You won't find me quoting many United Methodists, at least not in a favorable light, but I saw this article yesterday and thought he hit the nail on the head. The article, Kentucky United Methodist Bishop Cites Obstacles to Evangelism, cites Lindsey Davis who is a UMC Bishop in Kentucky and what he said was fascinating to me (emphasis added)..
“I love our church,” Davis said. “But it greatly frustrates me at
times because I so earnestly believe that our Wesleyan theology is
exactly what our world needs to hear. Yet our structures and process
seem so unable to chart a new course for our journey. Our future must be
focused on evangelism. And there are parts of our church these days
that won’t even talk about evangelism.”
United Methodism, while growing globally, has lost 3.5 million in the
U.S. over 45 years. Davis pointed to the “inability of our church to
adjust and change” to reach new people for Christ.
“A lot of what we’ve been doing is not working,” Davis regretted of
United Methodism. “It’s not bearing the fruit God expects. Not reaching
the lost. We don’t even call them lost any more. We don’t even see those
people as lost.”
Indeed. How can you reach the lost if you are afraid of calling them lost in the first place? Without the urgency of a visceral awareness of the lostness of man and the reality of hell how exactly does one evangelize? Or at least how does one evangelize using the Biblical Gospel?
So much of what I see that falls under the umbrella of "progressive" or liberal Christianity strikes me as a reaction against the real and perceived excesses of fundamentalist Christianity. I get that, even as someone who bears many of the marks of fundamentalism, but I also see a lot of baby being tossed out with the bathwater. From the reality of hell and the historicity of Adam to issues of gender and sexuality it seems to me that in the urge to cast off any association with conservatism or fundamentalism the church in the progressive wing has lost a lot of crucial truths to their detriment. In doing so they have lost their connection to the core of the Gospel, namely the substitutionary atonement of Christ.
I am certain that many on the "left" would take umbrage at my admittedly sweeping assertion. Please note that I absolutely recognize that in spite of what I would label overly political solutions to Kingdom questions I do appreciate that at least progressive Christians seem concerned with issues of poverty and justice to an extent largely unheard of among more "orthodox" or "conservative" Christians. My concern is that there is a cart before the horse problem, a matter of prioritization. Teaching people to care for the poor is laudable but is not in and of itself the Gospel, especially not when caring for the poor becomes synonymous with secular economic redistribution.
Anyway, what do you think? Is my critique and that of Mr. Davis fair?