Category Archives: Culture

UMC Shenanigans!

Unsurprisingly, certain members of the liberal wing of the UMC are suggesting underhanded tactics to rip apart the church in the face of their defeat at the Special General Conference. In one case, it is being suggested that United Methodist churches in United States become separate from the global body and govern themselves according to their own wants, unshackled from those pesky Christians overseas. Reading such an article, I can certainly understand why the Bishop John K. Yambasu of the Sierra Leone Area was quoted by the United Methodist News Agency as saying, “As an African, I find myself thinking, is this the church where I really want to be?” Indeed, the reaction to the vote by United Methodists in the U.S. and Europe have the Africans wondering if they should become an autonomous church. But this is exactly what the liberal wing of the church wants.

In a telling moment, Adam Hamilton, who has finally started to come out from under his sheep’s clothing to reveal himself a wolf, had this to say to UMNews.org:

“One is people saying, ‘This is our church and we’re not giving it up and we’re going to resist and we’re going to disobey the Discipline,” he said.

Hamilton added that “if it’s uncomfortable enough” then traditionalist churches may choose to leave and form their own denomination, especially if they can retain their property.

According to Hamilton, this was one of two possible paths for progressives moving forward from the Special General Conference. The other was to form two Methodisms from the existing church. In short, the progressive/liberal wing of the denomination has no real intent to be part of a global church.

This goes a long way to explain another move within the church to determine what can and cannot be contextualized in varying cultures.  While there certainly are questions about contextualization in relation to missions, there are some things that should be universal regardless of cultural context. For instance, moral principles based on Scripture should not be altered based on cultural context. If we are simply talking about matters related to trustees and what not, contextualize all you want. If we are talking about moral issues, Scripture is our guide and not our culture.

 

 

 

Christians need not apply?

It seems undeniable that keeping the faith in the market place is becoming increasingly more difficult. That is, if your faith involves holding traditional Christian convictions. If you are okay with being a “silent Christian” that does let your faith be widely known, then you should be okay. However, if it ever gets discovered that you hold to traditional Christian convictions, even though you are one of the silent ones, you should still expect repercussions. In recent news, the retailer of those delightfully delicious chicken sandwiches, Chick-fil-a, has been targeted for the views of its founder. It seems that in the name of tolerance and non-discrimination, a public showing of intolerance and discrimination by our elected officials is in order. Heh? Yes, you read that right. According to the more liberally minded, intolerance and discrimination are perfectly legitimate if they are aimed at people, organizations, and businesses that disagree with you – and as long as the intolerance and discrimination is being done in the name of tolerance and non-discrimination. Anyhow, you can read anti-quality food news stories here, here, and here.

Years ago, the Five Man Electrical Band releases the song, “signs.” In it we learn that, “Long-haired freaky people need not apply.” Increasingly, it seems that the sentiment is, “Faithful, Bible-believing Christians need not apply.” I only mentioned Chick-fil-a, a large business. But there have also been instances where bakers, caterers, florists, photographers, bed & breakfast owners, and others have faced public backlash, lawsuits, death threats, and more.

Now, as much as I wish there was a quick and easy solution to such shenanigans, there simply isn’t. The politicians that ban Christian businesses, questions the religious beliefs of judicial nominees, the officials that come after Christians who dare wish to stand for their beliefs in the market place, all of these people were put into power by us. For whatever reason, we, the voting public, put them in power. And, power they now have. What will they do with this power? I think we can already see that the hand has been shown and we are starting to see the fulfillment of President Woodrow Wilson’s statement that, “Conformity will be the only virtue. And every man who refuses to conform will have to pay the penalty.”

 

 

 

Well, that didn’t take long…

It has not been long since the Special General Conference in St. Louis ended. Still, in the relatively short span of time between the end of February and now, it has become apparent that the liberal wing of the church was not prepared to deal with the defeat of their precious “One Church Plan.” The vote at the Special General Conference is being called into question by some who are claiming that unauthorized people voted – I do find it funny that the UMC required a photo ID for voters at the conference despite so many who protest against such policies in the secular arena. Now a task force has been organized by the conference’s organizers to investigate the alleged voting irregularities.

But, even that small matter pales in comparison to the defiant attitude of some Annual Conferences.  Apparently, and admittedly unsurprisingly, the New York and Greater New Jersey Conferences are having trouble coming to terms with what transpired in St. Louis. UM News even has a quote from Bishop Bickerton stating, “Just because the vote went a certain way, we cannot expect conformity to follow.” This is a strange thing to say, especially since many of us could venture to suppose that he would have expected conformity to follow if the “One Church Plan” won the day in St. Louis.

We should not be surprised that supporters of the “One Church Plan” are so up in arms at the moment and seemingly eager to engage in slash and burn tactics until they get their way or force conservatives out. At least the WCA and other conservatives were honest enough with themselves and others to put their cards on the table and let it be known that leaving the church was a live option. The same cannot be said of those on the left. They are like a hair in a grilled cheese sandwich – they will stay and make a mess until it becomes more desirable to throw it all away than try to salvage what is good.

Now, back to the “One Church Plan” and why we should not be surprised by their disgust with having existing, long-held, and Biblically based standards enforced within the denomination. The “One Church Plan” removes accountability and turns the denomination into a buffet of individualism. Supporters of the “One Church Plan” have essentially turned their noses up at historic Christianity and decided to throw off the yoke of accountability.

Anyhow, that is enough for now.

