Pushing the envelope in our UMC

Posted: April 5, 2019 by efenster in Ideas
Tags: , , ,

IMG_1208This week I have been reminded that many in The United Methodist Church are pushing the envelope.   Many pastors, churches, Boards of Ordained Ministry, Bishops, and entire conferences are reacting strongly to the decisions made at the recent General Conference session in St. Louis.  There are many who are trying to push the envelope regarding the church’s position on homosexuality and the church.  At the same time, there are people pushing the envelope in other ways.  For example, I learned of laity who are publicly administering the sacrament of communion.

Years ago I was asked to fill the pulpit when my pastor was gone one Sunday, so I did.  Before the worship service I saw the communion elements on the altar and so I asked who was administering the sacraments.  The lay people in charge of worship matter-of-factly said, “You are.”  I said, “Well, who is going to bless the sacraments?”  They again replied, “You are.”  That was a problem because I’m not ordained, I’m not a licensed local pastor, I am a lay person.

So what did I do?  I blessed the elements and served communion and no one said a thing.    Ever since, I’ve scratched my head and wondered about that day I broke our church’s protocol.  You see I’m normally a rule-follower.  But in this situation I broke our United Methodist rules, and no harm seemed to come of it.

Recently I was talking with some pastors.  They were saying that if we truly want a multiplication movement to break out in our churches of Indiana, we’ll have to loosen the rules, take risks.  I asked what that would look like.  Both answered by telling stories of laity associated with their churches that served communion in public.

One of the pastors has a layman who is an employee at a Walmart.  Every week he serves communion to twenty of his fellow employees in the back room.  The other pastor has a homeless man who started a bible study in a local McDonalds.  Each week he takes a McDonald’s hamburger and breaks it saying, “Take and eat this, Christ’s body broken for you.”  What do you say to such sincere acts, both done with groups of people who would unlikely darken the doors of a church?

So what do we do with that?  To what degree do we push the envelope of our United Methodist polity?  To what degree do we unleash the laity as we send them into the fields that are ripe for harvest?  Not only are people pushing the envelope in the area of the church’s acceptance of gays and lesbians, people are also pushing the envelope in regards to our church’s polity regarding the sacraments.  Where else may the envelope be pushed as we strive to make disciples of Jesus Christ and transform the world?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

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Comments
  1. Roberta Cook says:

    Maybe Jesus is telling us to lighten up– that he is present despite our trying to legislate his supper. It seems to me by faith both of these folks are sharing the beauty of Christ’s table, body broken, and blood shed, out of their abiding love for him. As Methodist we exclude no one from the table but want to split hairs over who can bless it. This makes no sense even to a rule follower like me.

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