An EUB laments

I hear from time-to-time about EUB wounds over the Plan of Union. Skimming through the materials for General Conference (which you can find here), I found this portion of a much longer petition that articulates at least one former-EUB member’s grievances about Methodist hegemony in the United Methodist Church. Given the recent experience of Ash Wednesday, the final point is quite timely.

A widespread, but largely overlooked obstacle to being an inclusive church is the omission of United from our church name and the name of our people. The Methodist Church ceased as an organization on April 23, 1968, as did The Evangelical United Brethren Church (EUB). On that date, The United Methodist Church was born, a new church created by the marriage of the two former bodies. This was the  intention of the Plan of Union. When the word United is omitted, it suggests that the marriage was a pretense and that the union was, as some disappointed former EUB’s have termed it, a hostile corporate takeover.

Since 1980, the General Conference has declared that omitting United from our church name is “unacceptable usage.” Yet the practice continues in conversation and in print. Former EUB’s are not being oversensitive about a few syllables. When Methodist is used in place of our proper name, it becomes, to them, a painful reminder of more than a dozen serious betrayals of the spirit of union and inclusiveness:

1. Glorifying Wesley and Asbury, while ignoring or belittling the inheritances from Otterbein, Boehm, and Albright.
2. Abandoning beloved EUB institutions, including Westmar College, Otterbein Press, Kamp Koinonia, and the Church and Home magazine.
3. Cutting off EUB clergy widows from their only pension income, the dividends from Otterbein Press.
4. Repeated attempts to close United Theological Seminary.
5. Identifying Heritage Sunday with Aldersgate Sunday in 1976 and 2004.
6. Removing the EUB Hymnal from circulation and canceling its status as an official United Methodist hymnal in 1972 .
7. Including only two EUB hymns in the 1988 United Methodist Hymnal.
8. Replacing “debts” or “sins” in the Lord’s Prayer with “trespasses.”
9. Excluding the EUB service of infant dedication from The Book of Worship.
10. Restoring the Lovely Lane Chapel while leaving the EUB birthplace, the Peter Kemp Farmhouse, just a few miles away, to the fickle mercies of a secular economy bent on commercial expansion.
11. Suppressing the fact that the twin flames in the cross-and-flame emblem represent the Methodist and EUB traditions and that, when depicted correctly, the two flames are equal in size.
12. Closing a disproportionate number of former EUB churches (28 percent of those closed between 1975 and 1985).
13. Representing an ash-less Ash Wednesday, the EUB practice and the universal Protestant practice before 1970, as “un-United Methodist.”

12 thoughts on “An EUB laments

  1. Well, I can’t say I know what the evidence is for the last allegation.

    The reality is that Ash Wednesday was simply not celebrated at all by many Protestants, including many Methodists and EUBs, until the 20th century. For that matter, neither did they celebrate Lent. There simply were no rituals for Ash Wednesday in EA, UB or Methodist resources until the mid-20th century. When both denominations (at the time) started providing ritual for this day, both provided “ashless” services.

    So to suggest that the current ritual which includes ashes, and so brings United Methodists in line with most of the Christian world that has celebrated Ash Wednesday, is somehow particularly “aimed” at our former EUB (and not equally at our former Methodist) practices doesn’t quite pan out historically. Both former Methodists and former EUBs previously had ashless ritual, after a long period of having no ritual at all. Now together, as one church, we have official ritual that includes ashes in our Book of Worship (1992).

    Together, then, and not as Methodists rejecting EUB practices, we have come to a more ecumenical place with Ash Wednesday in our official ritual. Even here, though, as the Book of Worship has it, there is not a REQUIREMENT to use ashes, but simply provision to do so, and equally provision to “skip the ashing” and proceed directly to confession and pardon. See The United Methodist Book of Worship, p, 323.

  2. As one who grew up in the Episcopal tradition, I am also confused by the statement about ashless being the “universal Protestant practice before 1970.” The hyperbolic nature of this claim reveals the extent to which this grievance is a personal matter and perhaps more than a bit biased. Likewise with the notion of a “suppression” of the meaning behind the Cross and Flame: I have never heard the logo explained any other way. I have never seen it drawn so as to depict the EUB flame as diminutive (do we know which is which?).

    We bemoan the beurocratic nature of the denomination and GC, but we must attribute some of the lethargic nature of the machine to the fact that some committee somewhere will have to spend valuable time treating this petition as though it had any merit. (A measure that will be repeated by virtually every committee with multiple frivolous petitions). This is the proverbial argument over the color of carpet in the sanctuary on a denominational level. C’est la vie.

  3. I was confirmed in the E. U. B. church in 1965. I know that the discussion of the merger was taking place at that time but it was something far beyond what a 14-year-old even thought about. What I remember is my pastor telling the youth group one time that they (meaning the Methodists) were joining us since the new denomination would be the UNITED Methodists. There was a disdain in his voice when he said (as I can best recall).

    But it made sense when my pastor in Minnesota, who came out of the E. U. B. and whose father and grandfather were pastors and Bishops in the E. U. B. church and was a lawyer before becoming a pastor, told me that the best example of a hostile takeover (said in the early 1990s) was the merger of the two denominations.

