In honor of my seminary hiring Scott Kisker, I am reblogging a post I wrote nearly two years ago after reading his book:
From Mainline or Methodist? by Scott Kisker:
I do not find the current “vision” for the United Methodist Church to be an improvement on our given vision of reforming “the continent by spreading Scriptural holiness over these lands.” Committing to our historic vision has the potential to bring actual change, abandoning the standards of success (size, wealth, popularity, power) by which we have been measuring ourselves for generations. The language of “scriptural holiness” will also change the categories of our disagreements. It clarifies whose version of a transformed world we are aiming at.
What I like about Kisker’s book is that I feel a real engagement with the impulse that gave rise to Methodism as I read it. It is not hero worship. It is rather a shared appreciation with Wesley for the plain faith of holiness of heart and life.
What troubles me about Kisker’s book is the same thing that troubles me when I read Wesley. To really stand where Wesley stood and do as he did, I do not see how the United Methodist Church could survive such a revival.
To preach holiness, sanctification, justification by faith, and new birth would empty our sanctuaries even more quickly than the grim reaper has been doing for 50 years.
To treat the General Rules like an actual rule of life would melt the phone lines between the homes of the congregation and the bishop’s office.
To act as if the gospel is not something we have to slip into people’s bags while they are not looking – so they take it home along with the stuff they actually came for – would offend.
I do not know how the institutional church could possibly take as its mission the original mission of the Methodist movement. Spreading scriptural holiness is much too demanding, and it is too easy to tell when we fail.
“Making disciples for the transformation of the world” is so vague that even august bodies like the Call to Action steering committee can’t tell us what it means in plain terms. We can do just about anything and claim to be working toward our mission.
I know most of my fellow United Methodists are not interested in being Methodist as Kisker describes it. For huge numbers the word has no meaning and the tradition that used to bear its name is unknown.
I don’t want something more than they do. “More” is not the right word. I want something real. I want to be part of the movement that started in a fishing village in Galilee and was rekindled in a coal field in England. I want the assurance of the Holy Spirit. I want the power of grace working in me to restore the image of God and the mind that was in Christ. I want to be one of the people called Methodist.