As many of you know, I’m a retired pastor from the United Methodist tradition. Just before I hung up my cleats (so to speak) I had an interesting conversation with my District Superintendent. I mentioned that I used to be something of a rebel. She quickly asked, “USED to be?!!!” Okay, so I’m still a renegade. What can I say?
Maybe because of that, I don’t feel like I have all that much skin in the game when it comes to the current state of affairs in my denomination. I tend to look at all the hubbub from a position of an outsider. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been a member of a United Methodist Church or Conference for almost forty years. Mother Meth has been good to me, so I’m not going to trash her. Still, times are tough.
“Jesus is God”
I just read a blog by a United Methodist pastor, the likes of which I thought I’d never see. In his blog, “It’s Time for Progressive Christianity,” the pastor said, “Jesus isn’t God. Jesus didn’t die for our sins.” If you know anything about all things Methodist, you know that this isn’t one of them. If there is one rallying point among the people called Methodist, it’s that Jesus is God and that our sin was nailed to the cross with Him. That’s about as basic and bottom-line as one gets.
I realize we attempt to journey under a big tent or a large umbrella (choose your own metaphor). The tent, however, has walls. The umbrella has an edge beyond which one will get wet. From my little corner of the world, I’m thinking this guy is all wet.
I read the entire blog to see if he was saying this (and many other things) in a tongue-in-cheek manner. It doesn’t appear so. He was dead serious. In the old days, this would have been designated as heresy. Today, it’s simply another man’s opinion. While I’m not looking to bring back the old days, I do think there are parameters to our orthodoxy. The Bible is still the authority over the church (at least among the Protestant brethren).
“We’re in the wrong place.”
This particular pastor is, undoubtedly, not alone in his assertions. The point, however, is not how many share his viewpoint. The point, as I view it, is that he is not a United Methodist—at least not in the truest sense of the term. He, and apparently others like him, are forging a new type of Methodism (if you can call it that). The deity of Christ is what separates us from the Jesus cults, Judaism, and Islam. If we want to embrace a totally human Jesus, we’re in the wrong place.
United Methodists are not alone here. Every old-line denomination is going through the same thing. The more loosely we hang on to God’s Word, the more likely we will lose it altogether. We need to hang on tightly to Scripture, or we will render it irrelevant to our lives.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]