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Faithful Words

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By Dr. Kenneth Faught

 FAITHFUL WORDS

 

 Giving an answer for the faith within us

 

“Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you….” (See I Peter 3:13-16, RSV).

The Apostle Peter wrote his first epistle to Christians who were scattered and under persecution. They were being sought-out and harassed because of what they believed and how they lived. In the early going, Rome was not a “Christian Empire.”

Under these circumstances Peter instructed the believers to live holy lives and to always “be ready to give an answer” for the faith that was in them. His words are good advice for 21st century Christians, too. We should be able to “give an answer” for why we are Christians, why we are church members, and why we belong to a particular church or denomination.

As a United Methodist I have thought a great deal about what we believe, and how these beliefs compare with other churches. To be sure, all who name the name of Christ as Lord and Savior are “on their way” to heaven (Methodists call this “going on to perfection”), but are we able to explain why we believe and belong as we do, and why we may interpret things a little differently from our brothers and sisters in Christ? When I think about expressing my Christian faith as a Methodist, I remember our history.

Methodism began as a reform movement in the Anglican Church, which came from the Roman Catholic Church. John and Charles Wesley and others led a “revival” movement and came to be known as part of the “Holy Club” at Oxford University. Their detractors called them “Methodists” for the organized way in which they went about practicing their faith. Their emphasis was upon a warm-hearted, evangelical, ecumenical, disciplined approach to Christian living.

Methodist polity (our way of doing things) is also clearly articulated. We are a hierarchy. There are Bishops and District Superintendents and Elders and Licensed Local Pastors. We organize into Charge Conferences, District Conferences, Annual Conferences, and a General Conference. We have a legislative, executive, and judicial branch. The local congregation is seen as a part of the larger Church. We emphasize “connection” and “conferencing”, and the local congregation is given a great deal of freedom in decision-making.

Methodist liturgy (worship) is both liturgical and free, we pay attention to the Christian calendar, and sometimes use the lectionary for our Sunday texts. You will see the liturgical colors (green, purple, red, blue, and white) used in our places of worship.

We recite The Apostles’ Creed and sing the Gloria Patri.

We light candles. We celebrate Holy Communion as a sacrament.

We are also free in our worship to sing and preach and pray as we are led by the Spirit.

Methodist doctrine is based upon the Holy Scriptures, and outlined in The Articles of Religion, The Confession of Faith, and the teaching of John Wesley. We rely upon Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience (under the guidance of the Holy Spirit) to inform and direct Christian living.

These are some of the “answers” I might give if someone asked me about why I am a Methodist. I encourage you to prayerfully think about your answers.

Dr. Faught is Pastor of The LaFollette United Methodist Church.