A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A United Methodist Voice - Rev. Adam Hamilton

When John Wesley, the founder of Methodism died in 1791, the movement continued on thanks to the concept of "holy conferencing." Wesley had put into place a system that would bring the preachers together to make important decisions to help Methodism continue to grow and flourish.

Even with this system in place, everyone continued to look to Wesley for guidance and direction.  After his death, many of them probably had WWWD bracelets made (What Would Wesley Do?) The influence of Wesley goes to show how influential he was as a leader for this rapidly growing reform movement within the Church of England.

As Methodism began to spread into America, there was a need for this movement to become a new denomination due to the unique situation of the American Revolutionary War. Very few of the American colonists wanted to be buddies with a group of Methodist type people who continued to use the Church of England franchise label. Wesley, an ardent supporter of church unity very reluctantly agreed to allow for this separation only because of these very unique and unpreventable circumstances.

Over the course of our Methodist history, we have continued to depend on "holy conferencing" and the collective wisdom of church representatives to make critical decisions related to the issues facing the denomination. To this day, the United Methodist Church is structured in such a way to help as many people as possible have a voice in our denomination.  Our Bishops facilitate in this process and they provide an important prophetic and pastoral voice through their sacred office but we no longer have that singular voice like Wesley to speak for the denomination as a whole.

In the absence of that one voice, Methodism has been blessed with individuals who have "stood out" during their particular era.  Francis Asbury, Peter Cartwright, and in the 20th century, noted Methodist historian Dr. Albert Outler come to mind.

In more recent times, that voice has become Rev. Adam Hamilton, Senior Pastor of Church of the Resurrection United Methodist Church in Leawood, Kansas, which is the largest UMC congregation.  If you have attended a United Methodist Sunday School or bible study for at least a year, chances are pretty good that you have used some of Adam's resources such as "Confronting the Controversies," "Why? Making Sense of God's Will," and "Christianity & World Religions."

More recently, Adam has completed the third part of a trilogy of resources called "The Way" which covers the healing and teaching ministry of Jesus.  The other two parts included studies on the birth of Jesus and Jesus' death and resurrection.

Adam and his church host annual leadership seminars.  This past fall, our church sent three of our staff members to the conference and came back with a lot of great resources and ideas to use in our own setting.

One of Adam's many gifts in ministry is in his communication/teaching/preaching skills.  He approaches the scriptures and theological understandings with an open mind and utilizes Wesley's quadrilateral approach (scripture is best interpreted by being informed by church tradition, reason, and experience.)  By using this approach, Adam spends a lot of time reading and studying a topic. His pastoral experience also helps to shed light on various issues that face the church today.

This more open minded and centrist approach has resonated with many people who are tired of the old worn out labels of conservative and liberal.  Adam offers this third way that bridges the gap.

For the last couple of years, Adam has been the keynote speaker at several of our Annual Conferences.  He has been sharing key thoughts on what it means to be a vital church in the 21st century.

For all of these reasons, the Inaugural Committee has invited Adam Hamilton to preach the service at the Inaugural interfaith prayer service at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. beginning at 10:30 am today. You can watch it live at this site or listen to it when it gets archived beginning sometime tomorrow.

In many ways, Adam Hamilton has become the unofficial spokesperson of the United Methodist Church. We still have our "holy conferencing" structure which is designed to include many voices but sometimes, we need that one voice to speak a hopeful word to a broken and hurting world.

I'm glad that voice is Adam Hamilton.

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