Facebook Memories and the United Methodist Church: “I want to see what happens if I don’t give up”

Facebook memories are positively Dickensian; ghosts of Christmases past and those that are already, but not yet. They are digital Anamnesis and Prolepsis. Dr. Rockford Johnson would say, as only he can, that they are both “Jesusian” and “phygital;” that they “advoke” emotions from across time as they “convoke” in the present (I had to add all of these words to my online dictionary to make the angry red squiggles go away! That is what you call bringing together words old and new.) As I looked through my memories today, I saw:

*the conclusion of the summer meals program at Lexington UMC in a year that the Regional Food Bank denied our funding request. We decided to pay for it ourselves and distributed over 1,000 meals that summer

*a community fun night between Lost Creek UMC and Perkins First UMC with close to 100 people present, some coming from the daycare and others from the food ministry, in addition to church members

*meeting with David Daniel and Sam Donica to launch HomeGroups at Ardmore First UMC and develop a guide for the facilitators

*consulting with Duncan First UMC as they considered the revitalization of their second worship service

*celebrating milestones at Moore 1st UMC. It was the first time (and only time) that I had baptized an entire family – some sprinkled, some dunked, some poured over!

The common threads in these memories are United Methodism, connectionalism, and the “sent” ministry of itineracy – or what some call the ministry of saying “Yes.”

I like that I can serve a denomination wherein faithful Christians disagree.

It is one reason among many that I am remaining United Methodist. There is no cloak-and-dagger plot to subvert the Articles of Religion or our Theological Task. We’re parting ways over the interpretation of scripture and disagreement about polity and church governance. It saddens me, and I have several friends and colleagues that will unite with the Free Methodists, the Global Methodists, a more progressive denomination, or seek a path of independence. I want to preserve and maintain those friendships.

I want to continue to serve with:

Discipleship Ministries; United Methodist Men; United Women in Faith; UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief); VIM (Volunteers in Mission); the General Commission on Archives and History; NOMADS (RV Mission Volunteers); the General Board of Church and Society; United Methodist Communications; the Board of Global Ministries; the Commission on Religion and Race; The Upper Room (including the Daily Devotional, the Walk to Emmaus, the Academy of Spiritual Formation, and related programs); the Commission on the Status and Role of Women; the United Methodist Publishing House; Wespath; and other ministries.

I want to continue to love on and include our smaller and rural congregations, who benefit significantly from appointments by bishops, access to annual conference resources, and an annualized appointment process that guarantees the continual appointment of a pastor.

I like that we already share full communion with several other denominations.

We have an important voice in the World Methodist Council, the National Council of Churches, and the World Council of Churches. At a local level, many United Methodist Churches share ministries with other churches and local ecumenical groups. The UMC promotes interfaith dialogue and participates in the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

I like our symbol and how it is globally recognized as a trusted brand and present in the places of the world that have the greatest need.

That symbol represents the conference, districts, local churches, and people who raised me and provided for me every step of the way. I know that symbol does not evoke the same story or emotions for everyone, and for some represents harm committed; a definite moment of un-welcome at the hands of an immoral religious leader or church worker; or an entirely unpleasant experience as a child or an adult tied to a local church or denomination.

At Wesley United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City, our altar area is set up in a way that I love. We used two guiding ideas. One comes from a line in the hymn “The Church’s One Foundation:”

“she is His new creation by water and the word…”

The second idea comes from a common descriptive phrase concerning United Methodist worship that we are a people of:

“Table, Book, and Font.”

There have been differences of opinion in every congregation I have served, but they all fall away at this table. This picture describes me. I have a high view of Christ and of scripture, I exercise a robust use of the sacraments when I worship, and my theology is distinctly Trinitarian.

I believe our official position that all persons are of sacred worth but that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching – and our history of baptizing infants who become adults who are denied the credentialing we require alongside their calling – has been damaging and should be changed. I love and serve alongside people who disagree with me. I am willing to continue that service.

