When I first started the process of transferring my orders to the United Methodist Church so that I could become a United Methodist pastor and serve churches in the UMC I was told by a good friend that at some point when I began to think of myself as a United Methodist that I would find that my language about the UMC would change from “them” and “theirs” to “us” and “we.”
I realized a few days ago that some time in the process that has happened. As I have had the opportunity to study the Discipline, read about United Methodist theology and ministry, dig into the work of John and Charles Wesley, and become an active part of ministering in a UMC congregation the “them” became “we.” This month when the Iowa Conference recognized my orders and made me a Provisional Member I took my first step into officially being a United Methodist. But in the past two years my mind and my heart have already become United Methodist. I am a Methodist, theologically an arminian, a follower of Jesus Christ who believes in the power of God’s grace as expressed so well in the Methodist movement.
As I look back on my growing theological understanding I realize that I have for years been moving towards a Wesleyan understanding of the faith of Jesus Christ. Ever since I made an Emmaus Walk and heard about Prevenient Grace I have been journeying towards John Wesley’s understanding of grace and salvation. Ever since I first heard the full liturgy of the Great Thanksgiving I have been moving towards a sacramental understanding of Holy Communion.
So it was a good feeling a few days ago when someone ask me “what do United Methodists believe about…” and I was able to say “we believe….” It is a good feeling to be a part of this “we.” This connectional system of Annual Conferences, itinerant pastors committed to God where we are sent, and local churches of committed lay people who are part of this United Methodist Church is exciting and I’m glad I am a part of it.
It is a blessing from God to be a United Methodist. Or as our Bishop Julius Trimble says it, “Unapologetically Christian – Unashamedly United Methodist.”
Thanks be to God!