In the “Large” Minutes, John Wesley summarized his understanding of Methodism's purpose: "What may we reasonably believe to be God's design in raising up the Preachers called Methodists? A. To reform the nation and, in particular, the Church; to spread scriptural holiness over the land."
United Methodists take note: we are here to reform the nation and spread scriptural holiness over the land. We cannot sit idly by while injustice occurs, oppression exists, and violence is commonplace. We are a people committed to evangelism – spreading the good news of Jesus Christ – missions – caring for the vulnerable, those at risk, and those who have never been introduced to the gospel – and social justice – those oppressed, violated, and unjustly treated. These are priorities set for us by John Wesley himself, and the source from which he drew these conclusions was the Holy Scripture.
Wesley was concerned that those not well-acquainted and deeply invested in our Christian scriptures would err in four important ways:
- focus on membership and its retention to reverse the trend of membership decline,
- lack of theological reflection,
- disinterest in sustained Christian practices or spiritual disciplines, and
- reluctance to engage the other, particularly across socio-economic boundaries, including wealth-sharing.
These four problems could only occur if church leaders – particularly pastors – failed to understand the Bible. It could be argued that these four concerns pretty well define our Church in the 21st century. Perhaps if we hope to turn our denomination around in the United States, we need to recommit to a scriptural holiness that worries less about numbers, more about theological engagements, recovers and embraces essential spiritual practices, and commits to radical and transformational justice.
The United Methodist Church is a scriptural holiness Church. I offer a challenge to all our laity and clergy leadership that reflects these four Wesleyan concerns:
- Let us focus on the quality of our ministries, and reach out to new, young, and diverse people.
- Let us make theological reflection and Christian conversation a top priority.
- Let us recover and embrace an active practice of the means of God’s grace.
- Let us engage with the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the ill, the imprisoned, the stranger, the deprived, and the dispossessed wherever and whenever possible.
If we will address just these four issues of our faith, we will engage in a level of scriptural holiness unheard of in our age, and we will live as empowered and gifted Christian disciples actively participating in God’s miraculous transformation of our world.
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).