I am United Methodist and will remain United Methodist. Of the character of a methodist, John Wesley says this in original notes from his time at Lincoln College:

A methodist is one, who has the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him: one who loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind, and with all his strength. God is the joy of his heart and the desire of his soul, constantly crying out, “Whom have I in Heaven but thee, and there is none upon Earth that I desire beside thee! My God and my all! Thou art the strength of my heart and my portion forever!”

“He is therefore happy in God, yea, always happy, as he has a well of water, springing up into everlasting life, and overflowing his soul with peace and joy. Perfect love having now cast out fear, he rejoices evermore. He rejoices in the Lord always, even in God his Saviour: And in the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom he hath now received the 〈◊〉. Having found redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of his sins, he cannot but rejoice whenever he looks back on the horrible pit out of which he is delivered, when he sees all his transgressions blotted out as a cloud and his iniquities as a 〈…〉. He cannot but rejoice whenever he 〈◊〉 on the state wherein he now is, being justified 〈◊〉, and having peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. For he that believeth hath the witness of this in himself: being 〈◊〉 the son of God by faith: because 〈…〉 son. God hath 〈◊〉 forth the spirit of his son unto his heart, 〈◊〉 out, Abba, Father! And the spirit itself beareth witness with his spirit, that he is a child of God. He rejoiceth also, whenever he looks forward, in hope of the glory that shall be revealed: yea, his joy is full, and all his bones cry out. Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy hath begotten me again to a living hope—of an inheritance 〈◊〉, undefiled and that fadeth, not 〈◊〉, 〈◊〉 in heaven for me.”

The character of a Methodist. By John Wesley, M.A. Late Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford

I believe I can still pursue the life of the methodist – described above – and be a United Methodist. Those who cannot, I will bless and not curse. Those who can, I will continue to serve alongside in this official capacity.

On a given Sunday at Wesley Church, I can see a pew with a homeless friend, a retired teacher, a college student, an attorney, and a former pastor. I can see people whose first language is not English. I can see the very young and the very old. Sunday, I saw an entire row of freed prisoners living a new life in Christ.

As a previous Church Council Chair so powerfully stated:

“I want to see what happens if I don’t give up.”


  1. Thank you, for your affirming, thoughtful and timely words. I, too, will remain United Methodist, because of the tradition and reason that I believe is part of the foundation of my faith, as well as the example of those who have gone before me in Methodism that have helped form my theology. I thank God for those influencers along the way; from youth groups to UMW, mission trips to Lay Servant Ministries, and those saints that have gone to their glory. The people God has put in our path have made us be United in the cause of making disciples of Jesus Christ as we strive to be in service to everyone, so they can hear and see the Word of God through us.

  2. Thank you and well said Pastor.

    I do, however, want to make sure I understand you correctly. Are you stating that homosexuality IS compatible with Biblical teaching and that the Methodist church position that it is not compatible has been damaging and should be changed?

    1. Hello, David! Hoping you are well. I think you have understood correctly. I think committed, monogamous same-sex marriages should be permissible in our Christian marriage covenant, and I also think that persons who are gay and feel called to ministry should not be barred from pursuing credentialing.

      I do not, however, believe that disagreement on this issue should be the cause of the denomination splitting and fellow believers choosing to no longer hold membership vows together in the same congregation. There are members of my church who do not agree with me, but we have covenanted to still follow Jesus together in our shared United Methodist Church.

      1. I am doing better then I deserve. Thank you for asking. As I work through this would you mind (and I recognize how busy you must be) taking some time and layout how you reached your conclusion? I would be so grateful. I have always respected your exegesis.

      2. Adam,
        I saw David’s posts and your answers. Could you send me your thoughts as well? I appreciate any input. My current church has begun the process, and I am as you know, what seems to be the opposing side. We have a small number that are trying to rally the troops, so to speak to stay UMC.
        Thanks so much!

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