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Something is troubling me in the UMC

Discussion in 'Wesley's Parish - Methodist/ Nazarene' started by Baby Cottontail, May 6, 2021.

  1. Baby Cottontail

    Baby Cottontail Well-Known Member

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    Hello. I have been noticing a trend in the United Methodist Church that has been troubling me. I grew up in a Untied Methodist Church and was confirmed when I was in 6th grade. I went to a college affiliated with the UMC, and I received a counseling degree at a UMC seminary. Except for a few years when I attended Vineyard churches, I have regularly attended UMC churches my whole life.

    I am personally fairly theologically conservative/traditional, and I knew people in seminary who had quite liberal/progressive views (some even questioned Jesus’ very existence). I know there are those in the denomination who do not believe in what I consider to be historic Christian beliefs (such as Jesus’ bodily resurrection, Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, etc). John Shelby Spong came to speak at my seminary. I know he was not United Methodist, but still had an influence on some seminary professors and students, including the bishop in residence at the time. Anyway, when someone clearly says that they do not believe in the traditional historic beliefs, then at least I know where they stand.

    However, there seems to be a current trend where people/leaders do not seem to outright deny historic teachings, but rather they just don’t talk about them. Some of them use traditional terms, but seem to have redefined those terms to fit with their own understanding, or to make them so broad that they have very little meaning. Some of these individuals might still believe in the historic teachings, but are afraid of offending those who do not? And some of them might deny the teachings, but do not want to say they are, or maybe they have convinced themselves that if they change the definitions, they can still adhere to the creeds?

    I also am unsure if this is something that the denomination is encouraging, or if it’s just a trend?

    For example, the fairly new pastor at my church did not preach what I consider to be the gospel message this Good Friday and Easter. He did not say much about why Jesus died at all. Instead, he talked about death in general, and how the disciples must have felt about experiencing grief.

    On Easter, and the weeks following Easter, “resurrection” was defined so broadly by the associate pastor and senior pastor that it really didn’t mean much. Resurrection was defined as like an a-ha moment, and we were left with questions like, “where do you need resurrection in your life.” Not much was said about the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection.

    Both the Good Friday and Easter sermons felt so flat to me. They left me feeling empty and really disappointed — as if my pastors had really missed an important opportunity to share the gospel.

    Many of the sermons since approximately Advent (and possibly before that) have been heavily focused on relationships. Don’t get me wrong, I think relationships with others and with God are important, but it almost seems as though relationships are the whole focus of my church right now, to the exclusion of the gospel. I really can’t remember the last time the gospel was actually preached at my church. It just seems like important things are missing.

    Another recent focus seems to be on certain spiritual practices that I cannot find an example of in my Bible. Lots of be aware of your senses — what do you hear, see, taste, smell, feel, etc. Or Let’s close our eyes and imagine what Jesus is saying to you exercises.

    Is this type of thing being pushed in the whole denomination?
     
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  2. Sabertooth

    Sabertooth Repartee Animal: Quipping the Saints! Supporter

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    The Methodist Church is in the middle of a split, primarily over LBGTQ issues.

    Conservative United Methodists Plan Breakaway Denomination

    I grew up in the UMC. They laid out the Nicene Creed very well in Sunday School.
    (I got Saved through a Baptist church when I was on vacation, but my understanding of the creed made Jesus' Deity a given.) After getting Saved, I could not understand how the UMC leadership did not embrace a literal First Couple and their Fall. (The rest of the Gospel falls apart in their absence!)

    I started looking for a church that had the same feel as the church of my Rebirth, but other Baptist churches in my area did not have it. I ended up at a non-denom that became a Vineyard later.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2021
  3. Baby Cottontail

    Baby Cottontail Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I am aware that there is going to be a split in the UMC over the LBGTQ issues. Although my feelings on that issue are of the conservative/traditional nature, that has almost zero to do with the question I am asking regarding the gospel and the redefining of traditional Christian beliefs.

    I would honestly rather the church split over essential Christian beliefs than over LBGTQ issues.

    On other, non Christian forums, as soon as people find out I am a Christian, they always bring up questions about how I feel about LBGTQ issues, as if they think that is the most defining thing about a Christian. I do not consider those issues to be essential to the Christian faith, nor do I want them to be seen by non Christians as our main thing!

    Right now I am just wanting to know if the UMC is encouraging clergy to not talk about Jesus’ death and resurrection in ways that might be offensive to people, and if there is a relationship focus/strange spiritual practices that are being pushed in the denomination.

    I am trying to make a determination in the general state of the denomination on these non LBGTQ issues, and also want to know if the moderate denomination would likely continue to go in that direction.
     
