Image by Diego Plentz via Flickr
In a recent post, I discussed Harmon's book and his argument against a rejection of denominationalism amongst the young. In this post, I intend to put the case for belonging to more than one tradition.
I don't disagree with Harmon at all and indeed, I tend to agree that digging deep into a single tradition has significant advantages. I believe we are formed by our traditions. Years of singing Methodist hymns has formed my beliefs in ways I am gradually becoming aware of.
Wesley's Arminianism was in some respects exclusive. John Wesley warmily invited those who did not like the Methodist way to move to other traditions. His reason for this was that he wanted a people committed to meeting in classes for spiritual direction. They would put down roots deep into the faith, under the guidance of each other. Only then could they open their doors to others.
However, from an ecumenical point of view belonging to more than one tradition can have advantages. Often people who, for example, are brought up in one tradition and then change to another, can in later life play a significant role bridging the two traditions. This might be something like a translater who understands both traditions.
Many Methodists, for example, worship in other churches. They might worship at the parish church and join the parochial parish council. Is it possible for them to retain their identity as Methodists? It is certainly possible to be formally a member of the Methodist Church, whilst fully committed to Anglican Parish life. And many would argue they are still Methodists although to all appearances fully committed to the Parish.
This becomes even more important when we ask, what makes a Methodist? What is central to Methodist identity? (The same argument would apply to any tradition.) If the Methodist Church were allowed to die and to become a part of a wider tradition such as the Church of England, would the Methodists remain Methodist?
The question is, what aspects of Methodism are core to Methodist self-identity? Is it connexionalism? Is it Arminianism? Some Methodists would, I suspect, have no problem with this. Some because they are latecomers who have not taken on board Methodism, simply worshipping in a particular church because they like it. But even life long Methodists might find it possible to remain a Methodist in another tradition. Others would not.
Perhaps it is those who have already made this type of transition who could show the way. The challenge is how in unity, we can maintain our diversity.