This week we began to receive the reports of the Nashville meeting between evangelicals and progressives in the United Methodist Church. Here is an excerpt from the report that does an excellent job of illustrating the sharp differences in point of view.
"With few exceptions, the group agreed with Bishop Judith Craig who described two "divergent world views, ways of coming at reality" related to God's revelation to humanity. The first, she said, believes that the "Holy Spirit's activity is such that we continue to receive new revelation of God" while the other "believes the Holy Spirit is active in helping us comprehend what has already been revealed."
People who support the first view believe "God is still unfolding truths that have not yet been disclosed and live comfortably with a wide variety of convictions," she said, while those in the second group "need to have delineated an understanding of God's intent."
Many participants agreed with Craig that this point of difference is a the center of many theological controversies in the church. "Bishop Craig has stated the issue very clearly," said Dunnam. "It is the point that threatens to undermine the unity of the church."
While most of the discussions were polite and civil, direct confrontation did occur. One of the most outspoken proponents of a clear core of beliefs with strict limits and delineated theological boundaries was John Gardner, a layman who teaches at the University of Wisconsin.
Responding to Craig's analysis, Gardner said, "If your view prevails, a number of us will exit the church." He attacked her position as "empty pluralism" and "terribly wrong," but he later apologized publicly for the sharpness of his remarks.
The Rev. Philip Wogaman, pastor of Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, said revelation is not revelation until it is received. "Is no new light to be shed in our age?" he asked."
I appreciate Bishop Craig's candor. The issue of revealed truth really is the core issue we face. I was afraid there would be too much focus on trying to paper over differences or too much focus on social issues such as abortion and homosexuality. As an evangelical, I find the notion that foundational revelation is ongoing quite disturbing and completely intolerable. To be orthodox is to believe that the revelation once received in Scripture is not revokable. I believe this to be the basic belief of Christianity in general and Methodism in particular.
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