I got mine today — here are some excerpts from an email I received:
Why do you have to be so negative about everything? If you hate the Methodist church so much, why don’t you just leave it?
Every article you write accuses the church of failing, of screwing up, of making mistakes, and of blowing it. Do you really think you are so much smarter than everyone else that you know more about the church than the experts? There is no way that we’re all doing as poorly as you think we do.
You are saying things about religion and the church that absolutely no one else is saying. There is a good reason for that. What you’re saying isn’t true. We do know why we worship. We do think communion is important. We do pray and study the Bible. And we do have “open hearts, open minds, open doors.” I don’t know what churches you’re looking at, but the churches in my conference are doing just fine.
Ouch. I find it interesting that someone who disagrees with me so completely has obviously read a lot of what I’ve written. However, I thought I was doing something very different from what this passionate woman thinks I’m doing.
First, I write what I do, not because I hate the church, but because I love it. I want The United Methodist Church to be great, and it breaks my heart when we miss any opportunity to honor and glorify God. I have no greater desire than that our denomination become a beacon of hope for the world. For that reason,
Second, I have dedicated the past five years of my life to studying, researching, and analyzing the practices of our church to see where we are strong and where we are weak. I have tried to listen carefully to clergy and laity throughout our denomination and to report as thoughtfully and clearly as I can what I have heard. I’m not accusing the church of not praying — I discovered that prayer is not a central practice of many leaders in our church. I’ve never said the communion isn’t important — I discovered that many in our church don’t have a very good understanding of our communion practices. I’m not criticizing the church for letting so many people leave the denomination — I have tried to understand and explain why they’re leaving.
Third, I try not to just point out what is wrong, but also to suggest a variety of ways that we might do better. These are not just my opinions (only) but reflect the attitudes and ideas of a wide variety of Christian leaders. I don’t think I know more than other people, but I’m not willing to concede that I know that much less, or that what I know has no value.
Fourth, it is difficult not to come off negative when there are some significant things to feel negative about. I, personally, do not believe that denominationally we are as open — of mind, heart, or door — as we need to be. I do think we are focused on a lot of things of lesser importance (buildings, activities, staff, equipment) when things of great importance (broken people, broken lives, broken communities, and broken vows) fall through the cracks. I do believe that no matter how good we are, we ought to be better.
It is not my intent to stand above the church as a judgmental cynic — spouting doom and gloom and criticizing our best efforts. To the extent that I give that impression, I apologize. What I do intend is to look at what is, understand and explain how it got this way, and seek new alternatives that move us into a new, and hopefully better, future. Mostly, I just try to stir the pot — raising questions and offering challenges that will get people thinking (hopefully in positive ways).
We have real problems in The United Methodist Church, but we also have a God of immense power, who promises us a future and a hope. There is nothing facing the church that God cannot see us through. Our church has such great potential to do amazing good. It is succeeding in wondrous ways in communities all across the world. But it can be better… and it needs to be. Pointing out what is wrong doesn’t mean I don’t care. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t say anything at all.
Categories: Personal Reflection