United Methodists are considering whether or not to have an amicable split, so as to accommodate both sides of the moral debates that the denomination is struggling with. As I know from personal and family experience, Methodists have always had a strong emphasis on morality. It certainly has an evangelistic strain, with its roots in the Wesleyan revivals, but its moral focus can tend to moralism, an emphasis on moral rectitude that overshadows the forgiveness of Christ.
The prospect of a Methodist split shows what is happening across many denominations. There is a moralism of the right, fixating on traditional sexual morality, personal vices, and family values. And there is a moralism of the left, fixating on “social justice,” care for the poor, and political liberalism. (Note that it is possible to uphold what is “moral” without succumbing to “moralism.”)
But what–or, rather, Who–is often missing in moralistic churches of both the right and the left is Christ. The right often relegates Him to the moment of conversion, whereupon Christians can then get to the real business of regulating their behavior. The left reduces Him to a political liberal like themselves. Both treat Him mainly as an example, rather than as Savior, Redeemer, and Sacrifice. [Read more...]