I’m still trying to untangle my tangled thoughts about United Methodism, denominational controversies, and real Christian witness. “Real Christian” was a term John Wesley used fairly often, as noted by Ken Collins in his biography of Wesley by that name. I want to be a real Christian.
As well, I want to be a loyal United Methodist Christian. I’m a committed Wesleyan. I think doctrine matters. I think life flows from shared vision and that vision is shaped by sound doctrine. There’s a mysterious interchange at work in these ideas, motives and practices. I don’t want to be a something else other than United Methodist.
I also don’t want to confuse witnessing for Jesus and the Kingdom with getting the right structure in place. I’m thus torn. I know Maxie Dunnam’s witness, as well as Eddie Fox’s. I’ve heard them preach. I’ve read their books. They are men of God. I trust their perspectives.
What I don’t think I share with them is a commitment to keeping a certain set of structures in place, structures that supposedly act as proper boundaries for the church’s witness. I think ideological boundaries have been breached already, even though the structural boundaries are in place. So, how do I witness to Christ in a denomination that is badly divided?
These thoughts prompt me to ponder how to be a real Christian without any institutional power. Can I, by my transparent witness, embody and speak the truth as it is in Jesus without recourse to denominational levers? Can we?
I know that we need structures. Every group has to be organized. I just don’t want to confuse upholding certain structures with faithful witness. Structures support faithful witness, to be sure, but I’m afraid that too many people will somehow feel as if we’ve been faithful to Jesus by making sure we vote the right way on constutional amendments.