Oregon-Idaho Association of Confessing United Methodists - Jan 1998
Inside this Newsletter
The Articles of Religion of the United Methodist Church
ARTICLE I - Of Faith in the Holy Trinity
"There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the maker and preserver of all things, both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." (The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 1996; Paragraph 62.Section 3)
"Classical Christianity argues that God cannot be objectively defined ( in the sense of being circumscribed) by human language, yet this has not prevented Christians from speaking of God altogether or from developing a preliminary description of God's way of acting as known in Scripture...Classical Christian teaching had often acknowledged that the being of God is ultimately indefinable because God overreaches our comprehension. This point is explicitly stated in the Scripture that speaks of God as ' dwelling in unapproachable light ' (I Tim. 6:16a), as ' the one whom no mortal eye has ever seen or ever can see' (I Tim. 6:16b, Phi.) . Only the infinite God can fully comprehend the infinite...Must God then remain completely undefined ? " (from Thomas Oden's book The Living God ,p. 27-28).
The answer to that question is a resounding , "No!". God has not left God's Self "undefined". God has revealed God's Self to us. And we who call ourselves United Methodists do indeed lay claim to a particular view of this God as laid down in the Scriptures and through the 2000 yr.traditional Christian understanding of this God. To be CHRISTIAN is to hold to certain "essentials".One of these essentials is the doctrine of the Trinity.
We are not Universalists. In all Christian traditions, baptism occurs in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. "Christian theology , best thought of largely as a commentary on baptism, has the happy and awesome task of trying to explain to the one baptized what baptism in the triune name means and implies. This is no elective, nonobligatory task or minor, subordinate duty that Christian theology can either ignore or refuse. For God appears in the New Testament as Father, Son, and Spirit. " (Ogden, p. 181) "The Anglican Catechism states this threefold understanding concisely: 'First, I learn to believe in God the Father who hath made me, and all the world. Secondly, in God the Son who redeemeth me, and all mankind. Thirdly, in God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me, and all the elect people of God.' (Catech., BCP).
This triune affirmation seeks to summarize the essential Christian teaching of God. For almost two millennia the Christian community has been using this language as a means of bringing together in summary form its most irreducible affirmations concerning God... The triune way of looking at God gives us a way of looking at the meaning of the whole of history, which , as the arena of God's revelation, is the subject of theology. Trinity rehearses and embraces the entire story of salvation, attesting to the church's attempt to view history synoptically, to try to grasp a unified picture of God in creation, redemption, and consummation. Classical Christian exegetes [see] the history of salvation as an inclusive threefold movement from beginning to end: It begins with an originally good creation, which includes a primordially unfallen condition of human existence that plunged into a radical alienation of human freedom , into sin, guilt, and death. The pivot of history is the incarnation, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God's own personal engagement in the human condition, where the Son of God speaks the Father's Word of forgiving love to human history. God's own Spirit is sent in order to enable faith, hope, and love in those who are willing to hear and to engender response to the divine Word, enabling faith to grow toward reflecting the divine goodness within human limits...Universal history is therefore a history of the activity of the triune God..." (Ogden,p.182).
I've been through lots of work in counseling trying to sort out the identity muddle of my soul. One counselor tried to help me accept reality, by stating: "You just need to accept the fact that you are a homosexual even though you are married to a woman." This did not help although in the psychological sense, I knew she was right. Her statement carried with it a set of shackles.
I walked out of that office six years ago bound not free, her words ringing in my ears. Her theology wanted me to accept her words and stop believing that there would ever be freedom from the tormenting thoughts, temptations and lust. I felt hopeless, but God used this word to position me for true healing. For God intended hope not hopelessness for this son. A way out of torment not bondage within it.
The Father stationed people in my life to express the nurture I lacked, and led me by the Spirit to book after book, passage after passage, and through events of healing prayer, in order to loosen and eventually break away her shackles along with many others. Now in accountability to some brothers and in covenant with my wife, I am experiencing the freedom God always intended.
Although the counselor wanted my identity tied to my desires, God says my identity indeed my very life is found and is secure in Him, in Christ. The counselor wanted to say that the desires of a broken soul were speaking the truth about me, but the Father says I "do not do what I want," and that my body has been "bought with a price," so I am to "glorify God in my body." As God restores my soul, my spirit is set free for communion with the Lord as never before and the desires which once wracked my frame no longer tempt. There is freedom for the captive still.
From Sermon 55: "On the Trinity"
"the knowledge of the Three-One god is interwoven with all true Christian faith; with all vital religion."
"I know not how any one can be a Christian believer till he 'hath,' as St. John speaks, 'the witness in himself,' till 'the Spirit of God witnesses with his spirit, that he is a child of God;' that is, in effect, till God the Holy Ghost witnesses that God the Father has accepted him through the merits of God the Son: And, having the witness, he honours the Son, and the blessed Spirit, 'even as he honours the Father.'"
"18. Not that every Christian believer adverts to this; perhaps, at first, not one in twenty: But if you ask any of them a few questions, you will easily find it is implied in what he believes."
