I have often been asked in various contexts why I am a United Methodist instead of some other religious affiliation, and the answer is always the same, “Opportunities to serve.” The people whose encouragement and sacrifice have made those opportunities possible for me are included in that answer. The United Methodist Church offers a wide variety of options for everyone to serve Christ and Humanity meaningfully.
The Briensburg Reconciling Congregation I serve is proud to continue as a United Methodist Church unanimously. As advocates of full inclusion for all people in the life and ministry of the church, we appreciate the diversity of the UMC. The ability of individuals, groups, and congregations to advocate for widely differing views openly and lovingly is a prominent hallmark of The United Methodist Church.
There are many other reasons for me to be a United Methodist.
My father and I were called to pastoral ministry, and we continued beyond retirement to be blessed with opportunities to serve in The United Methodist Church. UMC congregations have provided our family with relationships, nurture, fellowship, worship, prayer, and education for growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ. My family heritage includes my mother’s father, who joined my grandmother in her Methodist Church after she was excluded from Holy Communion in his denomination. In my family, Open Communion is a central, vital, and profoundly emotional aspect of spiritual life as a powerful sign of God’s love for all Humanity.
The teachings and example of John Wesley, as embodied in the United Methodist expression, inspire and motivate me. Within a religious environment of restriction in the name of tradition and orthodoxy, his inclusive empowerment of the laity to participate fully in church ministry is reflected in every level of the UMC. Likewise, Christian education and certification in academic and non-academic programs prepare and sustain laity and clergy in fulfillment of God’s calling on our lives.
Freedom of thought is another crucial reason I continue to be United Methodist. Denominational structures provide a framework for unity among different cultural and theological perspectives. Holy conversations and constructive persuasion move us forward in understanding each other’s beliefs and practices and ferreting those common areas of cooperation and mutuality. The Book of Discipline and the Book of Resolutions document our collective understandings, including those at the edge of our growth toward adjustments and changes in our corporate polity and practice. The United Methodist doctrinal standards are rooted in the ancient Scriptures, Traditions, Reason, and Experience of the Church Universal and guide us as we explore our spirituality and come to new realizations and conclusions in our personal and corporate discipleship.
United Methodists stand together on social justice issues, speaking truth to power. While attending a workshop at the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, I was inspired to learn that secular government leaders also use the facility to gather and address the concerns and issues important to the ecumenical faith community. I have experienced the impact of the United Methodist Committee on Relief efforts in communities where I have served. In cooperation with other denominations, religions, and organizations, UMCOR provides relief when and where it is needed most. Through ecumenical associations such as the World Methodist Council and the World Council of Churches, The United Methodist Church cooperates in meeting the spiritual and temporal needs of people worldwide from every faith tradition. The well-established institutions of the UMC enable flexible preservation and extension of our values as they intersect with those of other religious and secular organizations.
I remain a United Methodist for the love that holds us together in freedom and service. Additionally, I am very grateful for the opportunities and relationships the church has given my family and me. Finally, I am excited about the future of the UMC and our continuing transformative influence as disciples of Jesus. For these and many other reasons, I will “be loyal to The United Methodist Church, and do all in [my] power to strengthen its ministries.”