By Chuck Griffin
Holston WCA Chair
In my last reflection, I spoke about the anger orthodox Methodists sometimes feel when we consider how the authority of Scripture, a traditional feature of the movement, is suddenly being downgraded by leaders in the United Methodist Church.
It is important that we quickly move beyond anger. As scriptural people, we should first look to the Bible for help.
Search the term “anger” in the Old and New Testaments; you’ll see it’s a common topic. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus condemns the kind of anger that causes us to lash out. We also know, however, that even Jesus could feel angry when he saw the will of God misinterpreted or the sanctity of God ignored.
For me, Ephesians 4:25-27 best captures the general tone of the Bible regarding anger. “So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.” Written in the context of a holy, righteous life, these words acknowledge we sometimes get angry—hopefully, for the right reasons—but remind us that anger should never be a consuming emotion.
One document we passed at the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Global Legislative Assembly helps us see the antidote to anger, describing behaviors of openness the orthodox Methodist community needs to retain.
Entitled “Statement Offering Radical Hospitality and Genuine Community,” it is so short and to-the-point I can quote it in full here:
“We long for and are working for a church that offers radical hospitality and genuine community to all persons. While we affirm the orthodox, biblical view of sexuality and gender, we also welcome all persons to the redemptive grace of Jesus. We are committed to being a place of refuge and community for all who experience brokenness.”
This is a call to revive historic Methodism at its best. There was a time when we were a communal movement of broken people looking to the Bible for divine revelation and guidance.
Yes, when we look to Scripture, our brokenness becomes painfully obvious. Paul, quoting the 14th Psalm, writes in Romans 3:10, “There is no one who is righteous, not even one.” Scripture also tells us, however, that in every circumstance there is the possibility of hope and healing. We hear the story of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lifts us out of the mire.
I can be healed, you can be healed, any person we may encounter can be healed—no one is beyond the redemptive grace of Jesus Christ. Our savior died for all sins, and hurting people need to hear this truth.
The antidote to anger is simple: Shake it off and get back to the positive, life-affirming work of the church. Tell the story we all love again and again.
By Chuck Griffin
Holston WCA Chair
As I continue to reflect on the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Global Legislative Assembly, I feel the need to address the issue of anger.
We don’t usually like to admit we’re angry, but it’s a common-enough emotion where there is ongoing conflict. We as orthodox United Methodists particularly don’t like to admit to our anger, knowing progressives have used any flashes of anger they observe to label us as irrational and homophobic, as “haters.”
Please let me emphasize that the WCA’s Legislative Assembly was a calm, thoughtful event. At my table, however, a few of us did note how from time to time a speaker on the floor would vent, voice rising a little. The moment always passed quickly—after all, it was a friendly, supportive environment where the love and peace of Christ reigned—but you could see someone was hurting.
So, why do we sometimes feel angry? Obviously, answers are going to vary, but I’m going to draw on my own experience to explore that question.
In our current UMC dilemma, my own emotional response has nothing to do with homosexuals per se. I never remember a time in my life where I felt angry at or fearful of people with same-sex attraction. I certainly had to grow in spiritual wisdom and maturity to understand the difficulties they face. But anger about them—well, it just wasn’t there.
I have come to realize that any negative emotions I feel are rooted in a sense that I was either naive or misled when I entered this denomination as a young adult. United Methodists, some in key leadership roles, have been using important words in very different ways from the historic Methodist norm. In particular, it’s astonishing to me that people can define “Scripture” so differently.
Some of us find it critically important that Scripture be treated as authoritative. We are not strange people for thinking this way. In fact, we are very much like the vast majority of Christians through the centuries, and we certainly think as our Methodist forebears thought.
We see the Bible as a powerful revelation of God’s will. Certainly, this collection of books and letters has been transmitted through people, but these people were inspired by the Holy Spirit, as were the people who came along later and established the Christian canon. When we see the Bible revealing clear universal principles—for example, when Paul in Romans 1 links a long list of sinful behaviors to the onset of idolatry—we have a hard time denying these words are true.
What shocks us is that others within the UMC find the Bible to be far less important. These people are often easy to identify; read them something from Romans or another of Paul’s epistles, and you’ll get the reply, “Yeah, but that’s just Paul.” As if the Holy Spirit were not involved in what Paul wrote—as if we each have been invited to construct individual canons.
Perhaps anger is the wrong word for what we feel rising in our orthodox hearts from time to time. Or perhaps anger is not the initial emotion. Anger has a close relative called frustration. Frustration arises when we are not heard or understood. It is inflamed when we feel something ancient and holy is being ripped from us.
Thanks to the WCA, those of us who see the Holy Bible as an authoritative, God-inspired revelation now have leaders listening to us and speaking from a traditional Methodist viewpoint. This also means we can move on to better emotions.
Next: The Antidote to Anger
Below is the English-language version of a chart created by the national WCA. It compares the effects of the three primary plans going before the 2019 General Conference. Feel free to download this or print it out and share it as you see fit. It should help a lot of people cut through the confusion about these plans.
If you need this chart in other available languages, or if you need to see the possible impact of the plans on central conferences, look here for more information.
We at Holston WCA have received several requests from lay people wanting to know how they can network with nearby Methodists who consider themselves “orthodox” or “conservative.” If you are a lay person and would like to serve as a public point of contact in your area, please let us know via e-mail.
Be sure to include in that e-mail your name, in what ways you can be contacted, and what you consider “local” for you. We’ll place that information on our website.
Blessings on all of you as we approach the Christmas season, and let’s continue to be in prayer for our United Methodist Church.
By Chuck Griffin
Holston WCA Chair
In a lot of ways, we as a group simply are rolling toward February. Our long-term mission is unclear until we see the results of the called United Methodist Church General Conference in St. Louis.
Over the next few weeks, I do want to offer a few reflections on what I observed as a delegate to the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Global Legislative Assembly, particularly now that I have had time to think. I’ll begin by addressing the issue of divisiveness, an accusation regularly aimed at the WCA.
I know in my heart that I dislike the idea of a split from the United Methodist Church, and I saw no evidence at our assembly of a hot desire to divide. The assembly was held Nov. 2 in Marietta, Ga., and attended by WCA delegates from all over the world.
Yes, we passed documents calling for development of a possible new denomination, and yes, we supported the idea of gracious exit plans for churches unhappy with decisions that may be reached in February.
I’m a language guy, however, and I took note of the highly conditional words in the proposed documents and from the mouths of the delegates as we debated. There even were efforts from the floor and from the dais to ensure the language was as conditional as possible.
In short, if there is to be division, it will happen because the called General Conference fails to affirm the way the vast majority of Christians have interpreted Scripture since the Holy Spirit first settled on the church.
This approach to Scripture, where we treat God’s word as divinely inspired, authoritative and intentionally troubling to the secular world, has been a key uniting feature of denominational Methodism, established at the Christmas Conference of 1784.
Rather than inspiring division, the WCA’s advocacy gives hope to Methodists with a high view of Scripture. These are people who have felt otherwise ready to leave the UMC for a few years now because they understand church unity is rooted in scripturally sound doctrine.
Yes, churches are bound to the UMC by trust clauses, but orthodox individuals, with their spiritual and financial gifts, are not. For these Methodists, the WCA so far has served as glue rather than a wedge.
Next: The Roots of Orthodox Anger.