Commentary: How did modern Methodists forget who they are?

Commentary: How did modern Methodists forget who they are?

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past year, health care reform is evidently divisive. It seemed as if it was going to be a worldly issue until people were informed by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that The United Methodist Church is on a growing list of 350 organizations -- religious and secular -- advocating for health care reform.

I'm curious. Which is it that people have the problem with: The fact that the UMC is in favor of the government providing health care to its citizens? Or the fact that the UMC says anything about a political/social justice issue in the first place?

In either case, it's time to teach.

John 6:43:
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.

58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" 61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? 62 What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit[e] and they are life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.

65 He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him." 66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67 "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve.

How surprised should we be that followers of Jesus would want to leave when Christ's Church seeks to advocate for a hurting world? Since 1908 the Methodist Church has advocated:

1. For equal rights and complete justice for all men in all stations of life.
2. For the principles of conciliation and arbitration in industrial dissensions.
3. For the protection of the worker from dangerous machinery, occupational diseases, injuries and mortality.
4. For the abolition of child labor.
5. For such regulation of the conditions of labor for women as shall safeguard the physical and moral health of the community.
6. For the suppression of the "sweating system."
7. For the gradual and reasonable reduction of the hours of labor to the lowest practical point, with work for all; and for that degree of leisure for all which is the condition of the highest human life.
8. For a release for [from] employment one day in seven.
9. For a living wage in every industry.
10. For the highest wage that each industry can afford, and for the most equitable division of the products of industry that can ultimately be devised.
11. For the recognition of the Golden Rule and the mind of Christ as the supreme law of society and the sure remedy for all social ills.

And, as far back as we have records to prove, the Wesleys' activity was of a dual-evangelism. Individuals needed to evangelized, but so did the systems of oppression existing in their day. How is it that modern Methodists have so quickly forgotten who they are? Did we stop teaching? Did we forget that the world body of United Methodists meet every four years to decide this? Did we forget that no one person, no matter what position they have in our massive bureaucracy, speaks for our church?

Maybe we are afraid that people will react to us in the same manner that Jesus' followers did. After all, even those who walked side by side with Jesus left when he spoke of something as fundamental as what we now know of as Holy Communion. But I suppose that it wasn't fundamental for them at that point. They had to be taught by a preacher willing to be crucified upside down and an old Rabbi who was imprisoned in Rome. Perhaps we should be thankful that it still costs something to follow Christ and lead Christ's Church. After all, in the end what matters most is what Jesus thinks of it all.


The Rev. Andrew Amodei is Church and Society chair on the Holston Conference Outreach/Advocacy Team. He is also associate pastor at First Broad Street United Methodist Church, Kingsport District.

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