"Therefore, I do not see how it is possible for any to have vital religion who denies that these Three are One."
from LETTERS TO A MEMBER OF THE SOCIETY August 3, 1771
"The mystery does not lie in the fact, "These Three are One;' but in the manner, the accounting how they are one. I believe the fact. As to the manner, (wherein the whole mystery lies,) I believe nothing about it."
(NOTE: Wesley is careful not to insist that people use the terms "trinity" or "Persons," because they are not used in Scripture. He asserts quite plainly the "fact" of "the Three-One god," but not the manner in which the Three are One, which is a "mystery" that requires no explanation.)
"And the word became flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14).
The idea of "the word" was not new to John. The Greek philosophers had used the phrase according to the meaning they gave it. Never in their wildest dreams would they have conceived of "the word" becoming "flesh." But John had encountered the living Word, and had "seen his glory, the glory as of the Father's only son, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14b). To John, "the word" was not a philosophical abstraction to be discussed and analyzed. "The Word" was god's flesh and blood statement to us about Himself. "The Word" became personal and tangible: "What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands..." (1 John 1:1). The Word had befriended John.
It is easy to assume that John is dealing in philosophical abstractions when he refers to Jesus as "the Word." And it is easy for us to fall into a pattern of thinking of God abstractly. The only preventative is the personal encounter with God, a loving Father who wants nothing more than to have the broken relationship with His children restored. We were created for relationship with the Father. And like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, He waits longingly for our return, however reluctantly we may come. And He rejoices in our presence.
Our Doctrinal Standards are guides to our encounter with the living word. Intellectual acceptance of creeds is not the same as a personal encounter with our Savior. But our interpretation of our encounter with The Word is only as good as our theology. The words of Scripture reveal how God has spoken to this world in the past. The Holy Spirit teaches us about rightly relating to The Word through the words of Scripture. And Jesus comes to befriend us. Let us not stop at defending correct theology. Let us enter the relationship into which true theology leads us; that of a true child of the Father, an obedient follower of our Lord Jesus, a person full of the fruit and gifted by the Holy Spirit.
Waking from Doctrinal Amnesia (by William J. Abraham)
Dr. Abraham does a wonderful job of laying out the "current state of The United Methodist Church" and the answer to our "serious soul-searching concerning the future of the church." He exhorts all who love the United Methodist Church to look into who we are and calls for serious doctrinal discussion. It is in the recovering of our doctrinal identity that we will find healing and renewal.
"The crucial point to be made here is a simple one. In the end, the church cannot endure without a body of systematic and coherent doctrine...we have become so doctrinally indifferent and illiterate that the church is starved of intellectual content...The recovery of doctrinal identity is not then some abstract exercise in constitutional archaeology; it is integral to the deep renewal of the life and work of the church in the current generation. Nor is its recovery a signal to throw down our theological tools and pretend there are no new issues to be taken up in our own day. On the contrary, it is the recovery of doctrine that in part makes one acutely aware how crucial continuing intellectual engagement is in the life of the church." (Abraham,p. 104-105).
Dr. Abraham's book is an immensely important book for all serious United Methodist Christians to read and take into prayer. It is highly recommended.
Saturday Oct. 11, 1997 was the first Conference of the Oregon- Idaho Association of Confessing United Methodists . Patricia Miller, Executive Director of the national Confessing Movement out of Indianapolis opened the conference held at Cherry Park UMC in Portland, Oregon. She told us that over 1000 congregations are presently members and over 18,000 individuals have signed the Confessional Statement to date. The Dr. Les Longden was our Keynote speaker. His address was inspiring and informative. He reminded us that we all hope that within five years there will be no need of a separate Confessing Movement within the UMC. He traced the history of the Confessing Movement as well as addressed criticisms of the movement as well. Anyone wishing a copy of the address may call : The Rev. C. Greene (503) 253-7971.
Ron Dennis gave a powerful testimony to open the afternoon session as to how the Lord freed him from sin and restored his life. Dr. Longden and the Rev. C. Greene then talked briefly about the importance of accountability in their lives. The participants then divided into geographic regions to pray and discuss how we can be hold each other more accountable to our faith journeys. Dates, times and places were set for follow up support / prayer Accountability groups. Officers were elected: The Rev. John Grimsted is the President of the Assoc. (Eagle , Idaho); The Rev. Bill Seagren is the Vice- President ( Marquam , Oregon); The Rev. Glen Clark is the Treasurer ( Cottage Grove, Oregon); Fred and Phyllis Cowan are our co- Secretaries and Registrars (Boring, Oregon). The Rev. Brian Shimer (Banks, Oregon) is the Editor of the newsletter, "The Essentials". A Spring Conference was agreed to and FEBRUARY 28 at 9am was chosen ( Feb. 21 was originally chosen but there were too many Conference and District conflicts with that date). The conference will be held at Cherry Park UMC and all are invited . The conference dismissed after a liturgical dance by Catie Greene and the Wesleyan Covenant Service with Holy Communion.