How many Methodists has Will Willimon ruined?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks to Bishop Willimon for the link. The link to Mitch Lewis is broken now because he has taken down his blog. The original post was one in which he “blamed” Willimon for turning him into a confessional Christian. My post makes much less sense now that Mitch’s is down.

I’ve been really enjoying a lot of what Mitch Lewis is writing in recent days. His latest post is no different. In it he traces his own observations of the various forms of American Protestantism and his own arrival through it all as a confessional Christian.

Yet I’ve come to believe in a form of Christianity that is at least as corporate as it is personal, that is sometimes intense but often routine, and that is confessional and liturgical at its heart. Creeds and confessions matter. What we believe matters. And, yes, I think to be a Christian is to be churchly. When I hear people disparage the routine, ordinary Sunday observances of word and sacrament by God’s assembled people, I cringe.

The whole post is rewarding. Just like Mitch, I’ve found my introduction to Methodist confessionalism in the works of Bishop William Willimon. His post does a nice job of surveying the field and locating his confessionalism.

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4 thoughts on “How many Methodists has Will Willimon ruined?

  1. I am not sure that the work of Bishop Willimon necessarily leads to “confessionalism” in so much as that means a narrow and exclusive movement that defines itself by creeds. I see Willimon, and Hauerwas for that matter, as ultimately concerned about Christians reclaiming our identity. What we believe matters because beliefs form how we live, and we are called to live a peculiar life–we are as much defined by what we do as what we believe. Creeds and Confessions mattering does not mean they stand alone at the center of our faith–rather they matter because they are among many tools, along with word and sacrament, that help us to remember our communal identity–if we lose that, then how do we mark where we have gone astray from the Christian story in embrace of another–say the American Dream, or Enlightened Humanism?

    This is not unrelated to your earlier post concerning whether or not Easter is actually real. How would we come to investigate and establish factual reality as opposed to some literary meaning? Would we trust in our logical instinct that says humans just don’t rise from the dead? Would we trust in the presence or absence of certain archaeological evidence? Or do we look at the story that has been handed down to us and to this point we have believed and by which we have been formed? If it is the later, the creeds, confessions, word, and sacrament center us on the absurd reality that we are a people who believe in resurrection.

    I am not sure this is the ruining of Methodists. If however, and this is possible, we take from Willimon’s work that high church liturgy and 18th century English music is the only authentic way to worship God then perhaps we have been ruined to a certain extent.

    1. Hey, Eric. Thank you for the post. I should clarify that I am one of the many “ruined” by Willimon. The headline is meant to be a bit tongue and cheek and a response to Mitch Lewis’ blog post.

      1. I think I picked up on that–both from previous posts and the tone. It just got me thinking–if I don’t think of myself as a confessionalist, and yet do think Hauerwas/Willimon are leading the church in a good direction, what is the difference between what they are doing and confessionalism. I think the difference may be in how legalisticly creeds and confessions are used.

        1. Eric, have you read “Resident Aliens”? There is a nice discussion there of the confessing – as opposed to confessionalist – church and what Yoder means by that. Yoder is the source fo the Hauerwas/Willimon thinking, as you know.

          If you have not read it, I’ll dig out my copy and try to summarize it. It is much less about creeds and much more about “knowing nothing but Christ and him crucified.”

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