Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Can't We Leave Jesus Out?

When I turned eighteen, I thought it would be a good idea to get a cross and flame tattoo on my back. I had grown up United Methodist and attributed much of my radical politics to my mother, who is a pastor, and because of that, I also attributed those radical politics to The UMC. Both my parents taught me social justice as a Christian value. So I was pretty surprised after I turned eighteen to see that The UMC was not as radical a place as I thought it was. I was appalled to find out that The UMC did not ordain what the Discipline names self-avowed, practicing homosexuals.

Later, after becoming a lay delegate to Annual Conference as a Junior, I was appalled at the opulence of the hotels our conference is held in and the slow-moving bureaucracy that is our church. So I wondered: what were some of the ways I could transform that tattoo into something else, something no longer Methodist-related? But then I went to Student Forum, where I learned about MOSAIC and OnFire, the young adult chapter of MFSA. Here were places where I saw hope for making The UMC into that church I thought it was growing up, that church that practiced the justice that Jesus taught us.

As a seminarian at Drew Theological School, I have had the opportunity to participate in the OnFire Borderlinks immersion trip to the border between the USA and Mexico and later to mobilize with others, including so many United Methodists, on Washington for immigration reform. Those moments were moments where I was proud to be United Methodist, amidst these people working for justice in the world and in our church.

Last semester, I researched Methodist publications for their reactions to the Red Scare, in light of the fearmongering in our time, and was so inspired by what I read about MFSA. In the new history of United Methodism, for instance, the authors write,

"In 1953 [Rev. Jack] McMichael [of the Methodist Federation for Social Action] appeared before the [House Committee on UnAmerican Activities] and challenged its accusations of Communist subversion with such telling references to the ministry of Jesus that an aggravated committee member shouted, 'Can't we leave Jesus out.'" 1
MFSA has shown me that Jesus' ministry is one of subversion, and that The United Methodist Church can live into that same ministry with the help of a few folks committed to justice. Why MFSA? Because they won't leave Jesus out of it; they are working to bring the church into that vision of justice Jesus taught us.


Shannon is a seminarian and Drew Theological School in Madison, New Jersey, and is pursing ordination in the Baltimore-Washington Conference.

1 Russell E. Richey, Kenneth E. Rowe, and Jean Miller Schmidt, The Methodist History in America: A History, vol. 1, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2010) 420.