Thursday, October 25, 2012

Letter to the Editor: Wall Street Journal: The Guaranteed Appointment in the United Methodist Church

The Wall Street Journal To The Editor October 24, 2012 To the Editor: Your welcome article today on the United Methodist guaranteed appointment spotlights a crucial issue for our beloved church and its future. However, your emphasis on employment security (surely a part of the issue) eclipses the central, primary matter at hand: the freedom of the pulpit. Methodism through itinerancy and appointment has historically honored and protected a free pulpit, wherefrom the truth of the gospel may be preached without undue intimidation (by bishops, by congregations, or by cultural dispositions—such as racism, sexism and homophobia). Today in our church a minister can preach the truth and face the consequences, but still at a minimum feed his or her family—through the guaranteed appointment. The proposed change would change the balance of responsibility and authority completely, in a completely un-Methodist way. So why have we been tempted to exchange our birthright for a mess of pottage? The proposed change seeks to ease the superintending work of removing incompetent clergy. Yet we already have multiple, effective, disciplinary ways to do so. It’s just that they all take time and energy and work. And they should. The freedom of the pulpit is worth it, the free pulpit from which the grace, freedom, and love of the gospel were so eloquently preached by John Wesley and so beautifully sung by Charles Wesley, not so long ago. Rev. Dr. Robert Allan Hill Dean, Marsh Chapel Professor, New Testament and Pastoral Theology Chaplain to the University, Office of Religious Life Boston University