Methodism And Doctrinal Dilemmas

Having spent several days last week at the Western North Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, well, Methodism is on my mind.

One of the more common refrains heard at this or virtually any Methodist meeting is that doctrine divides while love unites. Other variations on this theme include the quote — sometimes attributed to John Wesley & other times given to St. Augustine — “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.”

The implied assumption is that dialog about the issues is as important as resolution of those issues.

All well and good. I’m all for both liberty and charity.

Yet the witness of the New Testament church is decidedly different. In that setting, doctrinal clarity was not only encouraged; it was essential. Look at Paul’s first instruction to son in the faith in I Timothy 1:3:

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer . . .

Again, protecting the treasure of Christian truth is Timothy’s first task.

I wonder how many of us local Methodist preachers see such preservation as the primary reason we are given stewardship of a congregation?