Why am I a United Methodist? “Because my parents were” is my typical answer. However, as I have aged – like fine wine, I might add – I have discovered that it is hard to tell whether I am the Christian I am because I’m a Methodist, or whether I’m a Methodist because I am the kind of Christian that I am. It’s a “Chicken or the Egg” faith question. I don’t think it really matters. By now, my faith should have shaped me in such a way that I can’t answer. After 50-plus years, I am a “Yellow Dog Methodist.” I don’t care if the preacher is an old yellow dog, I’m going to the Methodist Church!
When people ask me, “What do Methodists believe?” It’s hard to answer because I’ve been thoroughly immersed for so long. They might as well ask, “Can you teach me how to breathe?” Finding a succinct answer like James Harnish gives in The Disciple’s Path Companion Reader (pp. 9-17) really helps. He answers the “Why?” question like this:
- I am a United Methodist because of its balance between God’s providence and human freedom – We aren’t puppets, but beings of free-will. God makes us this way because he loves us.
- I am a United Methodist because of a balance between heart and head – if you get the heart right, the head will follow.
- I am a United Methodist because we balance personal piety with social action – inner transformation must be expressed through social transformation.
- I am a United Methodist because of the balance between present and future salvation – we don’t just “get saved,” then wait to go to heaven. Salvation is a continuing process, too.
- I am a United Methodist because of “the method embedded in our heritage” – no one grows into the likeness of Christ accidentally.
Methodists get a “bad rap” because we are so balanced. We rarely live on one side of an issue or the other. We live in the middle. We know that is a “both-and” proposition; we know that there is truth in both sides. It is most important, though, that both sides love one another.
Just because we are balanced, doesn’t mean we lack passion. When people say, “Denominations don’t make any difference.” I politely change the subject for fear that I might smack them. Of course denomination make a difference! God is too big to be expressed by just one! My denomination expresses – and helps me express – who God has been, is being, and will be in my life.