Holy Contradictions

Faultlines is a collection of resources intended to inform conversations around human sexuality within the United Methodist Church as the denomination prepares for the 2019 General Conference. The collection represents diverse perspectives and attempts to fill knowledge gaps around the debate, biblical foundations, theological arguments and the impact on The United Methodist Church  and her people. Ministry Matters will be sharing excerpts and materials related to the collection over the next ten weeks. Visit www.AbingdonPress.com/Faultlines for more information.

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"Before All Else"

The global Methodist Wesleyan movement is indeed a family of Christians who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in every place. We are over 80 million strong, scattered across 130 different countries. We are like a rain forest whose trees have intertwining roots. Our roots grow deep into the soil not only of the movement launched by John Wesley, but also of the church universal across the centuries. And our branches grow upward and outward in a great and varied canopy that stretches across the planet on which God has scattered us. In the United Methodist branch of this Wesleyan Methodist family tree, there are over 12 million of us scattered across 58 different countries. We grow from those same roots and are a vital part of that same canopy.

The Wesleyan Methodist canopy is varied for many reasons, one of which is the assortment of expressions of church. Some, like the United Methodist branch, have an episcopacy (including, in some places, archbishops!), but others do not. Some, like the United Methodist branch, have itinerant clergy, yet others do not. Some, like the United Methodist branch, are tightly connected, while others hold the connectional reigns more loosely. Nevertheless, though our canopy may be varied, our roots in the universal church enable us, amidst this varied structure, to call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Messiah, Son of the Triune God, the One who transcends, heals, and redeems the entire world. And it is our roots, not our canopy, that empower us to join God’s healing, transforming mission of salvation for all the world.

Recognizing that as Christians in the Wesleyan tradition, it is not our canopy but our roots that connect us to one another in Christ leads us to an even deeper realization: God has blessed the church with more spiritual gifts, greater wisdom, mightier courage, deeper spiritual insight, stronger commitment to prayer, more profound holiness, more absolute trust, and more expansive joy than any one language or culture can contain on its own. It is this truth that guides us as we navigate the inevitable disagreements that arise within a global family. It is this truth that calls us to the humility necessary for any follower of Jesus—a humility grounded in the knowledge that our understanding will always be limited by our own culture and experience.

This humility is crucial to living with grace and respect in our Wesleyan tradition, even amid disagreement, and it is especially important when it comes to evangelism. That is because evangelism must precede all internal disagreements, whatever they might be. Humility empowers us to recognize that.

Because the world will never be completely as we would like it to be, a stance of humility in the face of human brokenness is vital. It should mark our way of being in the world as followers of Christ. It should mark our way of being in the world as we reach out to those beyond the boundaries of our faith communities. And it should mark our way of being in the world as we seek to live with grace and respect amid disagreement. It is this stance that undergirds everything we do.

Because the Wesleyan Methodist family is global, there will always be points of disagreement. Specific branches in our family may encounter internal discord as well. But even as we seek to live with grace and respect in that context, there is a greater reality that should weigh even heavier on our shoulders as followers of Jesus Christ. The promised one family of Abraham is not yet complete. Estrangement and brokenness abound. The world is not as we would like it to be, nor as God intended it to be. And yet, as those who in every place call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must recognize that though our God is not limited by culture or place, we are; and that limitation requires that we approach the world with humble openness. With a willingness to open our arms, to create space within ourselves and reach out, before anything and everything else. In this way, we make room for the power of the Holy Spirit to work within us, within others, and between us and others, so that forgiveness can be received and given, reconciliation and healing can be experienced, and transformation can begin.

Excerpted from: “Before All Else”, by Kimberly D. Reisman, Executive Director, World Methodist Evangelism, in Holy Contradictions: What’s Next for the People Called United Methodists, Brian K. Milford, Editor, pages 114-116 and 118.

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