The Council of Bishops has just released a “Pastoral Letter” in response to the Judicial Council’s ruling that reversed a bishop’s decision to place a pastor on a leave of absence for denying membership to a practicing homosexual.
I have not yet digested the entirety of the letter, but came to this sentence that, frankly, set me off: “The United Methodist Church is committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ with all people.” (emphasis added) I cannot take it anymore! Mrs. Weisinger, help me!
Mrs. Eloise Weisinger was my Senior English Teacher. She had the patience and the passion finally to open the doors of my mind to grammar. Now I wish she were available for our denomination.
It has long struck me that we, as a church long since ceased ministering “to” anyone. To claim we were in ministry “to” someone would obviously imply that someone was in need of our help, thus we would be putting ourselves above another.
Putting ourselves above anyone is something we United Methodists would never do. (Except the Religious Right, but they are barely human anyway) In our concern never to do anything that could be conceivably construed as condescending, we only are in ministry “with” others; never “for” or “to” others.
Ah, but the dear Bishops, our Loyal Leaders, have taken it one step further. Now we are no longer to be part of the Great Commission of making disciples of Jesus Christ “of” all people; we want to make disciples of Jesus Christ “with” all people.
Please, Mrs. Weisinger, correct me if I am wrong, but the way I read “make disciples of Jesus Christ with all people” assumes that all people are about the task of making disciples of Jesus Christ. Since everyone is about this same business, we happily, then, join in the work.
But is it fair or wise to assume that everyone is about the business of making disciples of Jesus Christ? Are our Muslim brethren aware they are on such a task? Ought we suppose the Hindi have a lick of interest in making disciples of Jesus Christ “with” us?
Prepositions are generally small words. But, my, can they make a great deal of difference!
Maybe they are hoping that we will all strain the “preposition” and “swallow” the silken lie that judgement doesn’t begin with the household of God?…no one has to be accountable…no one needs accountability. Blend with a friend. Your probability of survival increases with a greater number of those who are conforming just like you.
Maybe the Bishops unknowlingly stated their real intentions when they used the word “with.” Maybe religious pluralism is what they mean by the use of this word. I know I am being paranoid.
As an old linguistics major once upon a time, I was taught that a preposition is anything a plane can do to a cloud. Aha!! Now we have a new definition: anything the Council of Bishops can do with the Body of Christ.