The internet is awash with responses to the decisions taken by the Special General Conference. Everyone wants to put in their two cents worth. Whether one is aggrieved or vindicated, the ability to rehash debates, minimize the impacts, exaggerate the effect, are part and parcel of life in post-Saint Louis United Methodism. Above all else, we must tell each other how we feel. Whether on a church sign or through an angry tweet, the world must know on which side we stand. We are implored to exclaim to those who care and those who could care less what must come next.
I can’t do it anymore. What can one say, really? What happened in Saint Louis was a mockery of a sham of a farce. I get it. I’m tired of being churchsplained by people who said little during the past three years to suddenly emerge from the ecclesial woodwork and diagnose the apparent problem: post-Saint Louis United Methodism lost its unity. Thank you for the newsflash.
You may have forgotten, amid our well-covered self-immolation, Methodism (like most of Christianity) is about to enter the Season of Lent. The Christian year goes on, despite our protestations and attempts to define our faith against those with whom we disagree. Lent, like a distant and unrecognizable sound, calls us to listen to our morality. We are dust, and to dust, we shall return. Lent begins with the prescient reminder: all of our decisions, councils, votes, and ideas will one day be dust. Our victories and defeats are dust. However, when I look around at the church we’re trying to save, it’s as if we believe we are going to live forever. We have forgotten the first lesson of Lent. No one gets out alive.
With that in mind, what is the second lesson of Lent? In the spirit of seasonal self-denial, I have chosen to give up being my own God. In the spirit of collegiality, I offer this idea to pastors, laity, and the entire denomination. We must give up being our own Gods. From the narcissism which frames our self-worship in the guise of healthy living and Sabbath keeping to the deification of anything Wesleyan or traditional and the idolatry of worshiping the Bible (versus the God contained therein), it’s time to stop being our own God. Methodism, as clearly seen in Saint Louis, worships the idea of being Methodist. God is what helps us to be better United Methodists, or so it would seem from watching the conference. I’m confident we’ve placed a greater emphasis on our Methodism rather than our God-following. Perhaps, this Lent is the year we give up Methodism and stop letting our tradition get in the way of following Jesus.
Richard Lowell Bryant