Vickers: ‘A vote of great theological significance’

United Theological Seminary professor Jason Vickers sends along this follow-up post to his post about the lack of theological conversation at General Conference.

Oh the Irony: A Significant Theological Development at General Conference

In my last blog, I spoke truthfully. At the time of writing I had not heard anyone mention anything of theological significance set for discussion at General Conference. Happily, as things turn out, there is a vote of great theological significance. One day after I wrote my blog lamenting the theological vacuity of yet another General Conference, a press release came across my screen. It seems that we will be voting to enter into full communion with the historically black Methodist churches (e.g., the AME, AMEZ, AUMP, CME, and UAME Churches).

The problem is that no one – and I mean no one – seems to be aware of it. It has remained completely under the radar, covered up by the fuss over sex and downsizing. And yet this too is fitting. It is what I have come to expect from us United Methodists. We are sinfully obsessed with anything and everything that threatens to divide us, and sinfully disinterested in things that are full of the eschatological promise of unity.

As far as I am concerned, the opportunity to enter into full communion with several historically black Methodist churches is easily the most significant theological development before us. With this vote, we have the opportunity to confess that we really do have one Lord, that we really do gather around one table, and that we really are one body animated by one Holy Spirit. Of course, there is always the danger that this vote will be misread as having merely to do with the politics of race. But it is much more than that. And it is more than that because race itself is first and foremost a theological issue, having to do with sin, repentance, and the overcoming of sin through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit – an overcoming of all that separates us from God and from one another.

When the smoke settles from this General Conference, I have no doubt that sex and money will grab the headlines. But there is a new story waiting to be told. To be sure, a positive vote for full communion will only mark the beginning of that story, but it is a beginning that is full of eschatological possibility. Even so, come, Holy Spirit. Make us one.

3 thoughts on “Vickers: ‘A vote of great theological significance’

  1. This “full communion” vote, while significant, is in reality nothing more than a confirmation of a series of votes that took place over the past 50 years through the Consultation on Church Union (currently known as Churches Uniting in Christ). The United Methodist Church and the three “historically black” Methodist denominations were full-signatories to the COCU agreement, which was the equivalent of “full communion” even though it did not use that expression. Still, with COCU/CUIC struggling to find a role in the 21st century, the full communion agreements are a welcome affirmation of work already accomplished.

  2. Thanks for highlighting this issue, and I agree with you wholeheartedly about its significance. Moving toward a greater ecumenical embrace with other ecclesiastical communions in the Wesleyan tradition is one of the two most significant ecumenical works we can be about in the UMC.

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