Monday, January 28, 2013

Mary Brooke Casad: Why I Am a United Methodist

I am a United Methodist by birth and by choice. My Methodist roots go back to my mother’s ancestors who gave land for a Methodist church to be built in Mississippi in the 1800s, to my father’s ancestors who became Methodists when Texas was a republic. Dr. Billy Abraham has teasingly called me a “genetic Methodist.” Perhaps I am a living testimony to the old saying: “I’m Methodist born, Methodist bred and when I die, I’ll be Methodist dead!” With such a long and strong tradition of Methodism in my heritage, there’s no question that it has shaped my identity. It’s at the core of who I am.

But at some point, we all must come to terms with our heritage. A young adult friend with a background like mine summed it up best: “I studied many other religions, and decided ‘Congratulations, Mom and Dad, the Methodists got it right.’ I’ve claimed my Wesleyan roots for myself.”

So, why do I claim my Wesleyan roots? What is it that we United Methodists “get right?”

Personal piety—social holiness

My language for this is “changed heart, changed world…changed world, changed heart.” We value John Wesley’s heart-warming experience on Aldersgate Street in London, where he felt Jesus had forgiven his sins, and realized his life could be lived in response to God’s grace. The actions springing from his strangely-warmed heart created a movement of transformation that continues to this day.

If our hearts are truly changed, then we bear fruit as we share the love of Christ through our actions and words. As others receive Christ’s love, they experience a changed heart. And the cycle begins again. It requires a delicate balance, with equal attention to both personal and social holiness.

Christ’s calling on our lives demands our all. Our response to God’s love is to serve God by serving others.

Grace—Prevenient, Justifying, Sanctifying

Life’s a journey, and God’s with us every step of the way, even when we don’t know it. God’s at work in our lives, and graciously invites us into relationship, so that we might live into the fullness of who God created us to be. In life, in death, in life beyond death, God loves and cares for us!

Catholic Spirit

Wesley spoke of the ‘catholic spirit’ or “universal spirit” meaning that we view ourselves as a part of the worldwide Body of Christ, and thus seek to dwell in unity with all whom Christ calls. We extend respect and openness to persons of all faiths, as we seek to “offer Christ” through Christ-like actions.

Three Simple Rules

Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God by attending upon all the ordinances of God. They sound simple, but they are very hard to live out! That’s why we come together in Christian community, to learn, to practice our faith, to hold one another accountable in love.

Wesleyan Quadrilateral

With fellow Christians, we look to Scripture as the primary focus of our faith, but through the lenses of tradition, reason and experience. For me, this mirrors Wesley’s emphasis on the whole person, that we bring the entire essence of our humanity to bear on engaging the Scriptures, in order to truly embrace and live out God’s Word.

Living the United Methodist way requires intentionality. Wesley’s way of living out the Christian faith requires a discipline, a “method.” But, oh, what joyful and grace-filled lives I’ve witnessed as a result! When I am with a community who believes these things with all their hearts, and strives to live these beliefs every day, then I know why I am a United Methodist. I am home.

Mary Brooke Casad is the former Executive Secretary of the Connectional Table. She chairs the Foundation for Evangelism Trustees and is a director of the Texas Methodist Foundation Board.

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