Burning an Abandoned House

by Joel on June 29, 2005

Former United Methodist pastor James Gibson, who once worked toward reform of the United Methodist Church, but later decided such reform couldn’t be done to his liking and left the church altogether, now wants to burn down the house he abandoned while others are still in it. How charitable!

In American politics, who are often the most rabid Democrats? Former Republicans. Who are often the most rabid Republicans? Former Democrats. Love hath no fury like a man scorned!

A few times in the local church I’ve seen people lose on their issue and then try to sabatoge the entire church. Rev. Gibson is no longer a United Methodist. Fine. But I don’t see that it is his place advising those of us remaining in the United Methodist Church to disband. He didn’t get his way, or at least fast enough and now he wants to undermine what he is no longer part of. What a class act!

HT: John of Locusts and Honey.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }


Richard 06.29.05 at 10:07 am

If there’s a claim that the UMC is not liberal enough and should therefore disband alongside the claim that the UMC is not conservative enough and should therefore disband, you might think that the UMC has it about right!

I understand James’ frustration with the UMC in particular and denominations in general. There are times when the structures seem oppressive and unnecessarily bureaucratic. But the idea that the church can operate without structures is a fiction. The early church in Jerusalem very quickly began to develop mechanisms for organizing the body and we’ve been at it ever since. Methodism developed a bureaucracy to replace Mr wesley’s benevolent dictatorship. The renewal movement of the 1970’s sprouted non-denominational “house churches”, but thirty years later they look much like a denomination from where I’m sitting. Even the “emergent church” is going to have to come to terms with this.


Joel 06.29.05 at 6:35 pm

On a few points, I agree with the “reformers.” In the UMC, I think there hasn’t always been accounting with integrity for denominational funds and I agree that for many programs adminstrative costs were too high in relationship to monies spent on ministries. I believe many of our traditional views on the resurrection, the atonement and use of creeds needs to be preserved. On the other hand, there is often a rigidity among the reformers and they have a great tendency to side with the powerful over the poor and to downplay social holiness. Despite lip service to spirituality they often in fact seem to be great promoters of civil religion.

I’m in agreement with them that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and the Lord of all creation. Where I differ is how they apply that theology very legalistically to peoples of other faiths.

I agree with the reformers on the primacy of Scripture, but differ again on apllication in the context of reason, experience and tradition.


Ivan The Crank 06.29.05 at 10:10 pm

I find it interesting that James Gibson’s explanation of why he left the United Methodist Church was, “Overwhelmingly, it is the positive aspects of the AMiA drawing me in, moreso than the negative aspects of the UMC driving me out. I must be obedient to God and follow wherever he leads me. This is the call of God upon my life; of that I am absolutely certain.” So, if that is the case, then his agreement with the call to disban sounds like maybe the positive aspects of the AMiA were NOT his most motivating call to leave the UMC.

As a United Methodist pastor who chose to leave the Nazarene Church to return to my ecclesiastical roots back in 1981, I have had plenty of time to experience the best and worst that this denomination has to offer. I also saw the best and worst that the Nazarenes had to offer along with others with whom I have been closely affiliated through the years. I chose the United Methodist Church not because it is perfect, but because of it’s basic theology and emphasis on the Gospel being expressed both in word and deed without the legalism I was finding in my former denomination. I’m much more in tune with progressive sanctification than instantaneous sanctification; free will verses predestination; encouraging use of the tools of Scripture, reason, experience and tradition rather than relying solely on one person or group’s interpretation of Scripture while discounting the value of any of the other three parts of the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral.”

There are times I’ve toyed with what it would be like to serve a church that does not have to send out about 10-11% of it’s total income to connectional giving, or to have to put up with the changes imposed from on high by a sometimes detached hierarchy. For some reason I always come back around to the fact that, as imperfect as the United Methodist Church is, reform is a much better option than departure. That is why I still have a right to criticize: I’m still here! If I make the jump to another denomination or and independent church, then I leave behind my right to help make this denomination stronger, challenge it to return to its Wesleyan roots or even suggest that it disband. I would forfeit that right. Rev. Gibson needs to find his home in the AMiA and leave the work needed on the United Methodist Church to those of us still here.

By the way, I would not argue that local churches and even denominations have a certain life span. What I would argue is that the United Methodist Church is far from needing to hold up the white flag; it just needs to raise the banner of Christ in new and relevant ways!

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