Tomorrow, laity and clergy from across Florida United Methodism will gather virtually for Annual Conference, to engage in the tradition of holy conferencing that is as old as Methodism itself. It will be a time of renewed connection, prayer, and inspiration, as we recommit ourselves to making disciples for the transformation of the world.
With all the uncertainty and unsettledness in our denomination, I spent some time these last few days remembering why it is good to be a United Methodist. This denomination nurtured my faith and led me to my confirmation. It was instrumental in my call to ministry, and it is the context in which I love and serve people like you. It is not perfect, and other religious traditions have their own strengths and virtues. But here are reasons why there is beauty in being United Methodist.
1. We are a People of Grace
We believe that the work of God’s grace is a lifelong process. It draws us toward God before we even realize it, empowers us to accept it for ourselves, and fashions us every day into the living image of Jesus. Our unique understanding of grace also gives room to believe in human free will. Our ability to choose God is itself a gift of grace, lest it become a work necessary for salvation. As the old hymn says, “Grace has brought be safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”
2. We are a People of the Word
We believe that Jesus is the Word made flesh, the ultimate revelation of God’s love for humanity, and we believe the Bible offers the clearest witness to the person and work of Jesus. John Wesley called himself “a man of one book, and a student of many.” The Bible serves as our authority in all matters related to salvation, and we can become a living witness to the power of the Scriptures and the love of God.
3. We are a People in the Center
Our Wesleyan theological heritage is grounded in the concept of via media, which John Wesley’s mother Susannah instilled in him in his formative years. It is the “way in the center” which takes the best of two polarizing extremes and forms a creative third way, a “both/and” in matters of faith and life. This principle frees us from being drawn into dichotomous categories that divide our politics and culture, and seeks a way in the center as a witness to God’s inclusive love.
4. We are a People Who Practice our Faith
To be United Methodist means in large part to be methodical, diligent, and intentional about our spiritual practices. Since the early days of John Wesley’s Holy Club, Methodists have sought a structured, daily approach to the spiritual life. Today, that intentionality is the basis of our Discipleship Pathway: attending worship, being part of a small group, performing acts of mercy and justice, reading the scriptures, praying, inviting others, and giving generously of our means.
5. We are Connected to Each Other
Being connectional is a hallmark of our denomination. We believe that each church and every member are part of a wider connection throughout the world. The impact of service and giving multiplies when joined with United Methodists near and far. This enables us to have a broader and wider reach throughout the globe, and to care for those who are suffering. Together, we support schools, hospitals, camps, children’s homes, social service agencies, disaster relief, missionaries, seminaries, and many other missions of mercy and justice around the world.
It is good to be a United Methodist. And I’m glad to be one with you.
Grace and Peace,
MIDWEEK MESSAGE TO TAKE SUMMER BREAK
For the next month or so, I’ll be taking my annual summer break from writing the Midweek Message. For the latest updates on all our ministries and programs, stay tuned to our website.