  4. Sabertooth

    Sabertooth Repartee Animal: Quipping the Saints! Supporter

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    I believe that the trend to reject the tenets of the Nicene Creed (and Original Sin) began with embracing the LGBTQ's agenda.* When one starts to tear pages out of their Bibles, the whole Book falls apart.

    *That sexual orientation is an artifact of one's God-given genes, not a standard that God holds us to. Those are two mutually exclusive theologies.
     
  5. com7fy8

    com7fy8 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    You could talk with each person and see what he or she believes and why he or she says so or doesn't.

    Each person is unique; so people could have different reasons why they do not make a point of talking about the death and burial and resurrection of Jesus.

    If you ask me, yes Jesus who is God's own Son came to this earth in the flesh, and Jesus suffered on Calvary and died for our sins, then He rose from the dead on the third day.

    But if I am talking with ones I know do not believe in the historical Gospel, I might be more concerned about how they are, deeply, how they are spiritually because of not believing the Gospel is historical. What motives, what sort of character might they have, which has them not believing?? This would need to change, not only their beliefs.

    I spent time with a guy who could play around with the scriptures, I would say. And he could misrepresent things. As I got to know him, it was clear he was deeply in trouble, as a person and emotionally. He was too easy to set off, because he did not have the strength and stability of Jesus . . . of the resurrection power of Jesus by means of the Holy Spirit . . . it seemed to me, anyway.

    So, I did not argue with his intellectual stuff, but I did take him on about how Jesus makes us sweetly kind with "rest for your souls." (in Matthew 11:28-30)

    And he said something about how he just was not that way. But I had talked with him about how we need to become because of Jesus . . . and not only to have beliefs about Him.

    Someone else who does not believe in the historicity of the Gospel might not talk about it, because they believe they can just talk about what matters to them, and avoid arguing. They might think believers are fantasizing; so they just try to get believers to go along with whatever they want, and use verses and coaxing to get people to go their way. If they directly attack the historical beliefs, they know the believer likely could fight them and avoid them and what they want.

    But it can be fun to actually ask someone and let him or her speak for oneself. Each of us is created . . . not a copy; and so the answers you get might be unique. People are not all comparing themselves with two or three categories; but ones have been exploring, even deeply, and they do not all come up at the same spot or to one of the multiple-choice spots.
     
  6. Baby Cottontail

    Baby Cottontail Well-Known Member

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    I agree that when people star to tear pages out of their Bibles, then they start unraveling their theology. However, the main issue should always be about Jesus’ death and resurrection. This should be the starting point. If our focus is not on the gospel, then we will get off in other areas. This should be the foundation that a person’s life should be built upon.
     
  7. Baby Cottontail

    Baby Cottontail Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for your response. I still would like to know if this might be a United Methodist thing or not.

    I honestly don’t know where the pastors at my church stand on beliefs. I think they do have some basic Christian beliefs, but I am just puzzled as to why they won’t preach about Jesus’ death and resurrection. I know that some people at my church had told a previous pastor specifically not to talk about sin or grace or salvation, but she told them that she preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and that if they didn’t want that, they would have to find a different pastor. That was a long time ago by now — like 15 years ago, and some things in the church have changed for the better since then. It’s still possible that some people at my church are still telling pastors not to talk about those topics. I really don’t know.

    I would just like some clarity on the denomination as a whole, and what they might or might not be directly encouraging.
     
  8. com7fy8

    com7fy8 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I would think your pastor would know; you could ask your pastor about the overall organization, and about your own church politics and/or policies. These things might not be a secret, after all. And your church might have a member who keeps up with these things; the pastor would know who this is, I would think, and could refer you to this person.
     
  9. Sabertooth

    Sabertooth Repartee Animal: Quipping the Saints! Supporter

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    "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:
    For men will be​
    • lovers of themselves,
    • lovers of money,
    • boasters,
    • proud,
    • blasphemers,
    • disobedient to parents,
    • unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving,
    • slanderers,
    • without self-control, brutal,
    • despisers of good,
    • traitors,
    • headstrong, haughty,
    • lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
    • having a form of godliness but denying its power.
    And from such people turn away!" 2 Timothy 3:1-5 NKJV
     
  10. Baby Cottontail

    Baby Cottontail Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I could talk to the pastor about it, but I am doubtful that he would consider certain trends to be problematic, as he seems to be promoting some of the spirituality that I find troubling. Still, it might be good to get his perspective, and find out if the UMC as a whole is promoting it.

    I just recently opened an email in my inbox from the conference, and it is an invitation to join an online class offered to everyone in the conference. One of the topics is on spiritual rhythms, which sounds very New Agey to me. I clicked on that link to try to find out more. There was still no exact definition of what was meant by the phrase, or how exactly this was to be done.

    I then visited the link to the speaker’s spiritual direction website, and could not find exactly what she believed, or how she practices spiritual direction, or what she would mean by spiritual rhythms.

