With all the toxicity in our dialogue today as United Methodists, I have been doing a lot of reflecting on why I have given my life to this denomination, and even deeper, to this Wesleyan theology. I am one that was born into the church. My grandfather was a pastor for 47 years, starting out in the United Brethren denomination, then becoming EUB with the merger, who then retired as a United Methodist.
I, on the other hand, was only six years old when the merger came to form the United Methodist denomination. However, along the way, I have come to realize, as I have grown and matured, that even if I had not grown up in this denomination, I would have chosen to be a Wesleyan Christian. Even with all the problems we have, and we have many, I am most at home in the Wesleyan theology that is at our core.
I love the fact that we have an open table whenever we celebrate the Eucharist. Even though we have struggled with this along the way, at our core is the belief that no matter who a person is, no matter what they have done, no matter where they have come from, no matter if they are a member or not, they are welcome and invited to the table and God's grace is open to them.
I love that we strive for perfection. And even if we qualify this by saying we will never attain it in this life, we still strive for Christian perfection. That means we strive to be more loving, we strive to use our spiritual gifts more effectively, we strive to follow Christ more closely, and we strive to meet the needs of the world around us more completely.
I love the fact that at our core is both a belief in personal piety and social justice. We are not an either/or people. We are a both/and people. We believe that we need that personal commitment to Jesus Christ and to strive for justice wherever we see injustice. We need to be deeply rooted in scripture and deeply connected to the brokenness of our community where we can meet needs.
Admittedly, The United Methodist Church is far from perfect, and we are facing deep challenges, but I am sure that our Wesleyan roots and theology are the best expression of who I am, and who I strive to become as a beloved child of God.
I pray that as we move forward into whatever our future is, that we will think theologically about who we are as Wesleyan Christians and strive to live into what that means for us as individuals and for us as a denomination.
As always, I give thanks to God for each of you! May you be encouraged that God is still calling us to strive for Christian perfection and to love extravagantly!
I pray that you will be blessed!
In Christ's service!
-Rev. Barry Burns, Superintendent, Northwest Plains District & Dean, West Ohio Cabinet