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March 19, 2012Missiology

Monday is for Missiology: A Methodist Missional Manifesto

When a group of us put out a Missional Manifesto, we were pleased to see it start an important discussion and help clarify what we meant by certain terms. We know that Lutheran Seminarians are now using the document, one Pentecostal Denomination is now using it as their missional definition as they frame their future plans, and many churches and pastors have said, "this is what we mean when we are talking about being missional." That's what we wanted when we were working on it.

We also wanted people to think how they would apply the term to their own contexts. In other words, you may not mean exactly what we mean, but you should clearly articulate what you mean when you talk about being "missional."

Well, some United Methodists have done just that and have launched a website to share their vision of what a missional Methodist looks like:

In recent months there has been a great deal of conversation throughout the United Methodist Church about the future of our church. Spurred by concerns over continuing church decline, and the Call to Action project of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, people throughout the church have been talking over meals and via Facebook about their hopes and dreams, and their fears and concerns about where the UMC is headed. For the Council of Bishops, this conversation has evolved into the Vital Congregations initiative -- an effort to translate the learnings from the Call to Action study into measurable, quantitative practices upon which to hold church leaders accountable. These measures are a step in helping our church address the adaptive challenges that we face.

In parallel with that conversation, a group of clergy and laypersons have been thinking intentionally about the underlying mission of the church. Spurred by conversation throughout various Christian groups around the "missional church," this group believed that it was important to identify common values as United Methodists which provide meaning and purpose to the practices of vitality. It was in the longing for a statement of vision and values that the Missional Manifesto for the People Called United Methodists was born.

On the site, they provide their own take on a "Missional Manifesto." Give it a read and let us know what do you think? The folks who framed their documents will be around today to interact in the comments.

Missional Manifesto for the People Called United Methodists

We believe…

God sends

  • God sent God's people forth in the world as a covenant people revealing to the world God's character.
  • God sent God's self in Jesus Christ, as the embodiment of love and grace so that by Jesus' baptism, ministry, death, and resurrection, God's unfailing love and grace were lived out for all humanity and the powers of sin and death are broken.
  • Jesus sent his followers into the world to proclaim the reign of God, teach the way of Jesus, and offer a vision of a life in which the joy of salvation is is a daily and present experience. God now sends us now in this missional calling empowered by the Holy Spirit, as the Church, to give of ourselves in Christ-like love that we might live into the words of our Communion liturgy to "be for the world the Body of Christ redeemed by his blood."

God sends United Methodists

  • United Methodists affirm the teachings of John Wesley, a man born into the Anglican tradition, raised by parents who were deeply shaped by English Puritanism and Nonconformity, influenced for a time by Moravian piety, and devoted to the Arminian understanding of free grace.
  • United Methodists assert that God's love, not our sin, is the most important truth we know and is the starting point for the story of salvation. Everything that follows is in response to this truth.
  • United Methodists uphold the primacy of God's grace: prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying as the center of human life, empowering all to be disciples of Jesus Christ.
  • United Methodists hold together the love of God (personal piety) and love of neighbor (social holiness) as the holistic understanding our salvation, embodied and lived out. These are the characteristics of the story of salvation presented in holy scripture through the people of Israel and the early Church.
  • United Methodists believe we are saved by grace alone through faith. It is by this grace that we are empowered to do good works. All works of mercy and piety follow as a response to the radical grace of God.
  • United Methodists use the Wesleyan Quadrilateral of Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason to discern Christian truth. We affirm that Scripture is primary for it is a revelation of God and witnesses to the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. We do not worship the Bible but rather the One to whom Scripture testifies. Our discernment is informed by the history of Christian tradition; communal and personal experiences of God's prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace; and our God given ability to use reason.

God sends United Methodists to proclaim the reign of God

  • The reign of God burst into the world with the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
  • The reign of God poured forth on the apostles at Pentecost thrusting them out from behind closed doors into all the world.
  • The reign of God is both here and yet to come, inaugurated into our world by the coming of Christ and finding the ultimate fulfillment in the return of Christ.
  • As witness to the reign of God, we are called to embody it in our Methodist communities as a sign for the whole world.

God sends United Methodists to proclaim the reign of God and to make disciples

  • Disciples in the United Methodist Church hold our baptismal vows as the basis for how we are to live. Baptism is rebirth by water and the Spirit and these vows undergird what Wesley called the General Rules (Do no harm; Do good; Attend to the ordinances of God). All of this points to a Wesleyan way of living a Christian life.
  • Disciples bear the gifts of the Holy Spirit that are given for the building up of the body of Christ and in service to the church and the world.
  • Disciples of Jesus Christ witness to the love and grace of Jesus and follow his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
  • Disciples live a life that is characterized as an ongoing process leading towards Christian perfection, which is to say, continual growth in holiness in heart and life until we reach perfection in love toward God and neighbor in this life.
  • Disciples participate regularly in the Means of Grace, which are tangible signs of the reign of God breaking forth into our daily lives. These acts include: public worship, private and public prayer, regular Bible study, the Lord's Supper, fasting, and Christian conference for mutual support and accountability. All of these are done through faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Disciples extend the table of the Lord into the world affirming the teaching of John Wesley that the Lord's Supper is the plain command of Christ and is to be received as often as possible, with the belief that Christ welcomes all to the table who seek to live in right relationship with God and neighbor, and that communion can be a converting sacrament. In this holy mystery, disciples are nourished by God's grace, believing the sacrament to be of vital importance in the journey toward perfection in God's love.

God sends United Methodists to proclaim the reign of God and to make disciples for the transformation of the world

  • The transformed world is one in which Christ's prayer "God's kingdom come. God's will be done" is fulfilled "on earth as it is in heaven."
  • The transformed world glorifies God in all things and is marked by the unity of love and justice, peace and wholeness, personal and social holiness.
  • The transformed world bears witness to the interconnectedness of all people and values sacrificial love (agape) as the means by which this is lived out. This sacrificial love stands in contrast to any pursuit of power or personal gain sought through coercion.
  • The transformed world is one where even institutional growth and power are subservient to the vision of love, peace, justice and reconciliation.

Therefore…

As United Methodists sent by God to proclaim God's reign and to make disciples of Jesus Christ through the presence and power of God's Holy Spirit, we call on our brothers and sisters across the world to repentance for our failure to faithfully carry out our God-given mission. We affirm God's call to proclaim and make disciples by engaging in practices that live out this calling in the world, trusting the Holy Spirit to bear fruit through us.

Likewise we pledge our commitment to living out the ideals of this manifesto in our daily lives, agreeing to structure our mission, our ministry, and our lives around the demands of discipleship, which is both a gift and a task. As disciples in the United Methodist tradition, we commit to engage in acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion, and to live under John Wesley's General Rules as our way of life. We go forth as a people empowered by the Holy Spirit to carry out God's vision for the people called United Methodist.

Offered with love to our church by:

Kenneth Carter, Ben Gosden, Mike Lindstrom, John Meunier, Michael Rich, Amy Shipley-Yarnall, Jen Unger Kroc, Jay Voorhees and many others who have offered input along the way.

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Monday is for Missiology: A Methodist Missional Manifesto