‘What Happened to My Denomination?’

Sermon at the California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church by a retired elder.

(ht: UM Insight)

His sermon text appears to have been a combination of a Garrison Keillor song and the Lord’s Prayer.


7 thoughts on “‘What Happened to My Denomination?’

  1. “Our Mother, Father who art in heaven…” As he began his prayer that way it jarred me out of my prayerful attitude. There are reasons we call God Father, but this is not the place…

    I found that I largely agreed with his message, but not how he got there. The evils he saw in corporate structures that extract great prophet while penalizing or unfairly compensating poor people are real and our prophetic voice is appropriate.

    I found his prescribing those things he disagreed with among the central conference delegates to cultural imperialism to be beneath his education and his later more conciliatory tone.

    I continue to be discouraged when I see seeming unengagement with scripture beyond the same half dozen stories of Jesus that I hear in seemingly every liberal Protestant sermon. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that it may have been a slip to suggest the Jubilee was prescribed every seven years. (See: Leviticus 25:10)

    I found that his sermon was entirely focused on this world with no mention of the next. Maybe I missed something. An appropriate place he could have included that was in his recollection that we are to resist and confront evil and injustice. Instead he found that evil “in the church, in the state, and wherever…”

    He equates smoking, when it was prohibited by the Discipline, with gay sexual activity; through that he equates the two indicating we will someday learn to ignore the second too. I think it is wise to abstain from smoking and drinking, though there is no biblical prohibition. There is clearly one for the contemporary issue.

    On the issue of economic justice I agree with him that the Church is to “follow God’s will above all else.” Somehow that will is lost in the move to human autonomy.

    I found it interesting to hear his perspective on what makes us Methodist; it may help me understand others like him. It seemed that he finds the Methodist identity largely wrapped up in stubbornness and breaking the rules as set out with no mention of theology. Wesley appears as important only in the context of rule breaking in consecrating Coke. “We started after the Revolutionary War…”

    His words at 23:40 are wise: “I must never ever vilify those on the other side who see the will of God differently.” He received much applause for that line.

    He contradicts the spirit of that statement in the same sermon several times though including at 1:50 when he unequivocally claims that “47 percent of the people said God’s grace is not for everyone.” That wasn’t up for a vote and I continue to be saddened to hear folks repeat that line with no clear attempt to “seek first” to understand.

    1. I did not comment in the main post on the speech itself because I wanted to try to listen to him without getting into reactive mode. That was hard. I do like his preaching style and passion.

      Several things you mention did grab my attention. I found the comments about Africa distressing, for instance.

      When he pulled out the baptismal vows, I wish he had dealt with all of them instead of cherry-picking. I would be interested to see how this passionate and engaging preacher dealt with repenting of sin and remaining a faithful member of Christ’s holy church.

      I found myself wondering as well whether there were any evangelicals. How did they hear this? I also wonder whether there was any awkwardness when the bishop handed newly ordained elders their copy of the Book of Discipline (if they do that in CA-NV). The bishop was sitting right there when the preacher called for ignoring the BOD, now he is giving it to me as if it should have some sort of authority in my ministry?

      Your observation about the reading of Methodism as rule breaking is interesting. I think the insistence on not letting “rules” get in the way of Christ’s mission is a true inheritance from Wesley. But I’m not sure where the line between freedom and license is.

      Quite a jumble of thoughts, which is why I did not post them before.

  2. Would you say the message or messenger were “winsome?” Being an outside observer, I must admit I got lost in the fog.

  3. I enjoyed the melody, but not the lyrics.

    Also, why do these guys always pick on someone like David Simon? He actually earned those big bucks by (1) minimizing his raise during the difficult times for his corporation, and (2) making tons of money for his investors. Why not single out Drew Brees? $20 M/year, or something like that, for throwing a football??? I suppose the owner of the Saints is making quite a few bucks off of that ability, but really, if we want to be envious of rich guys and claim they don’t really deserve the money they make he seems like a better candidate to me.

    1. You show how ‘inside baseball’ my viewing of the video was. I kind of skipped over the “brood of vipers” part and put most of my attention on the attacks on other parts of the church (Africa and Southeast) and the call to defy/ignore the Book of Discipline.

Comments are closed.