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A Methodist till I die

Woman singing in church

Jack Harnish gives five reasons why he loves being United Methodist and why he intends to remain one until he dies.

JACK HARNISH
Retired Pastor, Michigan Conference

Have you ever heard the old camp meeting song called Methodist Pie? The refrain keeps repeating “I’m a Methodist till I die,” and I guess you could say that about me. In the face of the splintering of the church over our stance on homosexuality, I am a self-vowed, practicing United Methodist and I intend to remain one. Here are a few of the things I love about United Methodism:

Our Sources of Authority

Our Book of Discipline makes it clear that we believe in the primacy of Scripture, interpreted by tradition, reason, and experience, often called the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. And quite frankly, how else can you understand Scripture? There really is no way to read and preach “just the Bible,” so we acknowledge the importance of two thousand years of church tradition, understanding gained through thoughtful reason and our own personal experience of God’s spirit.

Our Understanding of God’s Grace

Wesleyan theology begins with the three movements of grace: prevenient grace, justifying grace, sanctifying grace. God’s grace goes before us, wooing us, drawing us toward faith. Then we are forgiven, redeemed, and justified by grace. And God continues to work in us through a lifetime of sanctification as we move on toward the goal of Christian perfection in Jesus Christ. We believe God’s grace is available to all.

Our Way of Being the Church Together

We are not just a collection of local churches, we are a connexion (to use Wesley’s word), bound together through our conferences, our apportionment system through which every congregation invests in the global ministry, the Trust Clause which ties our property together, and our appointment system of clergy who are sent, not hired by local churches, for the sake of the shared mission. I love the balance between our liturgical roots in Anglicanism and our revivalist tradition of the American frontier, the importance of the sacraments balanced with the role of evangelical preaching, our commitment to personal salvation and social action.

Our Openness to Others

It’s a bit hackneyed now, but I love our denominational motto: Open minds, Open hearts, Open doors. We don’t believe we have a corner on the truth, rather we are open to the ecumenical Christian community, the global interfaith world, and the diversity of the human family. We are in the business of building the Beloved Community which includes all of God’s people.

And, We Love to Sing!

From the days of Charles Wesley through the camp meetings on the frontier to the villages of Africa and the grand choirs in our cathedral churches, ours is a singing faith which is shared with all the world. Our anthem is: “O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise, the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of his grace!”

I could say more, but there are five reasons why I love being a United Methodist Christian and why I intend to remain one … till I die.

(And we do love pie!)

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The Michigan Conference