Several years ago my family and I, while on Renewal Leave, had the opportunity to visit Wittenburg in Germany, the town where Martin Luther nailed the infamous 95 Theses to the Castle Church Doors. I enjoyed the visit very much, though my family could hardly wait to leave! No one could have imagined what Luther's actions would unleash, let alone fathom the direction the Reformation would take.
Last week Billy Abraham shared a more modest five theses about the future of the United Methodist Church with clergy in Raleigh, North Carolina in an address entitled: "At Full Liberty in the Flight from the Wrath to Come: A Practical Platform for United Methodists."
As the title suggests, the Theses point to a "practical platform" that speak to United Methodist self-understanding and hope of renewal. Persons familiar with Abraham's Canonical Theism Project will find more food for thought here. Each of the Theses have positive and negative consequences.
Thesis One: United Methodism belongs historically in a third incarnation of primitive or early or ancient Christianity that is genuinely different from both its Catholic and Protestant siblings and that deserves a fresh and full implementation in our own day and age.
Translation: We should stop thinking of the United Methodist Church as an une eglise manque, or, in the words of Albert Outler, as an ecclesiastical crock. Stop apologizing for being United Methodists!
Thesis Two: Clarity about the mission of making disciples is an essential first-step in the ordering of the life of the United Methodist Church as quickly as is humanly possible.
Translation: Quit the "messiah complex" about the transforming the world and keep the mission of the church short and succint: Our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Period!
Thesis Three: The United Methodist Church should take the next twelve years and figure out how to actually make robust disciples of Jesus Christ.
Translation: Figure out what it means to be a disciple of Christ and explore common efforts to provide solid catechesis and spiritual formation.
Thesis Four: United Methodists should immerse themselves afresh without apology in the actual canonical faith of the church bequeathed to us in the canonical treasures of Methodism.
Translation: Revisit the rich canonical heritage of the people called Methodists and search for the best ways to shape the mission of the church.
Thesis Five: Whatever happens in the wider church it is our responsibility and privilege as leaders and members to do all we can personally to implement the modest mandates of the preceding Theses in our own lives and ministries.
Translation: Stop waiting around for others to fix the church and get on with the work at hand wherever we are.
Never one to back away from deeper convesation, Professor Abraham always seems to find way of prompting and provoking. Hopefully, in the days ahead, his five Theses will spark further reflection and discussion, if not action.