John Wesley, UMs and the Life to Come

Larry Hollon, director of United Methodist Communications has an article in the Huffington Post that makes some good points. Unfortunately, there are some problems with his the way he phrased his argument. I addressed a response to United Methodist Communications that I’m reprinting below. If Hollon’s article bothered you, I would be more than willing to talk to you about it, but I think if you’ll read my letter you may find that we’re already on the same page.

Here’s my letter:

Dear United Methodist Communications:
I could find no contact email for Larry Hollon directly, I hope that this message will be passed on to him.

In a recent article in the Huffington Post, Larry Hollon wrote, concerning John Wesley: “He did not point them to a better life afterward, but he pointed them toward making life better now. To Wesley, the gospel was not palliative; it was prophetic and down-to-earth practical.” This is inaccurate, it would be better to say “He did not just point them to a better life afterward, but he pointed them toward making life better now.” The word just could also be added to the statement “Faith isn’t just about reaping rewards in the hereafter; it’s about entering into the reign of God now.” Even the most casual of readings of but a few of Wesley’s sermons makes this clear.

My concern is this, I serve as a pastor in a small city in southeast Kansas where there are already people in the community who doubt that United Methodists are true Christians, or that we really take the Bible seriously, etc. Serving a local church in conservative areas, I’m often called to answer for liberal and perceived liberal things said by denominational leaders. I am always willing to defend the United Methodist Church. I am willing to defend the placement of an article in what many of my parishioners would perceive to be a very liberal news outlet like the Huffington Post (after all, if someone really mistakenly thinks that all liberals are godless it makes sense to take the gospel of Jesus Christ where they are). But now there is a good chance that I’ll be answering accusations from parishioners and non-United Methodists alike that John Wesley didn’t care about the life to come. And he did! I even believe that Larry Hollon cares about not only this life, but also the life to come. The problem is that care was not taken and now I’ll be trying to put the statement of a denominational leader in context and making the rather elementary point that of course John Wesley and UM’s believe in life after death. I’ll be doing that to the detriment of being about the work of making disciples of Jesus Christ and the fact that I have to make that rather elementary point will undermine my ability to make the more elusive point (at least in my community) that the unfolding of God’s salvation is not limited to the life to come (the very point that I think Larry Hollon was try to make).

My request is that denominational leaders not make careless statements that make my job more difficult.
Grace and Peace,
John Collins
P.S. My inclusion of my bishop and my DS in this email is merely an attempt to keep them apprised of this action which I have taken.