    So, reading what you posted and knowing what little about the merger that I do, what is in the petition does make sense.

  4. Methodist and EUB has always been a point of contention, many pew dwellers in the local church were against the merger, but the EUB minster were all for it, better pay, benefits, etc. But the EUB felt robbed, and still does. That is why you can see two Methodist churches, close together, (within 2-3 miles) both large and small, but cannot/will not merge because they come out of two different traditions. And I imagine it will always be so until the older EUB generation dies off, off the UMC church dies or splits.

    But overall you raised a good point.

  5. As my grandfather (a Methodist preacher from the age of 15) once quipped to me: “The EUBs were very good on their doctrine, very pious people. We took care of that real quick.” I am young and so do not yet have much first hand experience with this issue, but when I was writing my commissioning papers, I was struck with how superior the EUB Confession of Faith is to the Methodist Articles of Religion as a theological document. Why we didn’t take advantage of the merger to dump all that Edwardian polemic and retain only the much more balance and complete EUB document is beyond me (of course, the same dynamics of identity we’re talking about here are the reason, I know, but sit down and read the Confession of Faith and the Articles of Religion back to back some time).

      1. There is a simple reason we didn’t drop the Articles. The Methodist Episcopal Church and its successors had sort of had no way to do so. We had created “Restrictive Rules” as of 1808 that made amending much less deleting the Articles a near impossibility. This meant the Methodist Church effectively could not opt for only the EUB Confession.

        So instead, what happened was what could happen– adopting both and declaring they were consistent with each other and would be so interpreted. And then “sealing” both behind the “Restrictive Rule” line.

        BTW… just to be a tad picky about this, the language of the Articles is from the reign of Elizabeth I, not Edward. So Elizabethan it is, indeed, even more specifically, “very much 1563,” rather than Edwardian. We may be glad it was Elizabeth’s language and approach that prevailed– truly far more circumspect and open toward others– even if not Rome. Keep in mind the Articles are in part a direct contemporaneous response to the Council of Trent as well.

        1. logic of the move. I had been under the impression that, because the union in 1968 was a merger and not technically the absorption of one body by another that there was at least theoretically total freedom in the crafting of the constitution. I understand of course that politically, the easiest and probably only way to do it would be to give the articles and the confession equal standing. To your knowledge was there a procedural difference between the addition of the EUB Confession in 1968 and the addition of, say, the Metho?ist Protestant article on sanctification in 1939.

        2. Sorry, that first reply got chopped up. I had forgotten they were re-done under Elizabeth. Well, if these are the Elizabethan ones, I’m even more glad we aren’t stuck with the Edwardian version.

          So is it fairly easy to add to the list of things covered under the restrictive rule? It seems that would involve amending the restrictive rule, which, if it is easier to do that than to amend the things protected behind it, I’m not sure I’m quite following the logic of the move. I had been under the impression that, because the union in 1968 was a merger and not technically the absorption of one body by another that there was at least theoretically total freedom in the crafting of the constitution. I understand of course that politically, the easiest and probably only way to do it would be to give the articles and the confession equal standing. To your knowledge was there a procedural difference between the addition of the EUB Confession in 1968 and the addition of, say, the Methodist Protestant article on sanctification in 1939?

  6. Why not rename the 1968 merger “THE METHODIST EVANGELICAL CHURCH ? That will make some EUB happy and enthusiastic. The Southern Baptists are considering to rename their denomination as I write this.

    And while we are at it, why not re-introduce infant dedication and more adult baptism. I am one Methodist who does not believe in infant baptism. I know of other Methodist who are with me on this issue. I am more a George Whitefield Methodist although I am neither an Armenian or a Calvinist. I agree with Dr. Norman Geisler. (Watch’Why I Am Not A 5 Point Calvinist’ – By Dr. Norman Geisler

    Just my thoughts !

    Before anyone slay me, I take cover behind the “open door, open heart and open mind” slogan of the UMC. My mother is the Methodist in the family, that is why we are all raised Methodists. (Oops, did I step on any EUB toes by dropping the word “United” ?) My family consider me odd because I proudly proclaim that I am “born again. ” I chew the meat and spit out the bones, and that is how my independent streak show.

  7. Adely,

    The Open-open-open language is not at all official language adopted by the United Methodist Church. It was part of an ad campaign. It holds no more official status than that.

    Meanwhile our Articles of Religion commit us to infant baptism. And neither the EUB nor the MC had any long history of infant dedication before that. Infant dedication was, as Kendall McCabe has pointed out, sort of “snuck in” to the 1945 UB Book of Worship, and then carried over in to the first (and only!) book of EUB worship resources. Nothing of the kind ever existed before that– so it simply lacks any warrant for considering it having any kind of “real” tradition among any part of these churches.

    I’m all for more adult baptisms. This means, however, that we need to get much better about actual adult conversions, rather than, as John Meunier’s link to fairly recent study notes, far more about getting new adults into the UMC from other churches at a rate of over 99%.

    Waiting later for baptism isn’t the point. Nor is it even a helpful solution. Formation and practices that bring non-Christians to discipleship to Jesus are what we woefully lack– and deeply need to revive again.

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