-long Hoosier. I teach writing courses to the young and soon-to-be upwardly mobile students at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. I also serve as a part-time local pastor at Erie UMC and Wesley Chapel UMC in Lawrence County, Indiana.”
Here are John’s reflections on whether John Wesley’s interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount has a place in contemporary United Methodism. (more…)
Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey, the current United Methodist Bishop of the Michigan Area, is once again opening up the discussion of the merger of the two Michigan Conferences. She writes in her column “Honest conversation about the future”:
One of my goals for my first year in Michigan was to ‘get to know the territory’, and to listen to the people throughout this great state. I have talked with and heard from, literally, hundreds of people across both the Detroit and West Michigan annual conferences.
I have heard:
many stories – both celebrative and painful;
many exciting reports of ministries happening both in local churches and across the districts;
heartfelt sharing of hopes and dreams for local congregations, annual conferences, and the denomination;
words of frustration as well as praise and excitement.
But through it all, one question surfaced again and again at nearly every place I found myself. (more…)