Being Dead, They Yet Speak
A prophetic word from Methodist Bishops
The United Methodist Church is scheduled to have a General Conference in 2024. It could be decisive. Or it could be another nothing burger. I won’t rehearse the UMC’s problems here; others do it better anyway. What I find interesting is a letter the Methodist Bishops wrote in 1824 to the Church.
Those were simpler times for the Church, I suppose. But maybe not. There were 5 Bishops then, I think, maybe 6. They were presiding over a fast-growing denomination, one that is a clear example of multiplication— of disciples and churches.
1824 to 2024, how vastly changed. I want to share with you a part of their letter:
“If the Methodists give up the doctrine of entire sanctification, or suffer it to become a dead letter, we are a fallen people. If the Methodists lose sight of this, they fall by their own weight. Their success in gaining numbers will be the cause of their dissolution. Holiness is the main cord that binds us together. This will appear more evident if we call to mind the original design of Methodism. It was to raise up a holy people.
Whoever supposed or who that is acquainted with the case can suppose, that it was designed in any of its parts to secure the applause or popularity of the world, or a numerical increase of worldly or impenitent men? Are there any provisions made for the aggrandizement of our ministers or the worldly-mindedness of our members? None whatever.”
In the 1820s, the Methodist Church grew by 86%. From 2010 until now, we have declined by 13% in the United States. If you were to track our decline versus U.S. population growth, the Methodist Church is now the same percentage of the population we were in 1800. We have lost so much ground, I have come to believe God has taken His hand of blessing off of the United Methodist Church.
Our problems are legion: no agreement that the Word of God is authoritative; no credible evangelism strategy; a lack of calling among the pastors to the work of conversion; the small group discipleship that was the hallmark of Methodism is almost non-existent; and the Bishops tried to warn us, but we definitely let go of our emphasis on holiness.
The Institution of the United Methodist Church will not allow itself to be reformed along the lines of Scriptural Holiness. It is the call of serious believers to push forward, following God and conscience, regardless of the what the Methodist church itself may do. Or not do.