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Everytime I Feel the Spirit

I've recently been emailing with Keith Taylor, an insightful and thoughtful commenter on this and other blogs, about the church, the Holy Spirit, and what we do now in light of everything that's been going on with judicial council decisions and the division in the church those decision represent.

Keith wrote to me, "When I read the journal of John Wesley, I see the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, the gifts of the Spirit, the Power of God that appears to be missing in the modern UMC. As a UM pastor, why do you think that is so? . . . I wonder where is the Power of the Holy Spirit in the Methodist Renewal Movement of 200+ years ago?"

Good questions. I responded, in part (slightly edited), like this:

"I guess I think we don't see things because we don't (in general) expect to see them, if that makes sense. Sometimes people in my Bible study ask why we don't experience God in such ways as in a "burning bush" like they did in the scriptures. I say that I think it is because God tries to speak to us in ways we're likely to hear God. If we heard a bush talking to us today, we'd probably check ourselves into a hospital. We're not open to seeing God there. But people in biblical times were open to different things because of their knowledge of the natural world being different than ours - the natural world seemed more mysterious, and so perhaps (seemed) more of a place for God to be at work. So, I think maybe we just don't expect the movement of the Holy Spirit anymore, at least not in the same ways, which is often to our detriment. If the Holy Spirit did move among us in bold ways, I wonder if we (liberals, conservatives, whoever) would disagree with the Holy Spirit and try to quash it anyway. (that's my cynicism revealing itself) I, too, think the division in the church is pretty sad - we're all losing out here. I wish I knew how we could work through things."

I'm still struggling with how we can move forward as a church, a denomination together, if that's what we want to do. Can we really live together, and how do we do it?

I think relationship-building is really important. Revwilly commented on my previous post: "We have a major trust issue in the UMC. A relationship cannot survive wihout trust," and then, "Several years ago a study was done an about 1500 people. Each was given a test to determine he/she was a high trust or low trust person. The low trust people had a significantly higher rate of heart disease and died at a much young age. The heart of the UMC is diseased and unless something is done we will die before our time."

I think he is right - we've got some major trust issues. We've become a low trust church. How do we build trust? I think the first step is to decide whether or not we want to build trust with each other.

(PS - Thanks to all of you who've been signing my Map.)


Anonymous said…
"I'm still struggling with how we can move forward as a church"

This is perhaps the most valid thing of all - and to move forward, we need to be in step with the Spirit. Wesley was - we need to be too - let's get back to the basics, seeking God and bringing His Gospel to those who need it.

It really IS that simple.

Think about it - Wesley had nothing. No high tech, very few resources, but he was inspired by God - warmed by His spirit - and faithful to His calling.

Let's live us to the nick name - with method in our madness. His method, which to the world looks like madness.
Revwilly said…
Beth, you are absolutely correct in saying we have to decide whether or not we want to build trust. The problem is that our leaders don't see or understand this issue. They are too consumed with institutional maintainance.
Andy B. said…
I don't know if I agree that all our leaders are "consumed" with maintanance. That is a pretty broad brush stroke to paint with! Clearly maintaining status quo is on the minds of a bunch of church leaders, but there are some pretty fresh things happening at some pretty high levels.
- Andy B.
Revwilly said…
Andy"are some pretty fresh things happening at some pretty high levels" For example? And are there enough? It takes a long time to turn a big ship around. I'm not very sure it can be done.

I've served under three Bishops. Each had called special clergy meeting for the following things: sex, Sabbath and Stewardship(read apportionments. The number of people showing up in UMC churches has been in decline for decades. No Bishop has stepped to the plate to seriously address the issue neither had General Conference. Apparently the Bishops now believe we can learn how to raise more money, but not make more disciples - that being better stewards is more important than being better witnesses.
methodist monk said…
What about the new President of the Council of Bishops Bishop Huie of the Texas Conference? She is starting 10 new churches a year for the next 10 years, closing ineffective churches, requiring renewal and active discipleship in all churches in the conference. She is taking a get on the train or get out of the way approach to making disciples of Christ. Is she "too consumed with institutional maintainance"? It sounds to me like she is moving a large ship rather quickly.
Kristen said…
I certainly hope that we can learn to trust each other and moe forward as a denomanation. We have a lot to offer
Anonymous said…
In general I think the church is more interested in giving people the warm fuzzies so as not to appear offensive. It quenches the spirit the church preaches a social gospel instead of the gospel of Christ, lest they offend.
Randy said…
Last night, I was talking with a handful of people from my church about how to develop an authentic Christian community within a stagnant church. And of course the answer is to be authentic, Spirit-filled Christians ourselves and to invite others to experience the Spirit life with us.

