When Small Becomes Big & Big Becomes Small

About 15 years ago now, I was in a room in which someone said, “I like Jesus, but he’s not my Savior.”

Who said that? A United Methodist pastor. This person said that and believed that . . . and was still ordained by our denomination.

Or a pastor friend of mine was refused ordination by an annual conference in another part of the country . . . because he calls God “Father” (you know, like Jesus did).

Well, that same pastor applied for ordination in Western North Carolina, was approved, ultimately won the evangelism award given by the conference and now pastors one of our largest churches.

But the anecdotes reveal a troubling trend in Methodism: our system so often makes small things big and big things small.

I’ve heard it said that a candidate for ordination can doubt the literal historicity of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and still move through the system (see anecdote #1). But if that same candidate expresses doubt about infant baptism or inclusive language for God — both subjects about which Christians of good will can have very different opinions — then he or she is sunk in terms of ordination.

The resurrection is a BIG thing — according to I Corinthians 15, the biggest of them all — and our system allows ambiguity.

Infant baptism and God language are, relatively, much smaller things — and our system enforces conformity.

In this week of all weeks, in this season of all seasons, may Methodism move towards the big things.