My dearest John:
For some time now, I have believed the time has come for us to renew our correspondence. As we both prepare for a momentous season of Christian conferencing and gathering, perhaps this is the moment to put word to paper.
“Fugit inreparabile tempus,”* writes Virgil. With such haste in mind, what will our agendum be? In days gone by we spoke at length on preaching, Plato, Milton, and salvation; all in a single sentence. It is my suggestion to speak of covenants. This quasi-legal and ancient term is now bound, like many words, to your name. Did anyone covenant with you, personally, before creating the Wesleyan Covenant Association? I am forever frustrated when my name, ideas, and legacy are used to advance agendas I may or may not agree with.
John, what say you, of Wesleyan Covenants? Is such a thing possible or is it a semantic novelty? I realize God made a covenant with the Israelite people. I had hoped God transitioned from covenant making to relationship building. Covenants have done a wonderful job up to this point, wouldn’t you say?
Are United Methodists what you envisioned? Please excuse my presumption, I know this a broad question. It’s my fear that something isn’t right, regardless of how one defines oneself theologically or politically. Over the years, we’ve made being wrong into performance art. Were we to preach in tents, as some of your 19th century American followers did, our tents would be many and small. Our gatherings would resemble a circus instead of a revival. I am reasonably well-informed “there is no big tent”. Perhaps, we are a group of competing circuses (circuses use many tents). Fitting, now that the Barnum and Bailey Circus has closed. Children like circuses and they are entertaining. This is something I would hope Methodists could hold on to.
We both share a fondness for Marcus Aurelius. Do you remember the passage in his Meditations, Book VI, “What then is to prized? The clapping of hands? No. Then not the clapping of tongues either. For the acclamation of the multitude are but a clapping of tongues. So overboard goes that poor thing Fame also.” Aurelius, in true Stoic form, cautioned against taking a popular position for the sake of fame itself. In a divided nation and a polarized church; where do we find the least acclamation and the most despised place to stand? Does the pagan prince not make a particularly Christian point? Yes. But who listens to dead Romans. We do. No one else does. Everyone wants to famous. I ‘m all for more emotive Twitter and Facebook outbursts among people of faith. So called free speech will kill organized religion, one way or another.
When has being liked (or as Marcus Aurelius would put it, “seeking your own gain) mattered to Methodist Christians? I remind you so you may tell others: when apportionments are due and in appointment making season.
I note with muted resentment you’re still praying for the opportunity to avoid schism and disunity. Dear boy, remember your Dante! All hope is lost! Despair is our friend, anger our ally, and indignation the fuel of half-baked plans to tie up debate at conferences across the fruited plain. Be of good cheer.
Your affectionate uncle,
*Fugit inreparabile tempus-It escapes, irretrievable time (Virgil, Georgics, Book III, Line 284)