Dear Members and Friends:
With all the politicos yammering about “take a stand”, “stand for something”, “get involved”, “do something” – I thought now would be a good time to talk about our membership vows.
Whether you are a member, or thinking about it, or just wondering about it, here’s something to think about:
According to The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church as members we make a covenant (a solemn agreement that is binding on all parties – in the Bible, it’s the promises that were made between God and His people) – to (a) renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of the world, and repent of our sin; (b) to accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression; (c) to confess Jesus Christ as Savior, put their whole trust in His grace, and promise to serve Him as their Lord; (d) to remain faithful members of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world; (e) to be loyal to Christ through the United Methodist Church and to do all in their power to strengthen its ministries; (f) to faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness; [By the way, that’s Plan A, and there is no Plan B.] (g) to receive and profess the Christian faith as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.
That’s a lot of words. It simply means that we are verbalizing God’s call to discipleship. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, said “the world is our parish.” That’s Wesley-Speak for not building fences or barriers around our outreach. What we do in God’s mission and witness does not stop at the church doors.
While we are in ministry to the whole world, we are also in ministry to our local community – “think globally, act locally.” (Remember that from the 70’s?) It’s that “Love your neighbor” thingie Jesus talked so much about (Matthew 22:39). These words, these vows, remind us that we are to practice both universal and local discipleship.
We don’t take this promise before God lightly. It’s a discipline, and not an easy one. It’s easy to be lackadaisical about “words” – just a bunch of words. But these words are shared in the context of God’s Grace; and with the help of the Holy Spirit, the impossible is possible – we are strengthened in our resolve to be faithful members.
The vows hold legal standing in the church. For legal reasons, we believe it to be important to know who is a member of the church and how that happens.
Most of us practicing Methodists are not prone to reading The Book of Discipline. (Although I’ve known a few folks who were virtually “scholars” when it came to The Book of Discipline – my friend Dee’s dad, for one!) I believe your DVR operating instructions would be more entertaining – maybe even John Wesley’s sermons. (I have an anthology of his sermons if anyone wants to attempt reading it.)
If you want to “stand for something”, stand for Jesus Christ. Being a part of “something” like a church, gives a new meaning and direction to your life. Nothing on the outside changes – the change is all on the inside, of you. You’re part of the bigger picture.
I guarantee you that the bricks will not fall down around you, the thunder and lightning will be confined to monsoon season, and no one will look at you strangely if you decide to become a member, explore being a member, or even just come to services and check us out.
The United Methodist Church has a long history of “standing for something.” You can stand for as much or as little as you are able. God gives you His attention 24/7. We give Him our attention only 1 hour a week. The rest of the time we try to practice what we preach – we’re not perfect, but with God’s help and by God’s Grace, we ARE going on to perfection.
 The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 2012 (Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 2012, ¶217, p.153