United Methodist’s are still shaking our heads in disbelief at how little was accomplished at General Conference 2012. Good gracious we could not even agree that we disagree. So, the decline of United Methodism will continue here in North America, and will continue to flourish and thrive on the continent of Africa. In The United States of America the hot button issue is homosexuality. I can assure you that this is not going away, and as homosexuality becomes acceptable to American culture it is only a matter of time that we will see the full inclusion of gay’s and lesbian’s in the life of the church. One need only look back to the issue of segregation where the Bible was used as a means of defending this practice. With time segregation was overthrown and integration is now a part of our society and very few question it’s legitimacy. However, this is a whole different blog.
Bishop William Willimon who is currently serving as bishop of the North Alabama Conference has written a very interesting book entitled, Bishop: The Art of Questioning Authority by an Authority in Question, raises some very important questions about the denomination known as United Methodism.
Let me say that I find Bishop Willimon to be arrogant and sometimes he acts like he’s in a manic state. However, having said this I do find some of the things that he proposes to make sense. He raises a question that is worthy of consideration, How many United Methodist’s will get out of bed on a Sunday morning and worship God under their pastor’s leadership? I am sure this is not a question that only United Methodist need to answer, but it is a question that must be asked of all congregation’s. Lets get one thing straight we should not base our attendance to worship God based on whomever the pastor may be. We should go to church based on our desire to worship God, and fellowship one with another. We’ve got it all wrong here in America when it comes to church. We have become dependent on building larger programs, and providing activities for the whole family to engage . Not one thing wrong with any of this, but when this takes the place of our dependency on the Holy Spirit we have big problems.
As unpopular as it may be, it is still the Holy Spirit that leads a person to acceptance of Jesus Christ. It is still the Holy Spirit that empowers the church to do effective mission and ministry. However, bishops, clergy, and laity can all be vessels in which the Holy Spirit uses to accomplish the work of the church.
We were the largest protestant denomination in America at one time. We never believed that we would be facing the downward spiral that has come our way. We believed the answer was to gather as many as we could around the table to help make decisions and it has been an utter failure, as Willimon points this out.
He lifts up many problems that are wrong in United Methodism. However, at the end of the day Willimon reminds us that it is the Holy Spirit that invigorates women and men to stand up and make the difficult decisions that will lead to not only the survival but the growth of United Methodism once again. I remember as a child at The Enterprise United Methodist Church we would sing out of the old Cokesbury hymnal. I can still remember singing, Dwelling in Beulah Land and Ms. Fronnie Bell Tatum chiming out loudly the Praise God part in the chorus. There was one song that we would sing from time to time that comes to mind, Pentecostal Power was the title. I believe these words speak to the plight of United Methodism in this the second decade of the 21st century. “Lord, as of old at Pentecost thou didst they power display, With cleansing purifying flame descend on us this day. Lord send the old-time pow’r, The Pentecostal pow’r! They floodgates of blessing on us throw open wide! Lord send the old-time pow’r, the Pentecostal pow’r, that sinners be converted, and they name glorified! This is the answer to the problems of United Methodism! A real revival needs to break out that causes us to fall in love with Jesus once again, and when this happens we will love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
Willimon goes through a litany of changes that need to occur, but he gives the power to change to the one who brings about true change, the Holy Spirit.
In spite of all of Willimon’s arrogance, and at times what seems to be his smart aleck attitude he offers insights that are needed if we hope to turn this behemoth called United Methodism around. With individuals like Willimon depending on the Holy Spirit it may well happen.