Wednesday, June 06, 2012

On Memorial 50

As the Wesleyan General Conference wraps up, I thought I'd share a few reflections on some of the major decisions that were made (or not made) by the delegates in Kentucky. Memorial 50 was an attempt to add a new section to our Articles of Religion specifically covering the doctrine of sin.

Now, you might think it weird that something so important as the doctrine of sin is not ALREADY in the Articles of Religion. That would be a good thought, but let me put your mind at ease a bit. Article 8 (on 'Personal Choice') currently includes mention of original and personalized sin and our utter dependence on God's grace to be saved. Indeed, one could well argue that this new memorial is quite redundant.

Apart from this potential redundancy, there were some positive aspects of this memorial. I like that it (unlike Article 8) talked about how The Fall and sin impacted all of creation (not just humanity). I liked the distinction b/w original and personal sin. I also liked the distinction b/w voluntary and involuntary sin. I like theology, and I believe these distinctions are important to make in my opinion.

But do I like these particularized distinctions to be included in a denominations Articles of Religion? That is a slightly different question. Some would question the wisdom of inserting such a particularized statement on sin at a denominational level. One delegate wondered if we were painting ourselves into a corner by taking so many controversial positions in what is supposed to be a statement many can agree about.

And, of course, any time you say a lot of theological stuff in a short about of space, you open yourself up to much critique. Many delegates objected to some of the wording of Memorial 50. The main debate had to do with the line that involuntary sins 'do not incur divine condemnation and judgment' and yet 'still need the merits of the atonement.' In the absence of mention of prevenient grace, this seemed to many like an internal contradiction.

A number of amendments were suggested to improve the statement, but basically just created more disagreement. In the end, Bud Bence (who apparently was part of the team that put the statement together) stood up and said even he was going to vote against the memorial since it seemed like there was more work to do to make it less objectionable. I think that sealed the deal. It needed a 2/3's majority to pass, and it didn't even get a majority (215 NO, 105 YES).

In my opinion, memorial 50 was pretty redundant. If anything, I'd rather see a slightly improved Article 8 than the addition of a completely new article. I would have voted NO simply because I don't think the addition was necessary. I fear, however, that the majority of the NO votes were not motivated by redundancy, but by dissatisfaction with the wording. So I expect that we'll have the denominations theologians write up a more carefully nuanced statement on sin and it'll be proposed again 4 years from now (though I'm still hoping they'll simply propose an amended Article 8 instead).

But voting on doctrine is definitely a strange thing. For instance, I would have voted no even though I didn't really have any problem with the way it was worded (b/c I don't think ANY statement was necessary). But by voting NO I would have been voting the same as a large group of people that wanted a statement but had trouble with the wording as written. In a sense, I had more in common with those that voted YES than NO. Maybe that explains why about 40 delegates apparently didn't even vote on this issue!

Friday, June 01, 2012

Memories of Internship

I was just thinking, it was about 10 years ago today that I would have started my 6-month internship at Fillmore Wesleyan Church. It's a strange time to think about in some ways. The end of my 3rd year of college was rocky. I broke up with a nice girl to get with another nice girl (and the two were very good friends). It was bad Matthew at his best (or good Matthew at his worst?).
In any case, Fillmore is less than 2 hours from my home. My mom dropped me off on my internship. I was staying with the local dentist is a house next to the church. I see him every so often and it takes him a minute to figure out who I am. Clearly I left a big impression!

Early on in my internship, the pastor and secretary both went on planned vacations (I assume they were planned and it wasn't forced by my presence). I was alone at the church during a rainstorm that penetrated beneath the doors of an unfinished lobby construction. I remember calling many phone numbers before I got some people to come and help me keep the water from the basement. That was an interesting evening.

I remember babysitting my former youth pastor's kids (he was pastoring a few miles away) one evening. First thing I did when I got there was jump on the trampoline with the boys. 10 minutes later I was dead tired. I mean DEAD tired. I was useless the rest of the night. I had just learned how out of shape 3 years of college without gym class could make somebody.

I remember trying each week to read the Scripture passage in a way that was... just right. One lady always commented on it being either too fast, too slow, too loud, too quiet, etc.

I remember going to visit 'another nice girl' in the pastor's car (I don't think I realized at the time how gracious it was for him to lend me his car). I remember the car stalling as I was about to leave her house and her dad being pretty nervous because I was in a sun-spot and could've caused an accident.

I remember working (or talking on the phone) late one night at the church. When I went back to the dentist's house, I was locked out (he probably had thought I was already in bed). I had locked the church door behind me. The pastor and his wife had all their lights off. I was stuck. I ended up sleeping in his van (not sure if I ever told him that).

I remember being invited to a number of homes, each time treated very kindly. Being shy, I was glad most of the families were huge and didn't depend on me for conversation!

I remember helping a certain lady with an errand. And then another. And another. I remember realizing, through her, what ministry was sometimes like.

I remember being in charge of the bulletins one week when the secretary was gone. And ruining them. And learning to appreciate secretaries.

I remember getting a chance to preach at Curriers Wesleyan Church for two weeks when their pastor was away. I preached a series on Obadiah!

I remember organizing a evening lecture series with Chris Miller (my creation-evolution friend) that was well attended and created some... interesting discussion.

I remember singing special music with a young girl at the church and being part of the worship team

I remember that me and 'another nice girl' at some point broke up.

I remember liking about 5 different girls at different points during the rest of my internship.

I remember coming over to see why the lights were on at the church one night and seeing my supervisor mopping floors. I remember that and many other examples of his servant-heart being very impactful.

I remember listening to sports radio and hearing the Vegas line on an upcoming football game and wishing I was allowed to bet. It turns out, I would have won big time.

Sometimes it is strange the things we remember and the things we forget. Honestly, I have no recollection of what where the bathroom that I used was in the house I lived at for 6 months. I assume I went to the bathroom multiple times each day, but I have no recollection of this. Some moments I remember with crystal clarity, some are fuzzy, some are probably gone for good. Some people I wouldn't recognize if I saw them today, some I'd know I knew from somewhere but not know where, other's I'd have trouble remembering their names, and still others I've talked to from time to time.

I don't really have any kind of point to this post, just felt like reminiscing. I guess I will say that, last year, I had my very own intern. I know for a fact that he was a better intern than I was (especially in terms of impact). I got a lot more out of my internship than the Fillmore Wesleyan Church got out of me. I'm thankful that they were givers in a time I needed to take.