The United Methodist Church: Many More Concerns

 

 

The United Methodist Church:

Many More Concerns

(Part 9)

 

methodist (3)

  1. The Methodist Church accepts a denominational statement of faith and discipline.

Various written documents guide the church to this day.  The Doctrines and Discipline is reissued very four years.  The Apostles’ Creed may be repeated every Sunday in some Methodist Churches.  And the 25 Articles of Religion are Wesley’s abridgment of the 39 Articles of the Church of England.[i] Wesley strongly stood for an Arminian interpretation of doctrine and the Scriptures (in contrast to Calvinism).

As for the Articles of Religion that Wesley stressed so much, these became less and less important. These Articles were placed in the beginning of the Discipline, giving the impression that this would be the most important guide for Methodists. But this was very misleading.  The Study Commission on Doctrine and Doctrinal Standards stated, “They have remained unchanged, unchallenged—and largely disregarded.”[ii]

The Methodist Church is bound to keep the written rules in the Discipline.  Section III, Article I, states: “The General Conference shall not revoke, alter, or change our Articles of Religion or establish any new standards or rules of doctrine contrary to our present existing and established standards of doctrine.” Article II states: “The General Conference shall not revoke, alter, or change our Confession of Faith.” And Article III states: “The General Conference shall not change or alter any part or rule of our government so as to do away with episcopacy or destroy the plan of our itinerant general superintendency.” Article V states: “The General Conference shall not revoke or change the General Rules of Our United Societies.”[iii]

This demonstrates that if a sincere Methodist learns that there are errors and unscriptural teachings in the Discipline, there is no way they can be changed. It restricts the denomination from learning the truth of God more clearly and discarding false teachings that can be found in the existing documents. All that can be done is to leave the denomination and start over! It all depends on whether one is loyal to the faulty Methodist documents or whether he is committed to the inspired and authoritative Word of God as his sole source of living.

We must give a disclaimer here, for over the years, the earlier Discipline has been altered, regardless of the rather clear statements above.  We read that “by the end of the nineteenth century, Methodist theology in America had become decidedly eclectic, with less specific attention paid to its Wesleyan sources.”[iv] We read further: “At the beginning of the twentieth century . . . the waning force of doctrinal discipline and the decreasing influence of the Wesleyan theological heritage among the American Methodists, along with minor but significant changes in the wording of the Book of Discipline regarding doctrinal standards, led to a steady dilution of the force of the Articles of Religion as the Church’s constitutional standards of doctrine.”[v] Again, “These years were times of theological and ethical controversy within Methodism as new patterns of thought clashed with the more familiar themes and styles of the previous two centuries.”[vi]

Keep in mind that Methodists accepted liberal concepts on the inspiration and authority of the Bible. They increasingly accepted the false and destructive evolutionary views that Charles Darwin introduced in his Origin of the Species (1859). They were at the forefront of the “social gospel” of the nineteenth century. They accepted the ecumenical movement and the feminist movement.[vii]

But the fact that these human Methodist documents are retained give evidence that the Bible itself is somehow minimized. People receive the impression that the “answers” are found in the Discipline and the Articles, while the Bible is not that important. In reality, the Word of God must be our only standard of faith and practice!  Paul says of the sacred writings of his day (the 39 Old Testament books):

From childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

Peter said that God’s “divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3).  Paul instructs us, “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13).  The words of Paul were “the Lord’s commandment” and these must be our standard of truth and conduct (1 Corinthians 14:37). The words of Paul (and the other apostles and prophets) constituted the “word of God” that “also performs its work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). We know that nothing was to be added or taken from the words of Revelation (22:18-19) and this could be said in regard to all of the new covenant writings (our 27 books of the New Testament).

Moses said of the Law of God (the first covenant or Mosaic covenant): “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2; cf. 12:32; Proverbs 30:6). When God gave His written revelation, nothing more was needed. As someone said, if we add something to God’s word, we have too much; if we take from God’s word, we have too little. And if we have something exactly like the Word of God, then it is unneeded.

  1. The United Methodist Church has become leaders in the liberal Ecumenical Movement of uniting various denominations regardless of beliefs and practices.

One example of this movement is the fact that the Methodist bodies became “charter members of the Federal Council of Churches, which adapted the Social Creed of the Southern Methodists for its own social statement.”[viii] The United Methodist Church “has become one of the building blocks of the liberal Protestant establishment. . . . Its constituent bodies were active in the formation of the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, and the World Methodist Council.”[ix] One report remarks, “The church also gives considerable financial support to the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.”[x] Yet another report says, “Methodists have been active in ecumenical relations and church mergers in the twentieth century. . . . The Methodist contribution to ecumenism has been substantial in terms of both the investment of money and the talents of individuals.”[xi]

The UMC definitely is at the forefront of efforts to bring together people from different denominations and bring together agencies and organizations. Notice an array of these organizations:

  • Pan Methodist Commission
  • Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC)
  • Church World Service
  • National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States
  • World Council of Churches
  • World Methodist Council

These are umbrella institutions that would involve people from many different denominations, believing different things, and living different lifestyles.  Scripture warns against being “bound together” with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)—and surely there are people involved here who would disbelieve many basic truths of Scripture (as we earlier noticed regarding the UMC ministers and members).

Further, since the New Testament organization was entirely local and congregational, we can see that denomination-wide involvement in ecumenical organizations would be impossible. It is interesting to note that the groups, organizations, and institutions that are part of the ecumenical movement are the more liberal ones in which Biblical authority has little importance.

You may also wish to check out this taken from the United Methodist series:

Methodist Church History and Background is Very Revealing

 

[i] Ron Rhodes, Ibid., pp. 266-267; cf. J. Gordon Melton, Nelson’s Guide to Denominations, p. 326.

[ii] Quoted by Arthur C. Piepkorn, Profiles in Belief, Volume 2, p. 589.

[iii] The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1988, pp. 25-26.

[iv] Ibid., p. 55.

[v] Ibid., p. 55.

[vi] Ibid., p. 56.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Ibid., p. 328.

[ix] Ibid., p. 329.

[x] Frank S. Mead, Handbook of Denominations, 11th Edition, p. 240.

[xi] Arthur Carl Piepkorn, Profiles in Belief, Volume 2, p. 561.

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