Have you ever thought something like this, “there’s just something special about that person?” You came into their presence, or observed what they were doing and found yourself inspired? Who was that person? What did you admire about her/him?
During the last year I have found myself wondering what was admirable about being a Methodist? I have heard some say that the hallmark of being a Methodist is doing social justice. I have heard others says that a Methodist is committed to mission work. As I meet with churches during this season of conferencing with the District Superintendent, I wonder again, what the marks of a Methodist really are at this time. It is something that John Wesley, the founder of the movement that has now become The United Methodist Church wrote about. These are his words:
“Since the name first came abroad into the world, many have been at a loss to know what a Methodist is; what are the principles and practice of those who are called by that name, and what are the distinguishing marks of this sect…” John Wesley, The Character of a Methodist
So, what would you say are the identifying marks – the character – the behavioral practices of the people who are known as Methodists? Go ahead, list them out.
The churches I have met with during the first weeks of church conference season have been struggling with what the answer to that question is for their setting. We have been talking about what Jesus came to do, what Jesus taught his disciples to do. We have begun to explore how those teachings have been put into practice in our local congregations.
Over the course of the next few months, I plan to write something about my ideas about what the character of a Methodist is. I am working on putting together the threads that are weaving through the conversations from church to church when I meet with people from churches. And I will be returning to some of Wesley’s writings. In a way this feels like a time to return to spiritual roots in order to discover something powerful in the presence and ministry of the those called by the name of Methodists.
I invite you to join me on this journey. 1) Participate in your church conference when I am present as we explore together your local church’s identity. 2) Send me a brief statement about what you believe are the two most important characteristics of a Methodist. AND 3) engage your local church in a deeper exploration of, as John Wesley says, what are the principles and practices of those who are called by the name…” I will share what I am hearing from you.
Being called anew to follow, at times, means returning to our roots. I look forward to walking together.
Peace be with you, from one Methodist to another.