A little bit (too much) about myself. (Written 2014-02-22)
My name is Steven B. Wiegner. I suppose in recent years it’s become a hobby of mine to follow The United Methodist Church.
The 2008 Discipline (as well as the 2012 Discipline) provides accordingly for the vows one takes when joining a local church:
¶ 217. When persons unite as professing members with a local United Methodist church, they profess their faith in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; in Jesus Christ his only Son, and in the Holy Spirit. Thus, they make known their desire to live their daily lives as disciples of Jesus Christ. They covenant together with God and with the members of the local church to keep the vows which are a part of the order of confirmation and reception into the Church:
- To renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of the world, and repent of their sin;
- To accept the freedom and power God gives them to resist evil, injustice, and oppression;
- To confess Jesus Christ as Savior, put their whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as their Lord;
- To remain faithful members of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world;
- To be loyal to Christ through The United Methodist Church and do all in their power to strengthen its ministries;
- To faithfully participate in its ministries by their prayers, their presence, their gifts, their service, and their witness;
- To receive and profess the Christian faith as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.
(Two quick notes: First, I don’t want to leave people with the impression that the above vows have to be memorized! It wouldn’t surprise me if a pastor somewhere required memorization, but it’s not required by the Discipline. Second, when I was confirmed at the age of 12, the vows were different. Here’s what they were in the 1992 Discipline. The 1984 Discipline would have been controlling when I was 12, but I don’t have a copy available.)
I doubt I’ll be saying the relevant vows again. I say “doubt” because I know how stories involving those who do not doubt often end. The person makes some bold statement about “Being better than the Church.” Before the person realizes what has happened, the person is wearing short sleeves with a tie and lecturing women on how to dress. I don’t want this future for myself.
Why do I even blog about The United Methodist Church? I can think of a couple reasons:
For one, there’s Martha Carrier. She hanged at “Gallows Hill” in Salem on August 19, 1692. It might not be that unusual for descendants of European settlers to be able to trace their ancestry back to someone in Salem. I can trace my ancestry back ten generations to Martha Carrier, through her son Thomas Carrier Jr. History reads differently through personal connections.
We need not be “presentists” in looking at the Salem Witch Trials. Four years afterwards some of the jurors expressed regret. There are many difficult lessons that we might still learn from those difficult times. One is the importance of the right to a trial and what Anglo-American jurisprudence has learned since then. The Constitution of The United Methodist Church claims a right to trial (¶ 20). I want to hold The United Methodist Church to its own law.
Second, there’s the fact that, at the end of 2012, the total pension assets of The United Methodist Church were over 18,000 million U.S. dollars. (See this report on “The world’s 300 largest pension funds” from Towers Watson: “United Methodist Church” is listed at number 200.) I don’t deny that there many “little churches” that are struggling and closing. Yet the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits is itself a major corporation. Of course it has fiduciary duties. I find it strange that ¶ 1508.4 apparently gives this general agency authority to give “primary consideration” to soundness and safety of investments over consideration of the Social Principles. (At what level: a portfolio level? At the level of individual investments?) “Socially Responsible Investing” is an area that deserves future scrutiny throughout the United States. I just wonder if The United Methodist Church can lead or it will meekly follow here. Anyway, The United Methodist Church has lots of different faces. The financial might of the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits is one that isn’t shown enough.
I could probably summarize the two above points as: I prefer to speak up now and risk being ignored/ridiculed rather than stay silent and regret that I didn’t speak up. Maybe I’ll make it easier for others to speak. Maybe it won’t matter what I say. Whatever the future holds, having spoken I can “deliver my own soul.”
Why don’t I allow comments?
Maybe in the future I will. I don’t know.
I guess allowing comments would help me “build my brand.” I can’t speak for anyone else. For myself, that’s one reason I’m not allowing comments. “Building my brand” via The United Methodist Church doesn’t feel right to me.
Allowing comments is certainly not a bad thing: I’m sure I’ll comment in other places. Right now I think of this blog as “an online diary where I can publicly post my thoughts.” I’m not interested in policing a comments section. I’ve also spent too much of my life in front of a screen, often hiding.
Actually, I’m not so worried about having to “police” a comments section so much as having it dominated by people warning about Hell. Even if they don’t use the word “H-E-double-hockey-sticks”, that’s what they’re talking about.
Maybe it would help to describe a “born again” narrative in relation to bumper stickers:
“I was an almost-Christian liberal driving on the highway when suddenly I read a bumper sticker about eternal damnation. I had heard that same warning several times in different places. Others reading these same words might have heard but a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal, but something about the specific font choice led the Holy Spirit to help me see that I am a disgusting sinner before the eyes of God, and … ”
I suppose the above narrative is possible, but that possibility doesn’t mean that I have to allow bumper stickers on my metaphorical car.
Those instantly offended by the above might wish to ask themselves: how serious are you about hearing what others think and feel about salvation? This isn’t about you. This isn’t about me either.
For now, if I say something really wrong, then post or talk about it yourself. This might sound callous, but I’m just trying to set limits for myself. “Something is wrong with The United Methodist Church” isn’t much different than saying “Something is wrong on the Internet.” Besides, I wish I could talk “IRL” more than I do. Spending more time online won’t change that.
Since these might not be obvious, I want to clarify a couple things:
- I’m not in the habit of calling myself “Steven B. Wiegner”. Yes, it is my name.
- The opinions expressed here — and I suppose which are “opinions” could itself be an opinion — are mine and mine alone.