    I am very suspicious of the idea of spiritual direction anyway, mostly due to my experience at the UMC seminary that I went to. There the bishop in residence had invited her own spiritual director to come to orientation and lead us in a guided imagery spiritual session to find our “quiet place.” We were each encouraged to use this person as our spiritual director:(. We were given a brochure about it. What she said sounded very suspect to me, so I looked her up using the link in the brochure. That website said that this woman practiced shamanism, and she tried to connect people with their animal spirit. The only other spiritual director at her organization was a Self defined New Ager. There was no question I wanted nothing to do with spiritual direction at that organization.

    Yes, I realize that not all spiritual directors might be into non Christian spirituality, but I am just really suspicious of this. Since all church members in the entire conference received this email, I think it would be entirely appropriate to talk with my pastor about it. If non Christian practices are being pushed to everyone in the conference, it almost feels like the UMC is trying to get everyone on board with this New Thougt/New Age sort of spirituality, which puts me at an even deeper level of concern for the denomination as a whole.
     
  11. com7fy8

    com7fy8 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I would say if this has not been officially confronted by the organization, then be glad you know this is wrong and find people who help you grow in Jesus. And possibly you can talk with the pastor and let your pastor know why you are leaving, if you do. But even if they redevelop things somehow, in order to keep people who want to live by God's word, this could be for political reasons and not because they want to obey God through Jesus who is the only way to God.

    Is Jesus the only way to God? This is part of the issue here. Even if ones say yay Gospel, do they understand and trust that Jesus is our only way to our Heavenly Father?
     
  12. Baby Cottontail

    Baby Cottontail Well-Known Member

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    I am not going anywhere for now unless it becomes clear that my own congregation heads in a non Christian direction before a split in the denomination occurs. I think as a member it is important to stay put and see this thing through. I want the church I am a member of to move towards the truth. I have seen it head away from Christ before, and then head back towards Christ. As there is a possible end when the denomination splits, my particular congregation could go in multiple directions.

    This doesn’t erase the fact that I am deeply concerned about the denomination, and from what I have just learned regarding spirituality being promoted, I am guessing that I probably won’t like it in the more moderate denomination. (As the moderate denomination, I am guessing, probably will not see a problem with the spirituality that is currently being promoted).

    Exactly. The issue is that the current UMC is not confronting this spirituality at all, and is instead promoting it more and more. This type of spirituality seems to go hand in hand with theologically not emphasizing the death and resurrection of Jesus in the traditional way.

    I definitely believe that Jesus is the only way to the Father.

    I did talk to my pastor about my concerns. He does not see anything New Age Or unchristian about the spirituality being promoted. He himself is a spiritual director, (though he is definitely not into shamanism). He also explained what he thought spiritual rhythms was referring to, and recommended a book for me to read on the subject. I looked it up on Amazon, and Amazon has a description of the author that states she was trained at the Shalom Institute for Spiritual Formation.

    I went to the Shalom Institute for Spiritual Formation’s website, and there were references to Gerald May on it. I had to read a couple books by him, and I remember there definitely were non Christian beliefs and practices in those books.
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2021
  13. seeking.IAM

    seeking.IAM Episcopalian Supporter

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    One advantageous thing about the UMC is that pastors come and go. The sentiment within your congregation may be more important than the sentiment from the pulpit. The former is less resistant to change while the latter is subject to change.
     
  14. Baby Cottontail

    Baby Cottontail Well-Known Member

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    True.

    So far it doesn’t seem to actually be impacting the congregation. There are a few individuals who took part in group studies on these topics, and the pastors are putting these ideas into their sermons. However, we aren’t having classes on Eastern religious practices (Buddhism or Hinduism or New Age).
     
  15. com7fy8

    com7fy8 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    May God bless you to do what is good.

    There is spirituality which does not have people sharing personally with God. And their spirituality can be presented as depending on what the people do for methods.

    But biblical spirituality is produced by God's work in us, and He shares His spirituality with us . . . in His love . . . with how His love is so better than human love.

    And this is basic, not some advanced thing which only certain Christian gurus can tell you.

    Two scriptures about this are Colossians 3:15 and 1 Peter 3:4. These are for anyone, I would say. We simply trust God to have us living the way His word means. And we grow in this.
     
  16. Baby Cottontail

    Baby Cottontail Well-Known Member

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    I am not exactly sure what you were saying in your post, so I apologize if I am misunderstanding anything.

    I am not opposed to Christian spirituality in general, nor am I opposed to people having a personal relationship with Jesus! What I am opposing is spiritual practices that are Buddhist, Hindu, New Age, or New Thought, or any practice that has its origins in those spiritualities.

    The very term “guru” comes from Eastern spirituality.

    I don’t understand the purpose of pointing to Colossians 3:15 or 1 Peter 3:4. Please explain. Thanks.
     
