The United Methodist Church represents for me the best of all protestant possibilities. I am unapologetically Christian and unashamedly United Methodist. This does not mean I spend time and energy criticizing or judging other Christian denominations, nor dismissing other religious faith traditions. I am United Methodist on purpose with passion for the Church at its best.
My parents were members of the Old Ship African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Montgomery, Alabama, a church where the biblical story was shared. Sunday school and missions were places for Christians to be nurtured and equipped for being the church in the world. When my parents relocated to Chicago and sought a church for their growing family, they looked for the closest Methodist Church to which they could walk. The Methodist Episcopal Church, which later became Union Avenue United Methodist Church, was where they settled. After this small congregation closed, our family became active members of Christ United Methodist Church.
I am United Methodist because of the emphasis on grace and growing in grace. The Goal of Life is to Grow. When unmerited favor is experienced as the love of God, it is sufficient for salvation and prevenient grace. It comes before any human response in justification or conversion.
I am United Methodist because of the experience of being encouraged to learn. Christian education and higher education have been hallmarks of our church. While everyone need not pursue college as a pathway to their vocation, all United Methodists embrace the belief in discipleship via learning about the Bible, prayer, and service as an outgrowth of our faith. The Adventure of Life is to Learn. Trained clergy and laity embrace the ministry of the baptized as ministry that demands the best we have to offer in the name of Jesus Christ.
I am United Methodist because of our history of giving. The United Methodist Church and our predecessor denominations have a rich history of giving so all of God’s children are fed, housed, clothed, and cared for. Giving is the beauty of a theology that breathes the goodness of God as we express community through generosity. The Beauty of Life is to Give.
I am United Methodist because of the long history of social justice. Early Methodists expressed opposition to the slave trade and cruel treatment of prisoners. I grew up in a local church that was unapologetically committed to open housing, school desegregation, and removal of all barriers to racial and gender equality. The Challenge of Life is to Overcome.
I am United Methodist because we profess care for all people and embrace the need to love in both word and deed. The Essence of Life is to Care. As I have promoted the Bishop’s FIT Challenge, I continue to advocate for a core value of caring for self as we care for others.
I am United Methodist because of my experience of joy in and through the Church. We can think and feel. We can read and reason. We can sing and shout: God is able to prepare us, hold us and send us for a time such as this! The Joy of Life is to LOVE!
(Bold affirmations are excerpts from a greeting card by William Ward.)