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Are the "membership requirements" issues determined mostly by politically powerful leaders and strong social movements that slip them into their "constitutions" at the opportune moments?It seems if we cherry-pick a few vices (gambling, drinking, abortioning) and made hard-and-fast rules why not go all-or-none? Why not add tithing and recycling as requirements? Or maybe just one requirement for each chapter of your book on disciplines :)
I would definitely say the stance the Wesleyan church has on alcohol needs to be dropped asap. I'm almost mad at myself for taking the time to beat such a dead horse as this issue. I realize there are lots of arguments against drinking, and there are many people in our culture who struggle with alcoholism. But these arguments don't come CLOSE to swaying me to the point of saying, "You can't be a covenant member in my church if you drink alcohol!!" What??! That position seems so irrelevant and archaic and narrow(as well as not in the spirit of Jesus!) that I can't comprehend it. Not that this is any kind of significant threat, ;) but this issue would prevent me from ever pastoring in the Wesleyan denomination. Instead, I'll stick with the Methodists! ;) Matt Carder
Articles of Religion: The 2nd work of grace is something that should be dropped, it has little biblical support and few Wesleyans teach it.Does your Discipline say anything about homosexuality or covenant unions between them. Do you have a policy for clergy about performing these or gay marriages?
I won't shed any tears if the prohibition of alcohol is removed from the membership requirements. However, I can also see the validity of the prohibition. In the 19th century, slavery was a great social evil (although some slaveholders treated their slaves well) and the Wesleyan Methodists could only stand against it by forbidding their members to own slaves. Today, alcohol is a great social evil (although some use alcohol responsibly), and the Wesleyan Church is taking its stand by forbidding its members to drink alcohol. If the Wesleyan Church, however, decides that it has higher priorities than combatting that particular social evil, that's also a legitimate choice.
Please tell me you are not equating having a beer with owning someone?
Justin, Some folk are interested in this subject and they are invited to respond, but you should feel free to skip any week you do not wish to read or post responses. Neither this column nor the responses are required reading for anybody--especially those who don't want to discuss matters. It is for those who do want to think and reason together. So feel free to skip any week's post.
The General Superintendents issued a call for position papers that might be adopted at this year's general conference. I submitted a paper because I would like for our church to actually follow through on our theological convictions and stop waiting for the larger society to dictate the way we order our lives. I'd like to see Wesleyans condemn the war on terror as an endeavor theologically incoherent with our tradition. My position paper may be found athttp://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dft2s7n_23dq8s6qI'm a realist, however, and realize that this paper will probably be ignored and never seen by anyone at G.C. Oh well, that's the way it goes, I guess.
Keith,Unfortunately, I think that the Wesleyan Church is stuck with its archaic "Membership Commitments." The time has come and gone when the denomination could have moved to a biblical, rather than cultural, foundation for membership requirements.The arguments against the current rules on biblical grounds are overwhelming. The arguments for the status quo are almost exclusively pragmatic. (I'm afraid that we have become a denomination of pragmatism.)I suspect that the reform movement has lost too much momentum to cynicism, to ignoring the rules altogether, and to making official membership less important.I doubt that there will be any significant change at this General Conference. And, if nothing happens this time, this will become a dead issue, at least as far as the Wesleyan Church is concerned. (This issue may not be the only thing that ends up dead, however.)I fear for my church.Rod
I had a very long, very draining monday. I deleted my postings because I felt that I did not write them with the correct "heart" at the time. This topic is challenging and brings up many ideas and opinions. I appreciate Dr. Drury for opening the lines of healthy communication this way. As for me. My day off is tommorow. I am going to sleep in and than spend some time talking to my creator. Take care and God Bless.
Thanks for the excellent history lesson. I had no idea how our church came to have some of its convictions. Does that mean that if the pro or even neutral stance towards alcohol was the order of the day back then that we would be that way now? Probably. While I have no use for alcohol (though they tell me that 1 ounce of hard liquor, or 4 ounces of wine, or one 12 ounce beer daily would be good for my heart) I do not favor our membership requirement. Now that Keith has shared this history lesson I want to see it go more than ever. Our stance on abortion is way too light, so I say flip-flop the abortion and alcohol issues in their level of importance to the church. I also was disappointed to hear the politics of general conference. I'm sure it still works that way today. I wish there was a better way to deal with these things though I have no idea what that would be.
