Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Christians as Promulgators and Fomenters?

A clergy friend recently posted a great quote on Facebook as his status yet deleted the one accused. Adam got attention with: "And for his own part, _________ flouted many regulations of the Church...concerning parish boundaries and who had authority to preach. This was seen as a social threat that disregarded institutions. Ministers attacked them in sermons and in print, and at times mobs attacked them. ________ and his followers continued to work among the neglected and needy. They were denounced as promulgators of strange doctrines, fomenters of religious disturbances; as blind fanatics, leading people astray, claiming miraculous gifts, attacking the clergy of the Church..."

This led to an interesting discussion by United Methodist clergy regarding these sentiments written about our beloved and often quoted founder- John Wesley- and a comparison with the church today! We especially loved the wording. Such strange words to our ears today. I'll take our quick e-conversation a few more steps.

Would the United Methodist Church, or any bishop or district superintendent, or any local congregation or ministry, put any of this in the job description today as a sought after characteristic for clergy or laity? No. *answering in John Wesley style as found in the early conference minutes of Methodism*

What/where is the place of "promulgators and fomentors" within United Methodism today? Hmmm, I can't answer this as a "yes" or "no" or with quick answer so I'll quickly abandon the John Wesley Minutes approach. I do recall that some pastors finish memorial services for deceased church members by moving their membership from the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant. Perhaps we all need to get a little more militant in our Christian walk in preparation for Heaven?

I believe at the heart of this are some very important ideas about the Kingdom of God, what it means to serve the Kingdom, and how following Jesus today may still get us in trouble, or better said, into action for God. We can easily find this a bridge to all sorts of people in a community. I also sense that we might better connect with the next generation of clergy if we embrace this "wild side," this untamed clergy viewpoint. It may even save some of the clergy who've served for some years if we can break out of the "cookie cutter" mentality and allow for following a Risen Christ in some radical ways beyond the expectations of a local congregation. Are there ways to allow for some fire in the laity & clergy, maybe even stoke the flame, while still building continuity? How do we experience that intersection of Kingdom of God and institutional Church?

I'm still thinking on that E. Stanley Jones quote mentioned yesterday: "He feared that the substitution of the church for the Kingdom of God might rob the missionary movement of the needed fires of imagination, enthusiasm, and self-criticism."

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. . When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:35-36

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