Today I’ll be travelling to Lake Junaluska North Carolina for the Western North Carolina Annual Conference. It’s a yearly (think that’s why they call it “Annual Conference”?) gathering of about 2500 preachers and church members from across the western part of our state. Equal parts revival, business meeting, and family reunion, the annual meeting is a primary connecting point for United Methodists in our area.
While many preachers dread going because a) there are many long sessions and b) the auditorium at Junaluska is not air conditioned, I actually love going. I think it’s the family reunion element that keeps me coming back. Well, that and the fact that attendance is mandatory.
But all of that gets me thinking about why I like being a Methodist so much.
After all, the denomination as a whole is in decline, my theology and the theology of Good Shepherd is somewhere to the right of the hierarchy, and sometimes people tell us that our church doesn’t seem like a Methodist church. In spite of all that, I love the denomination and am proud to be a United Methodist. Here’s why:
- Methodists take I Timothy 2:4-5 seriously: “this is good and pleases God our Savior who wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” We believe God genuinely wants all people to know him, that he has given us free will, and celebrates when we come home.
- Methodists have a marvelous doctrine called prevenient grace: the notion that God is at work in your life when you are not aware of it. It’s the move of God that you see in the rear view mirror. If not for that prevenient grace, I wouldn’t know him.
- Methodists have long had a good mix of personal faith and social outreach.
- Historically, Methodists were known for their rowdy worship, their passion for sharing their faith with those who had not yet accepted Christ, their love for small groups, and their commitment to help the poor. Hmmm, when we get it right, that sounds like Good Shepherd. Maybe we’re more Methodist than all those sedate churches out there!
I’ll be back on Saturday so I can preach on Sunday. And I’m sure I’ll return with even more appreciation for being part of the “people called Methodist.”