“I don’t think that word means what you think it does.” Any halfway knowledgeable fan of the movie The Princess Bride can recite that line and receive a chuckle from any other fan. It’s a classic movie line. It always makes me smile. Unfortunately, using words which can have different meanings to people can be problematic…especially if they are buzz words to a particular group.
My beloved United Methodist Church is now involved in a struggle for its future…not that we will cease to exist but more to see what we will look like in the future. And in the midst of the struggle are those words…those words that some of each faction can say: I don’t think that word means what you think it does.
Words like scriptural holiness…does that refer to our position on homosexuality or does it refer to ALL scripture including slavery, divorce, selling our possessions and giving all the money to the poor, women in leadership, haircuts, dietary laws and the rest?
Another word is covenant…does that refer to part of our covenant or all of it including things like paying apportionments, not doing second baptisms, baptizing infants and remaining loyal to the United Methodist Church?
Finally there is the use of the name of (John) Wesley…just wondering which (John) Wesley we are referring to? As I recall a quote from my Bob Tuttle led Wesley class: “He was not a slave to the bugaboo of consistency.” So are we aligning with the Wesley of the classes and rules, the Wesley that was called a “papist”, the Wesley that was accused of being antinomian, the Wesley of the catholic spirit or the Wesley who was not a literalist?
We that love the church seem to be at an impasse…divided into camps based on these words (and of course, many more). I am wondering if it is possible to sit down and talk with mutual respect and to realize many of us love those same words but may understand them differently. I am wondering if there really is a “way forward” for the one United Methodist Church.
I hope there is!