Advocates for the Global Methodist Church often say that in their brand of Methodism, everyone will be like-minded. One article I read said everyone will be expected to agree on their interpretation of the the Bible, the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Chalcedonian Creed, Wesley’s General Rules and Articles of Religion and everything they term as “doctrine”. I actually heard a representative say, “In the GMC, you will hear the same Gospel message in every church from Boise to Bulgaria.” Since one of their major concerns is “robust accountability”, a congregation or pastor who doesn’t toe-the-line theologically (or if you don’t pay your apportionments every month) can be kicked out. That includes not just basic Christian doctrines, but specifically their view of marriage and homosexuality, which was, of course, the impetus for this movement in the first place.
Has the church ever been like-minded?
As I read I and II Corinthians or the Book of Acts I wonder if the church has ever been like-minded. True, at its core the Christian Church has always affirmed Jesus Christ as Lord, but the church has always struggled to know exactly what that means in practice. True, the church believes in the atoning death of Jesus Christ and the Resurrection, but there are a variety of theories of the atonement and the glorious mystery of the Resurrection. True, St. Paul told the Philippians to “have this mind among you which was in Christ Jesus”, but he was talking about the spirit of humility and self-giving love, not doctrine.
There have been brands of Christianity which expected everyone be like-minded.
The first major split in the church happened over theological hair-splitting as to whether the Holy Spirit was “one with the Father and the Son” or “proceeded from the Father and the Son.” and more than once Catholics and Protestants were at each others’ throats. American Methodists divided over the role of laity in 1828 and slavery in 1844 and in our times, the Southern Baptists went through a major purge of their seminaries getting rid of faculty members who weren’t “like-minded”. There are several denominations where I would not be welcome in the pulpit or at the communion table because I am not aligned with their doctrine.
Please don’t get me wrong.
I regret the debates which have divided the Body of Christ just as I regret what is happening in the United Methodist Church right now, and I do believe doctrine matters. But suggesting that everyone in a denomination will be like-minded is either a wishful fantasy or it will result in a very small denomination. I’m happy to be a United Methodist where we affirm our central beliefs and then allow for a breadth of thought and action in response. I love the often-quoted words of John Wesley:
“Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein, all the children of God may unite, not withstanding these smaller differences. These remaining as they are, they may forward one another in love and in good works.”
Or, as E. Stanley Jones said,
“Here we enter a fellowship. Sometimes we will agree to differ. Always, we will commit to love and unite to serve.”