Thursday, September 25, 2008

Community at a Distance

I, for one, am glad about the changes the Wesleyan Church made in regards to community membership. I am glad they can now vote. But I still think the denomination did a poor job of reflecting the intent of the majority in the wording of the community membership agreement. The following lines in '5575' are unfortunate:

"The church of Jesus Christ is not only for those who are spiritually strong and mature" ... "There are those who are not yet ready for Covenant membership in the Wesleyan Church" ... "They may participate in church life until they may become Covenant members" ... "It is your purpose to prepare to be received at the proper time in Covenant Membership"

I really think Community Membership should no longer be necessarily viewed as a stepping stone to Covenant membership. Do we really have to call Christians who won't sign up for our particular legalisms immature and unready? They already can't serve in elected office. Can't we just let them be without speaking down to them? Just my thoughts. I'm hoping there is still time to change this wording.

8 comments:

Lindy said...

I don't want to be mean, but that's really offensive wording IMO.

Do they think that they are going to get more people to stay in the denomination because these people can now be part of an obviously second class membership? The wording simply reinforces the reasons that many young people are leaving the denomination.

Aaron Perry said...

I serve in a district where non-members have been able to vote as a courtesy for quite a long time. My home church had the same privilege.

I agree that equating "strong and mature" with covenant membership as though community members are not strong and mature is disparaging. However, I do not find the other statements offensive. Why is it offensive to expect that Wesleyan churches will talk about Wesleyan identity and expect that some will resonate with its tradition and history and join?

I would not agree that the issue in mind--social drinking--is not a legalism, but is part of the tradition. I would refrain from alcohol were I not a Wesleyan not because I think it's a sin but because too many people have been hurt by alcohol abuse and I will stand with them. That's my choice and the choice of the denomination's leaders, past and present. Others may choose otherwise and saying that that issue is a necessary distinction--not separation-- between us is not offensive.

That being said, I like the changes, as well. I am saddened this is such a hornet's nest in so many churches. I hope the pastors and DSs who said they would now preach more strongly about alcohol will do so in appropriate and pastorally sensitive ways.

Aaron Perry said...

That should read, "is a legalism."

TMNK said...

I have no problem with expecting/aiming that 'some' community members will become covenant members. My problem is that the language sounds too all inclusive.

I, like Aaron, would not drink either way. But that's my personal decision. And we shouldn't make Wesleyans who decide otherwise feel like they are doing so at the cost of maturity.

I think the wording will be changed in the next 4 years.

Steph said...

According to that Jesus wasn't mature in his spiritual life. hrm....

I also don't think that church membership in itself is a sign of maturity - I see it more as a sort of safe-guard as far as leadership (holding office etc.), it's functional, not spiritual. It's a way of making sure those with influence are all on the same page, but that doesn't mean that "page" is any better spiritually.

Lindy said...

I'm not offended because they said people who drink are "spirtually immature" but because they said that people who have a certain membership are more spirtually mature than those who don't.

It's a little funny the more I think about it. From what I understand, the change in status for community members was an effort to bring in people who don't completly subscribe to some of the traditions that have always ben part of the Wesleyan Church. Now you can be a part of the Wesleyan Church without sharing the same convictions about drinking or whatever.

The wording really helps to undermine these efforts- why even have cmmunity membership if it's going to be treated like that?

Tammy Craig said...

Hmmm...yeah, I never would have made a good Wesleyan...guess I'll stick with the non-denominational church, continue with a tiny bit of social drinking (except for now, since it's against my present contract), and reach those people who see the church's stance on drinking as stupid and irrelavant so they never want to bother with it.

Sorry if that came off like a bitter rant. I really didn't mean it that way. I can totally understand the whole "Bible says not to get drunk, so to keep any possibility of that from happening, just don't drink" standpoint, as well as the "this could lead many people who have been hurt by alcoholism down the wrong path"(which would include me, btw) view. But where does it say, other than church doctrine, that you can't be a Christian and have a drink? I do every now and again, and it doesn't make me any less of a Christian, and gives me a chance to talk to the people who do the same thing, but never for the life of them could believe that REAL Christians would accept them for it...

Again, sorry if that read like a rant...

Robin said...

I think the changes they're making are good but do agree that the wording there needs tweaking. Seems to me that the part you quoted is exactly what the old version said, so they changed the requirements and privileges but didn't change the explanation.