While overwhelmingly rejecting resolutions from the leadership of two liberal-dominated annual conferences condemning the ministry of IRD, the 2008 General Conference also—in a pleasant surprise—overwhelmingly adopted a statement of principles for Christian political engagement submitted by an IRD/UMAction staffer.
The statement articulates many of the principles to which IRD has consistently called church leaders, standing in stark contrast to the approach taken by the Washington lobby offices of mainline denominations.
Now that this is an official part of the United Methodist Church’s teaching, we hope that more United Methodist officials will give more weight to these principles.
The entire resolution (noting the one essentially cosmetic change made in committee) is as follows:
On Humility, Politics, and Christian Unity
WHEREAS, in recent years, there has been significant discussion of public policy issues within The United Methodist Church as well as a significant amount of religious rhetoric in the political arenas of the societies surrounding many of our churches; and
WHEREAS, the United Methodist Church, as well as the broader body of Christ, includes faithful members with a very wide spectrum of political views; and
WHEREAS, this diversity should be celebrated as a strength rather than ignored or suppressed; and
WHEREAS, the unity that United Methodists enjoy in Christ Jesus transcends worldly divisions (Mark 9:38-41; 1 Corinthians 1:10-25; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11); and
WHEREAS, our unity as Christians is found in repentance for our sins, acceptance of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, and submission to the will of God as revealed in Scripture, rather than in any secular or partisan political agenda; and
WHEREAS, an important maxim of John Wesley for the Methodist movement was “As to all opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think” (Book of Discipline ¶ 102); and
WHEREAS, many, if not most, disagreements over public policy issues amount to differing prudential judgments about the most effective means for advancing commonly desired ends, such as improving the economy or effectively protecting citizens from terrorism; and
WHEREAS, Scriptural teaching does not unambiguously mandate a specific position that all Christians must take on every piece of legislation discussed in modern local, state, and national legislatures; and
WHEREAS the spirit of love and unity that Christians are called to have with one another (John 13:34-35; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Galatians 6:1-10; Ephesians 4:1-16; Colossians 3:12-17) stands in sharp contrast to the harsh divisiveness that characterizes secular politics;
WHEREAS, there is risk of an unnecessary and unscriptural (Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:20) divisiveness being injected into some United Methodist and other Christian churches because of fights over divisive public policy debates whose underlying principles “do not strike at the root of Christianity”; and
Therefore, be it resolved, that the 2008 General Conference hereby affirms that differing opinions in public policy debates generally “do not strike at the root of Christianity”; and
Be it further resolved, that we call on
politicians, political activists, and church leaders of all denominationsall Christian people in political and ecclesiastical realmsto have the humility to be cautious of asserting that God is on their side with regard to specific public policy proposals; and
Be it further resolved, that we continue to affirm the importance of conscientious and humble Christian social engagement for the sake of advancing justice and the common good.