I am a sixth-generation United Methodist. I own an 1865 Methodist hymnal in German from my great-great-great grandmother who lived in Indiana. I am the son of a United Methodist pastor and theologian (Thomas Langford), husband to a United Methodist pastor (Sally, the Assistant to the Bishop in the WNCC), and the father of a United Methodist pastor (Ann Duncan).
I choose to be United Methodist because of my loyalty to our theological tradition and its culture of reformation. Our unique blend of sacramental theology and evangelical witness, vital piety and community engagement, social and personal holiness, and respect for the past yet eagerness to serve the future all attract me.
I have served as a United Methodist pastor for 37 years. This denomination has paid my salary, housed my family, introduced me to leaders around the world, and honored me in countless ways. I was blessed to serve on the 1989 hymnal committee and edit the 1992 book of worship. I now have the high honor of serving a wonderful local congregation that is unafraid of venturing into new territory.
While I choose to be United Methodist, I am also aware of the vast weaknesses and challenges facing our communion. During my lifetime, United Methodists in the United States have been in perpetual decline in membership, attendance, and finances. While we celebrate the growth of our church outside the West, we appear unable and unwilling to confront and reform the systems that have created this decline. We have grown to love the current system instead of the reason our system was created. I fully anticipate that during my lifetime the United Methodist Church as we know it will die.
What then arises from those ashes of our church may again be a denomination of which John Wesley could be proud. Until then, I will be faithful to our tradition and serve as a voice for reformation.
Andy Langford is a local church pastor in the Western North Carolina Annual Conference. Andy was the editor of The United Methodist Book of Worship and over two dozen other books. He has been a delegate to 5 general conferences and has been active throughout the connection for decades. This is his second quadrennium on the Connectional Table.