When I go to services of confirmation, I talk about why I’m glad I’m United Methodist. I chose United Methodism and I value some of the unique core values that defined us in the past and continue to give us our identity today. So I give them my list of 5 things, including how important grace is in our understanding of God and what it means to be a Christian.
But my last point is that John Wesley is cool! Then I show this picture of John Wesley from the 18th century:
They all groan and I remark on how funny John Wesley looks to us today with his strange pageboy. But then I show them this picture which a friend of mine photoshopped:
(Don’t you think he looks a lot better with a haircut?) I remind the confirmands that John Wesley would think they look a little funny to him, too! They laugh and before they begin to think I’m too crazy, I tell them that one of things about United Methodism that I really like is that we’re not meant to live like John Wesley hundreds of years ago, but live like people of faith in our present age. “New occasions teach new duties,” as the old hymn says.
Rethinking is our tradition from the very beginning of the story of our salvation and is part of our Wesleyan heritage. People throughout the ages have taken what it means to be the people of God, followers of Jesus and living the United Methodist Way into new places with new people in new ways. For instance, about 175 years ago when people came to the northern Illinois area, they had to rethink where to have church; how to provide for the spiritual needs of people without a clergy in every gathering of Methodists; how to care for one another in the times in which they lived as opposed to how they did all these things in the “Old Country” or “back East.”
As United Methodists we are most resilient when we remember that rethinking is our tradition. I’m glad our tradition isn’t meant to keep us tied to a by-gone year but to force us to figure out how to live our faith today in social, ethical, theological, biblical and global ways that John Wesley would never have dreamed of facing in its day. But with the foundation of our faith, particularly our personal and social holiness, combined with the admonition to work these things out in a faith community, it helps us to not only live our lives but to be relevant in our world.
It’s challenging but it’s exciting…just like it’s been all the other times we’ve had to rethink who we are. Yes, that makes me glad to be a United Methodist!
Bishop Sally Dyck, an ordained Elder from the East Ohio Conference, was elected to the episcopacy in 2004, where she served the Minnesota Area until 2012. She currently serves as resident bishop for the Northern Illinois Conference. She has been president of UMCom since 2008. She is a year-round runner and is married to the Rev. Kenneth Ehrman.