Wednesday, August 16, 2006

what united methodists believe

One might ask, "What do United Methodists believe?" There is no way of saying for sure what all the millions of us believe. However, it can be clearly stated that all those who are ordained as Elders and Deacons must answer the following questions with a "yes," if they wish to be ordained (Found in The Book of Discipline in paragraph 330.4d for Deacons and paragraph 336 for Elders).

8. Have you studied the doctrines of The United Methodist Church?

9. After full examination, do you believe that our docrines are in harmony with the Scriptures?

10. Will you preach and maintain them?

What are "the doctrines of The United Methodist Church?"
They are clearly stated in plain English in Our Doctrinal Standards (Paragraph 103 in The Book of Discipline), which include

The Articles of Religion

The Confession of Faith

Wesley's Standard Sermons

Wesley's Notes on the New Testament

As I examine these doctrines, it seems that it would not be possible for an honest unorthodox, nonevangelical to be ordained as a United Methodist pastor.

16 comments:

John B said...

A lot of UM pastors answer "yes" to those questions in the same tongue in cheek way many answer the question, "Are you in debt as to be an embarrassment?"

After 7 years of higher education, is it possible not be be embarrassingly in debt?

Anonymous said...

Jason,

I agree with you. Yet I struggle with why the leadership of the UMC seems to have forgotten this or blatantly disregard this.

This was the resolution that was discharged by the Episopal Church.

Resolution D058
Title: Salvation Through Christ Alone
Topic: Evangelism
Committee: Evangelism
House of Initial Action: Deputies
Proposer: The Rev. Guido Verbeck (Western Louisiana)

Resolved, the House of _____ concurring, That the 75th General

Convention of the Episcopal Church declares its unchanging commitment
to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the only name by which any person
may be saved (Article XVIII); and be it further

Resolved, That we acknowledge the solemn responsibility placed upon us to share Christ with all persons when we hear His words, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No-one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6); and be it further Resolved, That we affirm that in Christ there is both the substitutionary essence of the Cross and the manifestation of God's unlimited and unending love for all persons; and be it further Resolved, That we renew our dedication to be faithful witnesses to all persons of the saving love of God perfectly and uniquely revealed in Jesus and upheld by the full testimony of Holy Scripture.

How many UMC Bishops and theologians would fail to affirm a resolution like this, table it, or choose "no comment"?

Would trying to reaffirm the UMC doctrinal standards that you have so plainly stated create a "civil war" within in the UMC?

I suspect such resolutions would be "tabled".

Or if they did pass, would our leadership choose inclusion over church disciple and the Gospel of Christ.

Are there exceptions for sin and false doctrine?

John Flores
Friso, Texas

John Flores
Friso, Texas

Jason Woolever said...

ha ha. good point, john b. or you could say that gen-xers are strangely comfortable with debt, so as to not be embarrassed.

Jason Woolever said...

john flores, that doesn't surprise me that the Episcopal Church discharged the resolution. I would be surprised if they accepted it.

Anonymous said...

a few years ago Good News published a book called "UM Renewal - What will it take?"

In that book, the author suggested that basically ministers use "church words" but change the meaning...

having been in the ministry now for 12 years, it happens all the time...

we recite the apostles creed, but don't believe in the virgin birth, just to name one example

Jason Woolever said...

isn't that lying then?

Richard H said...

Traditions of non-literal understanding of christian theological terms have been long standing within the modern church. As participants in some of those traditions as they have been incarnated in the Methodist tradition, I think those who say "Yes" yet don't mean what you mean, i.e., Jesus really was raised from the dead, Jesus really was/is divine, etc., see themselves as just as much a part of the Methodist tradition as you do. They do not see themselves as liars but as people who simply interpret the terms differently.

My personal approach is to avoid "lie" language because once we use it things get all emotional. Instead I keep arguing for greater attention to our shared doctrine and a need to clarify what we mean when we use it so it can truly become operational in our churches. I've long been convinced that our doctrinal disunity (amnesia, incoherence - whatever you want to call it) has been deadly for the church.

Jason Woolever said...

I agree with the emotional content of the word lie, but its an undeniably emotionally tied issue.
"Traditions of non-literal understanding of christian theological terms" cleary and blatantly do violence to the very intention of the words themselves. the restrictive rule was added so that heresy wouldn't creep in. to deny the virgin birth or bodily resurrection is to prevent people from receiving salvation, and to deny Christ.

Nick Draper said...

1 cor 15

Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

So Paul is preventing people from receiving salvation and denying Christ by teaching this doctrine?

Jason Woolever said...

I said, to deny the doctrines of that passage are to deny Christ and prevent people from being saved.

Understand that the importance of the virgin birth is that it means that Jesus did not inherit original sin, as the rest of the human race had. He couldn't have "died for our sins" unless he was a sinless substitute (the Son of God, born of a virgin).

Nick Draper said...

Then couldn't that doctrine be construed as a "Pharisaical addition" to the gospel? I can't find an instance in Acts or in any of Paul's letters where the doctrine of the virgin birth is taught as essential to salvation.

By the turn of the century, the doctrine was taught as necessary to salvation. So what about the early Christians who may not have considered the issue?

As for original sin, isn't that a construct of Augustine? What makes it essential to salvation?

Jason Woolever said...

Hmm. I would say that the first chapter in the "gospels" which tell the gospel of Jesus to us, share the truth of the virgin birth.

Its clearly in the Apostle's Creed. How would one decide that they would place the letters of Paul above the gospels?

How could you have faith in Jesus as the Son of God if he wasn't fully God? How could you have faith in Jesus as the Mediator between God and humans if he wasn't fully man?

I would not consider the virgin birth an addition.

Original Sin is just a name for what Paul described in Romans 5:12-15. Its not an invention of Augustine, but a name he gave to something that was commonly believed.

Nick Draper said...

The church was around for about 40 years before those gospels were written, and are the earliest written evidence we have for a doctrine of the virgin birth.

The Apostle's Creed was written 300 years after the fact. And my guess is that there was a whole generation of Christians that only saw Paul's letters, because they died before the gospel writings made it to them. The reason I haven't referenced the gospels is because the first Christians didn't have them, and so from the perspective of the year 40 or so could be considered an addition.

Thanks for the info on the original sin thing.

I'm not trying to "attack" the orthodox position, but to hold it against all other teaching myself, I need to honestly believe it true.

Keith McIlwain said...

When asked the "Are you in debt..." question, I answered, "Yes." Heck, it's more an indictment of the xpense of seminary than of anything I've done.

But to the most important point: if a person can't affirm the doctrinal standards (which are incredibly basic), then perhaps the UMC isn't the most suitable place for them. There's no shame or dishonor in that.

Jason Woolever said...

Nick, I have to say, you're the first person I've met who looks for a more reliable witness to the true gospel than one of Jesus' own disciples, namely Matthew. I'm not sure if you'll find anything more reliable than that.

God bless you on your search for the truth.

Jason Woolever said...

Keith,
I agree with you that our doctrinal standards are VERY basic. I'm not sure why anyone thinks its wrong to insist on a very core set of standards. It may be a little exclusive, but our goal isn't to include everyone who believes anything, but to be a CHRISTIAN denomination, that teaches basic traditional Christian doctrine.