The Shocker in St. Louis

I did not think it would happen, but it did: the UMC took a conservative stance on a social issue at a General Conference. Much to my surprise, the Special General Conference passed the Traditional Plan – the one I had hoped they would. With the bishops throwing their weight behind the One Church Plan, and throwing in a big name like Adam Hamilton to speak on their behalf, it looked like the fix was in. But, thankfully, many brothers and sisters in Christ took a stand and upheld what the United Methodist Church already stated in its Discipline. Yes, you read that right. Despite some out there claiming that something new and sinister was passed at the General Conference in St. Louis, the truth is that the church voted to affirm and actually enforce what is already codified in The Book of Discipline. So, when you read a news story like the one produced by a Florida news station, just know that there may be a spin and more investigation is warranted.

It should be pointed out that the plan still has to go before the Judicial Council, which meets in April. However, there is certainly reason for traditionalists in the United Methodist Church to celebrate. The Church should be about the business of transforming culture, not being transformed by it. The UMC took a stand. Praise be to God.

The Surveillance State

How often we become, or create, the very things we fear.  This is the thought that came into my mind recently regarding the surveillance state.  I have long heard people talk about “big brother” increasingly invading our privacy and how we are living in times reminiscent of the book 1984.  While I do fear intrusive overreach, what I find intriguing is that the surveillance state we fear is not the product of the government.  So, if the G-Men are not the ones acting as “big brother,” then who is?  There are, of course, the obvious culprits in the tech industry.  However, there are also those that are less obvious.  In particular, I am thinking about those people who are obsessed with filming things on cell phones.  I am repeatedly amazed at how so many scandalous moments on the news come as the result of a cell phone recording.  It’s as if we are under constant surveillance.  And, sadly, this might not be too far from the truth.  But it is not the government, it is us, just as the old saying goes, “We have seen the enemy, and he is us.”

This is not to say that video recording is a bad thing.  Indeed, security cameras and vigilant citizens have captured video of criminals and their crimes in a way that allows law enforcement to act swiftly.  At the same time, it can also help to sort out truth from fiction in those moments where two or more sides cannot agree on what was said or done.

No, the whole point of this rambling post is not to condemn video, but to point out that in some instances (and perhaps many) the very things we dread are our own creation.

Happy Reformation Day!

In honor of this 500th Anniversary of Reformation Day, I am posting some photos relevant to the occassion.  Enjoy!

The Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.  Of the original, only the four walls remain.  The church has been destroyed multiple times since Reformation.

Sculptures of Luther and Melanchthon inside the Castle Church.  Also in this picture are the graves of the two men. Yes, there are a lot of people buried inside some of those old churches.

Pictures inside the church in Wittenberg that Luther actually preferred to attend.  He spoke at the Castle Church as part of his employment contract.  The Castle Church was, in fact, a private church.

The church in Erfurt, Germany, where Luther was ordained.

An original Luther Bible.  I only wish the picture was a little clearer and did a better job of showing the size of this volume – it is massive.

An original indulgence and various coins that would have been used at the time frame to pay for indulgneces.

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And, finally, what you have been waiting for… “the door.”  Unfortunately, it is something of a letdown since it is not original.  The actual door was destroyed quite some time ago.  This is the site of that famous door, and the one you see here memorializes the event by including the 95 theses in its design.

Have a blessed day!

A Denomination’s Descent Into Irrelevance

I have been a staunch defender of my denomination (The United Methodist Church) throughout my life as a Christian.  However, that being said, I have also been a witness to that very same denomination’s continuous descent into irrelevance.  I get daily emails from our News Service detailing all the trendy projects that we have gotten involved with or how we have joined in with issues that are celebrity causes.

I am saddened by what has happened, but I cannot say that I am surprised.  What, you might ask, has led this descent into irrelevance?  In my humble estimation there is no clearer answer than that the church has become obsessed with being culturally relevant.

What do I mean by this?  To me, it’s simple.  The church has chosen to alter or set aside it doctrines and discipline in an effort to be more acceptable to the mainstream culture.  While this sounds all well and good there are some serious difficulties that accompany such a strategy.

  1. The church was never supposed to conform to the culture.  From its inception, the church was countercultural.  The membership of the body of Christ is to “seek ye first the kingdom of God,” (Matt. 6:33 KJV) not to seek approval of the prevailing culture.  The church is to be in pursuit of holiness.
  2. By pulling up its theological anchor and allowing itself to be blown about by the winds of worldly culture, the denomination has diminished its identity and become just another unstable institution in an unstable world.  There is a longing out there for something that is consistent, steady, and willing to stand against the currents of our world.  The church has always been a rock that people could stand on during turbulent times.  But when the church seeks to appease the world by forsaking its doctrinal integrity, what you are left with is something built on shifting sands.
  3. Cultural appeasement is a slippery slope.  If we acquiesce to the whims of worldly culture at points A, B, and C, is there a point at which the process can, and will, stop?  Looking at other examples from mainstream Protestantism the answer appears to be, no.

This is something of a gripe session and it is late in the evening here, but it hurts me to see the way we have become obsessed with chasing after all the latest trendy projects while never looking back to make certain that we have not lost our way.

In the pursuit of relevance, we are becoming increasingly irrelevant.  Let us return to our roots and consider our theological foundations that we may be better equipped to engage a hurting world.  After all, if we lose our identity by tossing to the side our doctrine and discipline, then we are just another social group.  And that is not what we have been called to be.