Awhile back, I read some posts of (young) United Methodist clergy stating why they stay in The United Methodist Church (start here). I finally took some time to put part of our story in writing.
Joleen and I became members of (and pastors in) The United Methodist Church 11 years ago. We did not grow up in the UMC but came to the denomination after struggling to find our place in the denomination in which we grew up.
We graduated from the Church of God theological Seminary in 1995, but after a brief stint in a church, began searching for our place in the body of Christ. We considered a number of places, but that year-and-a-half search ultimately led to us becoming United Methodists in 1998.
We are happy to be United Methodists. Becoming United Methodist has been one of the most important decisions we’ve made in our lives. It’s a decision we’ve never doubted or regretted! So, here are several reasons we are United Methodists …
Sense of God’s leading. As I’ve already stated, we believe God led us to the UMC. That sense of leading gives us assurance that we are where God has placed us.
Role of women in ministry. The role of women in ministry is one of the most important things that brought us to the UMC. This is a place where we both can be faithful to God and live out our calls to ministry.
Wesleyan theology. We each grew up in a denomination with an emphasis on Wesleyan theology so the switch to the UMC was a good fit, theologically. The UMC is much more theologically diverse than where we came from (which was basically one of the many holiness groups that came out of Methodism in the late 19th century). We appreciate the theological diversity in the UMC even though it can be challenging at times.
Connectionalism. In a day when independent/non-denominational churches are flourishing, we never seriously considered going that route. Connectionalism is important to us. We appreciate the connection we share, particularly with other United Methodists in our immediate area, as well as our district, conference, and beyond.
Rich history and tradition. I’ve written recently about Methodist history. Methodism has a wonderful history and the history of American Methodism itself goes back to the days leading up to the American Revolution in the late 1700s. The story of the growth and spread of Methodism through the 1800s and into the early 1900s is fascinating.
Hope for the future. While the growth of Methodism fizzled out in the mid-1900s, and while the denomination has been in decline for the last few decades, we believe there is hope for the future of the UMC, including …
- The recent development of the Four Areas of Focus (which includes an emphasis on leadership development and starting new churches).
- The 2008 General Conference’s revision of the mission statement (adding “for the transformation of the world” to the end of “… to make disciples of Jesus Christ,”, which I’ve written about before).
- The addition of “witness” to the other commitments (prayers, presence, gifts, and service) that United Methodists make when they join a United Methodist church.
Generally, there seems to be a growing focus on transformational leadership and discipleship, and that’s a good thing. And besides all that, we’re eternal optimists!
So, while there continue to be big challenges facing the denomination, we believe some good things are happening in the UMC!