It concerns me very deeply that response to a column focusing mainly on abortion and its place in church memebership leads mostly to a discussion about alcohol!!! Alcohol has a definent voice in society both for and against it and these little debates are great for blogs, over coffee, and the like. But is anyone going to speak for those babies? Has it occured to anyone that in the time of reading all the responses and creating one of our own babies have been killed all over this world in the name of convenience? I have made my argument about alcohol in previous post when it was relavent but lets get to some issues that are knocking at the churches door that are of serious matter. Craig brings up a good point about allowing pastors to perform homosexual marraiges. The war thing might be better in a political debate but it could be on the table at least. What about requiring members to perform acts of love to those who are "naked, hungry, and in prison " (read Matthew 25: 31-46)As much as I feel that alcohol is destructive and there can be debate to how destructive it is we can all agree that abortion is a very destructive tool that goes against anything remotely biblical in nature
My biggest frustration with the membership commitments is the selectivity with which they are endorsed. About the only one that we ever hear discussed or anyone getting disciplined for it drinking. Here is what I'd do if I was in charge of the discipline:1. Observe Lords Day: Keep it it2. Avoid Occult stuff: Keep it it3. Stewardship and Self Discipline: Keep it it but strengthen tithing to be a full and clear membership requirement4. Gambling, alcohol, drugs, Secret societies: Drop the prohibition against substances in favor of a strong statement against addictions of any kind (drugs, sex, really good pizza) and an admonition to follow "the law of the land" in regard to drugs. Secret societies are still out5. Divorce: leave it in tact but with slight widening of the grounds to include a significant pattern of physical abuse.6. Family Life: keep it7. Christian Fellowship: Keep it8. Participation: Drop family devotions and clarify personal devotions as "a consistent habit of prayer and reading the Bible" Give room for churches to define what that looks like at their church (sunday school, small groups, prayer meeting, etc)9. Tongues: Tweak it to be Biblical by not forbidding it's use but only under the strictest guidelines in Corinthians. Ultimately this should be somewhere other than the membership commitments though10. Do good: Keep it with the understanding that the things mentioned are a sampling not a checklist and drop the part about "instructing, correcting, or encouraging" so that people can see compassion as a purpose in itself not a means to an end. At least semi-regular involvement in compassionate ministries should be required.11. Respecting of rights: I'd clarify the rights of people based on Sexual orientation. As in the right not to get beat up and abused, the same individuals rights as any other sinful person. Add a statement on gay marriage here as well.12. Honesty: Keep itAnd to add:Strong statement against abortionA statement on actually doing something in ministry. Service should be a basic requirement. You should be unable to be a member without giving of your time to worship and teaching, your energy to service and compassion, and your money.membership should be as much about defining your commitment to you your church as it is about adhering to a specific set of doctrines, or social convictions.
that big long point form deal was me - not my wife. "Someone's been using my computer and there still logged in" - Goldilocks and the three technologically advanced bears.
As far as changes in the Discipline, how about updating the bible versions to NLT or The Message so some bible verses don't offend the younger generation. I'm of course kidding. The thing/privelege about choosing to be in the Wesleyan denomination, is the level of personal excellence and self-discipline people are supposed to govern themselves by (no alcohol, no dancing, etc.) coupled by social activism (abolition, women's rights, peace through war, anti-abortion). It's almost like a choosing a certain monastic order. Would I like to be a Franciscan monk or an Augustanian monk. In the end, I believe it is a priveledge and a choice to become a covenant Wesleyan member. I don't think that it takes away from the grace of Christ if someone decides to go to a Wesleyan church and drink, go to movies, dance a jig, or support a war.As far as abortion, I'd like to see half as many pro-lifer evangelicals be active for the value and sanctity of life after the child is born and grown into a full adult, as they do before the child is even born. You don't hear about pro-lifer's holding rallies for abuse and neglect at daycares, public schools, mental institutions or nursing homes. Just a thought.Thanks Coach.
the alcohol issue creeps its head up every 6-8 months up here in the heartland of Christian Reformed. we are a church that is considered progressive in light of many of the folks that jumped the crc ship to join us at wesleyan. it was pretty easy to sign the covenant line of membership and then celebrate in the basement by kicking back with a brewski. so we added the community level membership as our way of helping people maintain some integrity while we 'grew' them towards covenant membership. guess what is not happening. the numbers of people only coming in under community membership is climbing much faster than our covenant membership is growing. and people actually will not take the step into covenant because of the drinking issue. we have had people actually drop off the board when we pressed it because they didn't want to give up the drink. i'm not sure how progressive the delegate from my district are going to be this year at the conference. the nation may not have the first famale president, but we will probably have our first female general. that is something to be proud of, but i will have to agree with several of the comments here. if we are going to continue to grow as a denomination, then i am not sure that such prohibition issues are going to be the answers that tomorrows church is looking for.it seems to be great for the history books, but the veil is being torn in two again in church history.thanks again coach for daring to get us to think whether or not the body we are a part of is dead or not.
