The Dying UMC in the USA Part 2: This Isn’t Going To Help, Confessing Movement/Mississippi Annual Conference

My last post on the “dying UMC” documented how the IRD released a study on how mainline Christian denominations were shrinking–blaming “liberal Protestantism” for the continued decline.  I believe this view to be short-sighted.

This post is calling out The Confessing Movement Within The United Methodist (hereafter referred to as CM)–yeah, that’s a long name–for their tacit endorsement of a petition (from the Mississippi Annual Conference) to the 2012 UMC General Conference.  Oh, what the heck!  I’m gonna call the attention of the delegates–and reserves (you know who you are:)–of the Indiana Annual Conference to this petition.

In the January-March 2012 newsletter of the CM, they include the language submitted by the Mississippi Annual Conference for amending the mission statement of the church.  Currently, the language of the mission statement is as follows:

The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  (paragraph 120)

The proposed change would read as follows:

The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the salvation of souls and for the transformation of the world.

Their rationale is summarized thusly:

The transformation of the world only becomes a realistic goal AFTER people have experienced salvation and new birth through Jesus Christ. And the transformation of the world will not be completed until Jesus Christ returns in glory. In the meantime, the Church should be clear that saving souls is our first order of business, and transforming the world follows from it.

Admittedly, this rationale is difficult to argue with, but not impossible to argue with.  “Transformation of the world” is already a blanket idea which encompasses the idea of salvation.  The problem with this change in language comes in how that might effect the church in the future.  This language places the emphasis breadth, not depth.  In short, the long term effects (read “unintended consequences”) of this change would be that we become spiritual “bean counters,” focused on numbers of souls (read “butts in pews”) and not salvation and discipleship.  This is evident in folks and organizations revelry over the growth of the church in Africa.  One could argue the same about things like Vital Congregations, but this phrasing embeds this possibility into our spiritual DNA.

The one thing missing from the overall rationale used by the MS AC is Jesus words from Matthew 28:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

These final instructions of Jesus indicate to us both the “salvation of souls” and “transformation of the world” ideas.  I believe this constitutional amendment would have unfavorable and unintended consequences for the church down the road.  Besides, it’s redundant.  The problem of numerical decline of the church has nothing to do with the wording of our mission statement.  The Christian idea of salvation is encompassed within the focus of transformation.  The hearts of the CM and MS AC are in the right place, but no change is needed.

Let us remain dedicated to–with God’s help and our prayerful work–transforming the world through the actual work of the church, and not focusing on numbers in a spreadsheet.

3 comments on “The Dying UMC in the USA Part 2: This Isn’t Going To Help, Confessing Movement/Mississippi Annual Conference

  1. Truthmeister
    March 15, 2012 at 10:37 AM #

    I don’t see the problem with what the Confessing Movement has proposed. Primary to anything else is the personal conversion process. Of course, personal growth in the faith is essential, but I don’t see evidence that the more liberalized theological views have resulted in such growth any more than the traditional views. I don’t advocate being obsessed with “bean counting,” but I am reminded of an analogy that, I believe, C.S. Lewis is credited with. He said that if you had a fleet of ships that you wanted to sail in the same direction you could urge them to follow you and constantly try to correct them whenever they made a wrong turn….or, you could give them each their own map, and internal gyroscope, and allow them the opportunity to get to the same destination employing those methods.

  2. Chris Tiedeman
    March 15, 2012 at 11:15 AM #

    Technically, the Mississippi AC proposed this constitutional language change, not the Confessing Movement.

    This analogy is kind of tortured. But, if it does anything, it helps my argument. The mission–as it exists now–is the map, gyroscope and opportunity which the UMC passes down to the local church. The proposed language acts to micromanage the local church–correcting perceived wrong turns.

    The language is unnecessary.

    • Truthmeister
      March 15, 2012 at 1:59 PM #

      I apppreciate your point of view, but I don’t perceive any desire or compulsion to micromanage based on what I’ve read from Miss. or the Confessing Movement.

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