When Martin Luther King, Jr. clashed with the Via Media Methodists

Paul Hardin

On first glance, making an analogy between anyone and one of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s adversaries is akin to tripping Godwin's Law by comparing someone to Hitler. Because MLK was always absolutely right and perfect and above all criticism and anybody who ever disagreed with him was a mean and evil racist. Except that's not real history. When Martin Luther King, Jr. and his entourage descended on Birmingham, Alabama in early 1963, a group of well-intentioned white clergy leaders including … [Read more...]

What is the burden of proof in the #Methodist #homosexuality debate?

In the American justice system, all defendants are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable shadow of doubt. Defense attorneys do not have to prove their client's innocence; they just have to find enough holes in the prosecution's argument to establish that they have not been proven guilty. But in the debate over Biblical interpretation on homosexuality, the burden of proof falls entirely on the defendants to prove their innocence. What if my fellow Methodists who are anti-gay had to … [Read more...]

Looking Back on 2012: April-May

In March, I fasted from blogging for Lent. April and May of 2012 were dominated by thoughts about our United Methodist General Conference. There was also a series of violent tornadoes that John Piper decided to interpret as God's wrath against America for homosexuality or abortion (I can't remember which one). Since homosexuality dominated the conversation around General Conference, I wrote a few pieces about it, striving to be both faithful to scripture and faithful to people I love who are … [Read more...]

Did Paul obey his General Conference?

If Peter was the first Pope, then Paul was the first Protestant. In the original church as today, there are two basic conceptions of Christian authority: apostolic succession and the priesthood of the believer. Paul represented the latter; he gave himself a lot of discretion as a pastor in the different congregational contexts in which he ministered. He didn't mail a single Book of Discipline to Corinth, Ephesus, Colossus, Phillipi, Thessalonica, Galatia, and Rome. Each epistle that would make … [Read more...]

Letter from a gay Christian classmate

This is a letter from a guy named Chase Bannister who went to school with my wife Cheryl and me at Duke Divinity School. Chase is gay. That's why he left the United Methodist Church. Cheryl and I have other friends and seminary classmates like Chase who are beautiful people with amazing gifts that have left the Methodist church because they're gay. I'm sharing this letter because Chase is a person, not an issue. And because he said in his letter, "Remember me," like the thief said to Jesus. … [Read more...]

Don’t hate our purple UMC

In 2 Samuel 12, when Bathsheba's first son was dying, David fasted and clamored with the Lord. After he died, David washed himself, ate a meal, and tried his best to move forward. That's the position that many of us in the United Methodist Church face after several decisions made by this year's General Conference. I feel like I made the best case I could on several issues (and I probably lost my credibility with some people I care about as a result). My church has made a decision, and I will … [Read more...]

What prevenient grace is and isn’t

"We stand united in declaring our faith that God’s grace is available to all –– that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus." Yesterday, the United Methodist Church General Conference added this statement to the preamble of our social principles by a vote of 532 to 414. The blogosphere lit up with incredulity that 414 GC delegates had apparently rejected our Wesleyan doctrine of prevenient grace. But the tweets that came out during that vote revealed a difference of opinion … [Read more...]

Biblical and inclusive: Methodism wrestles with homosexuality

“No scripture can mean that God is not love and that His mercy is not over all His works.” This statement, from John Wesley’s sermon “Free Grace,” forms the foundation for how many United Methodist pastors like me were trained to interpret the Bible. We are burdened with understanding and explaining how God’s mercy and love are at stake in everything He tells us to do in the Bible. Methodists who follow our Wesleyan heritage cannot say with Dan Savage that “parts of the Bible are bullshit,” but n … [Read more...]

What must inclusivity exclude?

"All means all." It's a battle-cry that is appropriately Wesleyan. Since we believe in prevenient grace rather than predestination, we understand God's infinite love for all humanity as the underlying truth that explains everything else about Christianity. Prevenient grace is what leads us to slogans like "Open doors, open minds, open hearts" and the concept of inclusivity for all. The question is what inclusivity really entails, because for everyone to have safety and dignity, sinful behaviors … [Read more...]

How will you avoid creating a CYA culture, #GC2012?

Tom Berlin, a pastor and clergy delegate from my conference for whom I have a lot of respect, just posted a blog piece called "Facts are our friends," which seeks to address the elephant in the room at General Conference that's behind young clergy anxiety: how will a more strictly quantifiable method of evaluation impact our career as pastors over the next 30 years when we will face a diminishing "musical chairs" game of appointments unprecedented in the history of our denomination? Tom related … [Read more...]