ADAM, To answer your question, the "Membership commitments" are set by "the people" in a democratic legislative process... by 50% lay and 505 ministerial representatives from districts at the quadrennial general conference. My point in the articles to help us see two things:1) When these were made they were "rules" everyone agreed with--like just about everyone now agrees Wesleyans shouldn't get (or perform) abortions. EVERYone agreed on tee-totalling when this was in the list--mostly because of the powerful temperance social movement which was as strong as the anti-abortion movement today. These "rules" are not made by powerful leaders--they are self-imposed by "the people" (However one can argue that they are rules imposed by past generations on the current one.)2) the second point of all my writing on membership (a list now appears on the right of the tuesdaycolumn.com home page) is this: Dealing with only alcohol is short-sighted. Along with not drinking alcohol Wesleyans promise (in the same list) to have family and personal devotions, visit prisons and practice fasting. These are good things but if we are after integrity we should be examining these things in members as much a alcohol--but they are largely overlooked giving people an opening to say 'You ignore the family devotions promise and I ignore the drinking one--they're onthe same list of commitments." What I hope for is a full rewrite of the membership commitments and special directions--like we did in 1980. Every generation needs to rewrite them to refect the way the Holy Spirit is giving "collective convictions" to each generation. Those now-older folk at the 1980 general conference got to rewrite them and drop the ban on attending movies etc. and their rewrite has stood for 28 years--a whole generation. Now this generation needs to rewrite them for the next quarter decade--and drop convictions of past generations that are not universal any more add new convictions that have become universal (like abortion, as I suggest in the article). I think it will be a mistake to merely deal with alcohol--that is dihonest when there are other promises we are ignoring accountability for. (How often does a Wesleyan have to fast or visit prisons or have family and personal devotions to stay a member?--And how often does a person have to abstain from alcohol to be a Wesleyan?) I think the whole list needs rewritten to refect current "collective convictions" as we attempt to describe the "minimum standard" of life we will all promise to life up to as members. I hope the general conference sets up a task force to do this. Anything less will mean we will deal with one or another of these every four years until the list reflects the Spirit's current convictions of the church. Maybe even (to you Adam) the new list might include something about a commitment to "creation care" which is totally absent from the previous generation's convictions. That is what I was fishing for in my column..not just voting on dropping convictions of the past--but what convictions the current generation would ADD... are there any...or is movement afoot only interested in have less or no commitments?
Just a thought from an outsider. I am not a Wesleyan but I do consider myself a friend of the church. My question; Is there really any contemporary reason for the existence of the Wesleyan Church? The church was formed when groups left their former affiliations because the emphasis on personal holiness and the doctrines of Wesley were being abandoned in their former “faith homes”.You asked for comment from outsiders. My suggestion is that you accentuate your distinctives. When the differences from "mainline" churches are erased your identity crisis will not be relaxed but intensified. I recently attended a Wesleyan church which boasted a huge banner declaring that “This ain't your Grandma's church”. My grandma's church had revivals which changed individuals and the community in which they lived. People were “saved”, “sanctified” and transformed from sinful lifestyles to true saints. Don't lose your reason for existence. Don't blur the lines. Be Wesleyan. There are enough meaningless social clubs masquerading as churches. Add rules that are applicable to today's cultural sins but base them on principle instead of the current level of technology or culture.
I agree with you Keith. This is like the faculty at a college rearranging the by-laws or rank improvement rubrics. Every generation needs to own their membership standards. As a non-member of the Wesleyan Church I hope - with you - that all of the membership commitments will be re-examined. In the CHOG we have a general assembly every summer and there are occasional minor modifications made to doctrinal statements. Of course, we don't have membership so this is not an issue for us. The interesting thing for IWU is that the IWU faculty and staff are (in some ways) more Wesleyan than many (most?) Wesleyans. We (faculty) are required to hold to a subset of the membership commitments that community members of the Wesleyan Church are not held to. Will IWU, Houghton, and SWU become the bastions of the "true faith" in another year? Will the colleges hold to the same subset of the membership commitments they do now? Will all of the college faculty need to be given the new set of membership guidelines and then go through a screening process to see whether we measure up to the new rules? Where will that leave the pro-abortion, anti-green folk in our ranks? For my part, I choose to work here and I know the rules. I agree to be part of this community, so I am OK with the commitments. Do I wish some of them would change? Sure, but until they do I am fine with what we have. At present I wish our rationale for some of them were a little better articulated - but that's about it.
