Why I Signed On with The Confessing Movement
by Rev. Marty Cauley
I heard it in the hallowed halls of Duke Divinity School and my heart sank. A first year student was commenting on a recent lecture and stated, "That's what I like about Methodism, you can believe what you want." Those words sank into my soul like a white-hot knife. Is that what they think, is that what the world perceives? Surely, if the best and brightest of Methodism, those pursuing vocational Christian ministry believe that, then heresy must run deeper than I ever imagined. I have heard the stories of a United Methodist bishop denying the divinity of Christ, but that was somewhere else, not here, not in the buckle of the Bible belt. That night, I went home, looked up the Confessing Movement on the Internet, and officially signed on. No longer could I quietly sit by and watch the faith that nurtured and guided my turbulent life be filleted.
It is really Bill Lawrence's fault. Not that he is a supporter of the Confessing Movement, quite the contrary, he had some harsh words for those signers in our class on Methodist polity, but he assigned us the task of researching a "famous United Methodist personality." I chose the distinguished, if a bit eccentric, Bishop William Cannon. Bishop Cannon was one of the original conveyers of the conference of evangelical United Methodists that drafted the document several years ago. He prided himself on being a defender of orthodoxy, and this document shows his influence in its clarity and brevity. I had long filed a copy of those carefully crafted words safely away, now I keep them handy for distribution.
I tire of Methodism's seemingly gutless stand on controversial issues. To those outside the church we seem complicated, confused and unsure of our faith. We make a statement, then re-study the statement we made, then have the Judicial Council review the statement for interpretation, then re-study the statement again in a never-ending cycle that allows us to be consumed with bureaucracy and virtually inactive. The Confessing Movement allows us to return to keeping the main thing, the main thing. The main thing is Jesus, His life, death, burial, resurrection and imminent return. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. In my studies of post-moderns what I find most often is their complete intolerance of ambiguity. They would rather be completely against you than be unsure of your stand. The United Methodist Church, as it stands now, is the most fluctuating, ambiguous institution I can imagine. We are simply afraid of hurting anybody's feelings, making them feel rejected or hurt. I'm sure many Pharisees and Sadducees got their feelings hurt by Christ. I'm sure that the rich young ruler had a decreased self-esteem when Jesus challenged him to higher level living.
In Eugene Peterson's translation of the Gospels, he did a particularly stunning job with the Beatitudes. As I was reading them one day the opening phrase in the Matthew 5 hit me especially hard. It read, "Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions." (Emphasis mine)
I couldn't believe it. Only the committed made the journey and heard the most important message of Jesus' lifetime. I signed on with the Confessing Movement because I'm ready to climb. Are you?
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