However, one person made an interesting comment. She said, "God doesn't change, but God is always on the move. If the people here aren't willing to move with God, then God will move on to a church that will."

I thought that was very insightful. We may try to box God inside the walls of our church, but God refuses to stay there. I believe that God wants to do a new thing in our community, in our nation, and in our world, and if our church doesn't come along, God might simply leave us behind with our empty prayers and dead faith.

Grace and peace,
Randy Graves
Randy said…
Some of our bishops are, indeed, involved in major renewal efforts. Stephen mentions Bishop Janice Riggle-Huie of the Texas Conference, who also initiated some great church renewal efforts when she was bishop of the Arkansas Area. Bishop Scott Jones is also very passionate about church renewal from an evangelical base. He has a weekly blog. Here's today's link:

Having said that, I agree with Willy that there seems to be a huge disconnect between the bishops and general boards, and the grassroots level of the church. The recent pastoral letter from the Bishops, some of the activities of the Women's Division, and some of the positions of the General Board on Church and Society simply do not reflect the beliefs many (most?) United Methodists.
Revwilly said…
You serve on the GBCS right? Have you ever thought of bringing up the trust issue in that setting?
Beth Quick said…
Hi RevWilly – sorry for the very delayed response. I’m finally getting through email/commments missed on my vacation.

Yes, I do serve on GBCS. We’ve actually been trying to deal with trust issues within the board – haven’t really talked about it in the larger church per se. Last quadrennium we actually brought someone in to help us learn to talk about divisive issues with one another, but generally we all agreed that the person brought in didn’t help us much – generally he made us go through a very tense time together, and made everyone uncomfortable. At this last session, we went through Social Principles training together, and part of that was also learning how to dialogue in a group – I personally thought this went much better.

I think this is definitely a key issue if we hope for the future of the church to not have a split in it. I don’t know how would be best to proceed. I think of my own local congregation, and I think for many (though not all) of them, it wouldn’t occur to them that there is a trust issue in the church – the topics that consume many of us in more leadership roles just aren’t on their radar. What if we built trust issues into General Conference? I can only imagine how chaotic that could be though.

Any ideas? I really do think, for instance, that the relationships built over the blogosphere are more valuable than one might think – I can’t think of when in the ‘real world’ I’ve had so many very unique relationships with people so totally unlike me in thinking theologically. Something about blogging seems to allow some different conversations to happen. But of course, blogging isn’t tension free either ;)

Thanks for the questions. Wish I had better answers!
Anonymous said…
You need to trust the laity, we are experiencing the Holy spirit directly and the UMC has no clue. For the past 18 years I have been making by hand an illuminated manuscript of the Bible trusting in God that the pages will turn out right by surrendering myself to the Holy spirit as I write the page. Right now I am working on a set of Gospels that contain 304 pages of illuminations in 550 pages total, all hand made. I use it to evangelize people to encourage them to go back to church as the beauty of the pages are non threatening and they ask questions about the work and about faith. When they say that they have not been in church in a long time, I encourage them to go back. And I have received blessings from the Archbishop of York and Pope John Paul II, and John Paul knew I was a Methodist and that the Bible I am copying is the KJV.
I dont use computers that would deny the interaction with the Holy spirit.
When I write the pages I have to trust God that the page will turn out right, at that moment the ink touches the page is when the inspiration comes to decide how to decorate the page to make it as beautiful as possible, to encounter the Holy Spirit in an unique way and to put your faith in God.
But my bishop, doens't know about this, I tried to contact him , but he is too busy.
People in my Sunday school class we have a prayer group where we have seen quite a few miracles, a lady's leg was set overnight after a car accident, she could not be operated on right away due to the loss of blood, a compound fracture of the leg even though nobody touched her; where a man who was brain dead came back to life and is fine now. We seem to be good at praying people out of comas too. I have seen many miracles, my brothers hands caught fire and were severely burned, but they grew back without any scars and even the nerves grew back through the power of prayer. I was knifed on Maunday Thursday in the same place they pierced Jesus and I lived becasue teh blade had to have curved insideof me even though it was a stilleto and didn't, I got out of the hospital on Easter Sunday. Does my Bishop know about all this, of course not.
There is a lady in our church who runs the food service, she drives every friday night down to huntsville to the womens prison and ministers to the inmates at 2 in the morning and then drives back to work the next day. Does my bishop know about this, of course not. We are lay people, the UMC can't handle Lay people actually full of the spirit, after all that is something that only happened when WEsley was preaching, it doens't happen iin our churches unless it is controlled by some program.
God knows what we do! We support our local church and we are the volunteers that help out.
Maybe the UMC needs to stop worrying about loosing people and all of this political mumbo jumbo and get back to finding out what its members are doing!

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