  17. com7fy8

    com7fy8 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    You have been perfectly clear. Thank you for making yourself clear, again.

    Thank you for making this clear. Yes, I did say >
    By "gurus", here, I meant an expression, meaning a people who are considered to be more in the know, than most others, about something; and ones who respect such people tend to put them above question. I think the term can be meant like this, with no intention of referring to Eastern religion, but drawing its meaning from how Eastern gurus can be treated like they have special knowledge and authority.

    Your taking issue with my choice of this terminology is certainly understandable.

    These scriptures talk about spirituality which Eastern religion does not deal with > Colossians 3:15 > how we can be personally ruled by our Father in His own peace . . . all the time. I think Eastern religion does not treat God as being personal with His children, personally communicating, personally guiding. And 1 Peter 3:4 indicates how our Father is pleased with "the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit" > but Eastern religion does not seem to deal with how to be, spiritually, so we are pleasing to God.

    So, I am developing the idea of how Christian spirituality has us in personal sharing with God, and being personally pleasing to Him . . . while Eastern spirituality is not about being personal with God through Jesus.

    But in Christian culture, people can treat God like He is distant and theoretical. And these people can give rise to non-personal methods of spirituality, by which ones try to self-produce spirituality, and so they can tend to feed on Eastern ways which already have methods and ideas which are not about personally sharing with God through Jesus, by means of His grace sharing His spirituality with us > rather, they seem to be about producing their own spiritual and/or emotional state.

    So, what you have been writing is perfectly clear. Thank you :) But have I made myself more clear . . . or not? Good to see you :)
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2021
  18. Baby Cottontail

    Baby Cottontail Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the reply. :)

    I know how you meant “guru,” and I know how it is used by people today. It’s a pet peeve of mine, and I didn’t mean to take my frustration out on you. I personally think Christians should avoid the terminology because the original meaning is eastern. It is a term used in a non Christian religion, and it does have a specific meaning in that context.

    It bothers me in the same way when Christians say “knock on wood,” but that’s a different issue.

    Anyway, yes, I think your post brought clarity :)
     
  19. com7fy8

    com7fy8 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Ok . . . so I'll be more careful how I say things. Thank y:)u . . .

    It is good to be considerate of how different people see things and understand things. After all, we are trying to communicate.

    If you can understand right-from-wrong issues, like this, this can mean you can handle being in a church where even oppositely moral people all claim to be right, and ones of each side can seem to be convincing. I think it is important to not only become an expert on what is wrong, though. Feed on all which God's word says about all His good for us . . . and for Him.

    There's a lot of decoy stuff . . . to lure and trap our attention with how things are wrong and with proving ourselves right about some issue.

    For example, now ones can take sides about wearing a mask, then feel they are so right and superior in intelligence or morals or whatever. But this can get people away from first seeking God and finding how He has us living His word while sharing as His family with our others who help us with this. We can get isolated in being what we consider to be right.

    So, in your church . . . maybe . . . ones can take their opposing stands and both sides could be wrong since they are mainly busy with proving themselves right, in comparison with each other's morals and ideas . . . not in comparison with how Jesus is and has us loving.

    If I started a morals and ethics thread about if it is ok to use the "g" word . . . lolololol . . . people could go a hundred posts and hours arguing about this - - with decoyed attention.

    So, if you are with people who can include even pastors who might not know God, but they have authority and influence . . . it can be frustrating that you are not that influential to help people, instead. But . . . for me personally > I find that God's word says to stay with prayer with hope for wrong people, depending on God and prayer much more than trying to talk people to my way. And example works > God uses good example. And be . . . stay . . . ready for however God will use you to bless and help people. And then you can discover others who are staying with unconditional loving while sharing as God's family.

    And know that if someone is pastoring in a false way, he or she can be having major problems, emotionally, in ability to relate in true love, can have deep weakness because of the wrong spirit of the wrong ways. So, you can talk about how Jesus makes us deeply strong and stable against arguing and complaining and getting bitter and unforgiving. And He gives us sweet and sensitive joy which is kind to us in "rest for your souls." (in Matthew 11:28-30) And His peace is almighty against cruel and chaotic emotional and mental stuff; methods and therapy can't do what God's almighty peace can do in us > Philippians 4:6-7.

    And, of course, instead of just preaching at others who I find to be wrong, I myself need to stay with God and get correction so I become genuinely with Him. And have this hope for any other person . . . not dying and wearing out. And God does this with us "in the presence of my enemies". So we can thrive even with wrong people around us.
     
  20. Baby Cottontail

    Baby Cottontail Well-Known Member

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    There are certainly dangers or extremes all of us can take on any issue. Yes, we do need to watch out for our own errors, too. Right now I am just going to see how things go.
     
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