Original Posting At http://www.larryhollon.com/blog/2018/06/20/do-no-harm/
Two United Methodist clergypersons who helped bring charges within church processes against Attorney General Jeff Sessions for instituting family separation write a cogent, compelling explanation in an op-ed published today.
They clearly articulate the United Methodist tradition, placing their action squarely within the theology of the Wesleyan movement and John Wesley’s preaching.
Wesley organized small study groups made up of the poor who were marginalized and overlooked by key institutions, including the church, in 18th century England.
He instructed them to follow three simple rules: “Firstly, by doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind…; Secondly, by doing good; by being in every kind merciful after their power; as they have opportunity, doing good of every possible sort, and, as far as possible, to all men (sic); Thirdly, By attending upon all the ordinances of God; such are:
The public worship of God.
The ministry of the Word, either read or expounded.
The Supper of the Lord.
Family and private prayer.
Searching the Scriptures.
Fasting or abstinence.”
In 2007, retired U.S. Bishop Reuben Job abbreviated these succinctly in his small book Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living. “Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.”
Beyond the three simple rules a body of social teaching known as the Social Principles adopted by United Methodists through their global represesentatives known as the General Conference have a section on The Nurturing Community.
Within this section is the affirmation of the importance of family: “We believe the family to be the basic human community through which persons are nurtured and sustained in mutual love, responsibility, respect, and fidelity. We affirm the importance of loving parents for all children.”
The Rev. Monica Corsaro and The Rev. David Wright have done exactly what United Methodists should have done in explaining their actions.
They have engaged the public conversation in a way that is within the finest mainstream theological tradition.
They have explained how faith can inform public policy by pressing for moral behavior and not by imposing doctrinaire dogma on others.
They have provided a clarion call for compassion and reconciliation based upon their understanding of Wesleyan theology, a theology of grace, and of graciousness coupled with a strong commitment to social outreach with particular attention to be with the poor.
They illustrate how United Methodists emphasize two important components of Christian faith: personal and social piety. The two cannot be separated.
The introduction to the Social Principles states: we care enough about people’s lives to risk interpreting God’s love, to take a stand, to call each of us into a response, no matter how controversial or complex.
The Rev. Ms. Corsaro and The Rev. Mr. Wright have provided us an instructive and helpful public witness.
My hunch is that Mr. Wesley would be proud.