I have been critical of conservative fundamentalist over the past decade or so. Growing up one I have reason to be. There is a lot of negative and destructive God talk that come out of the "Fundie Right" and not much of it really has anything to do with Jesus or his teachings.
I am a self professed post-modern Evangelical and Neo-Orthodox Wesleyan guy. Some might not think so, but you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who believes more in the saving power of Jesus Christ than I. JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY TO THE FATHER. There...I said it. Now I ought to qualify it, but that's not what this article is about, so maybe next week:)
I recently went to visit my cousin Chris, who means the world to me. I love him and his family dearly and we have a great time when we are together. On Sunday we went to the Faith Community Church of Greenville, WI. It's a United Methodist Church with Evangelical/Brethren Heritage. We went to the contemporary service. It was nice, it was small due to the Labor Day weekend, but nice. After the service I spoke to the man who preached and he was not the pastor of the church. He was an older gentle man, maybe in late his 50's. I asked is if he were a Retired Elder filling in for the pastor, or maybe a Local licensed pastor or lay preacher. He was neither. He proceeded to tell me about how he was taking courses at Asbury Theological Seminary, probably the most evangelical and Wesleyan Seminary in the nation, so that he could become and Ordained Elder. He then told me that he was no longer taking those classes because his District Committee on Ministry (DCoM) had told him "no, not ever" on ministry. He was given the kiss of death, the black ball of ministry in the UMC, he was given a flat out no! Many times DCoM's will give a potential candidate a "not yet". Which means, "You're not ready. Think about it and come back next year." But this guy got and absolute NO!
I immediately thought maybe he failed his background check or maybe he was a pastor in another denomination and was dishonorably removed from ministry, but neither of those were right. As it turns out he was told know because he was "to conservative." As I spoke more with him I found out that his beliefs about God and Holy Scripture were the same beliefs that I shared and that Mr. Wesley shared and that, through the Book of Discipline (BOD), the United Methodist Church shared. When did we stop affirming the supremacy of scripture? When did we stop believing and teaching that Jesus is the only way to the Father and that the faith is the "most excellent way"? When did all that stop? I'm not sure that it has, in fact since the last General Conference was so impotent, I know they didn't make any land mark changes like this!
This fellow was the victim of a fundamentally liberal DCoM in a fundamentally liberal Conference. When did we start saying no to people who disagreed with us? What happened to Open minds, Open hearts and Open doors? The hallmark of Fundamentalist, liberal and conservative, is closed minds, closed hearts, closed doors. We are a non-confessional movement for a reason, and that non-confessional door ought to swing both ways. Liberals and conservatives alike should be welcomed in our church and in the ministry. It's amazing that the Wisconsin Annual Conference and it's various DCoM's and most likely it's Board of Ordained Ministry (BoOM) is willing to violate the Discipline and encourage the breach of sacred covenant by allowing openly gay men and women in the ministry as well as allowing the solemnization of same sex marriages with in it's boundaries, but because some one believes in the supremacy of scripture and the exclusive claims of christ they are to conservative and unfit for ministry!!
I support the full inclusion of LGBTQI persons in the church, I supported the legalization of Gay marriage. I'm not sure how one can whole heartedly believe that Jesus is who he says he is and affirm the teachings of Jesus and not! But liberal fundamentalism is wrong, just as wrong as conservative fundamentalism. Jesus was not a fundamentalist, an exclusionist, and he was far from Orthodox, at least the traditional orthodoxy of his day. Neither conservative nor liberal fundamentalist embody the heart of Jesus. I hope new leadership arises in the Wisconsin Annual Conference and other Annual Conferences were liberal fundamentalism is rampant and that this new leadership brings these beloved back to the center, which is Christ Jesus.
Grace and peace,