I agree with Chasbaker that we Wesleyans need to define what it means to be Wesleyan and then be that.Fifty or more years ago, our "distinctive" was that we believed that God not merely forgave people but, through the power of the Holy Spirit, actually changed them from the inside out. That change, old timers thought, would produce new ways of behaving. For better or worse, they chose to list a few of those behaviors that we should all adhere to.Should Wesleyans drop the prohitbition on alcohol? Strenthgen the statement on abortion?Who cares?How about we have a look at our statement on what the power of God can accomplish in an individual's life and in the world. If we could agree on that, maybe the Special Covenant or Membership Directions or whatever they are would sort themselves out.
I find it interesting that the discussion has migrated (at least in the last few posts) to what it means to be a Wesleyan. Is a stance on alcohol, abortion, war, slavery, your favorite issue, really what it means to be a Wesleyan. The Wesleyan distinctive has been a much debated topic thanks to Keith's prodding over the last couple of years. LAW has the right response - let's make a statement about who we are on the inside and our core doctrinal distinctiveness and let the Holy Spirit deal with all the manifestation of that in the external behaviors. We keep arguing these things because we don't know we are nor who we want to be.
I'm not Wesleyan. I'm more of a denominational mutt. My grandparents were Pilgrim Holiness, Friends/Quaker, United Methodist, and Baptist. My dad's parents served on the missions field with the Friends as they would help fund the trip and then became Wesleyan when grandfather was afforded an opportunity to work at Indiana Wesleyan. He was a Wesleyan to his death. My parents took me to a United Methodist church- although it is about as far from the Methodist stereotype as you can get. I attended a non-denominational for a year during college, but returned to the church my parents raised me in. Each experience has shaped me. I was in an inter-denominational small group from 8th grade through graduation. My eyes were opened to Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Wesleyan, Quaker, non-denominational, you name it perspectives. I learned that there are some things that I like about particular denominations and some things that I do not like, but I also learned that there are core values, foundational beliefs that we all share - the things that make us Christian. I like the Wesleyan church. Some denominations vary so much from church to church that you can't trust a church just because it is affiliated with a particular denomination. The Wesleyan church is solid. I trust it's name. I don't want to sound like a prude. I'm not there, but I do question why Christians want to change Christianity to be culturally acceptable. My mom always asked me if what I was doing was necessary, edifying, and/or beneficial. If it wasn't then we didn't do it. I don't think drinking alcohol is necessary, beneficial, or edifying... If the church says not to, then I won't. I don't think it is a sin to drink. I just won't do it. As Christians, we have to set ourselves apart from the world. I don't want a denominational "Big Brother" that squashes me for every choice. I pray that as we grow in our faith, we simply make better choices. At the same time the church is a place of accountability. It should be an organization that draws me closer to the Lord. The chruch should push us towards higher standards. The world doesn't need anymore denominations turning Christianity into another form of atheism. We water God and biblical standards right out of our churches. How far do you open a door? A believer doesn't look like or act like a non-beleiver. I respect the Wesleyan church's work to call members to higher standards. We have to keep in mind that membership standards have nothing to do with attendance. If you would disagree, then don't become a member. I would challenge all Christians, though, to evaluate their priorities. What do you think about abortion? alcohol? gambling? cohabitaiton? same sex relationships? Are any of these things more important than your church? your relationship with God? Denominations are denominations because of their perspective and standards on social, cultural, and biblical issues. These issues have to be addressed. Standards are necessary. I respect the Wesleyan stance. High standards are good so long as they don't grow into legalism. The Wesleyan church is on the pendelum swing from the legalism of our parents and grandparents to a liberalism. Regardless of where it lands now, it will always swing the other direction again in the generations to come.
Millions of people each year are adversely affected by alcohol (drunk drivers, child neglect, child and spousal abuse, divorces, bankruptcy). The alcohol industry is making billions of dollars by destroying people's lives. Obviously the Wesleyan Church no longer cares. The Wesleyan Church should also allow individuals who socially smoke marijiuana to become members and those individuals who purchase playboy for the articles. There is no longer right or wrong. There is no truth.
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