I have been a United Methodist all my life. Like many kids of my (or any) generation, I was dragged to Sunday School whenever my mother had the energy to put up with my protests. I was confirmed in sixth grade and then didn’t darken the doors of the church for five years. When I started getting into teenage trouble, I went looking for answers, and I knew from confirmation class that the church was the place to find them. My own experience of a “heart strangely warmed,” and a call to ministry soon followed, and I’ve been a Christian of the United Methodist persuasion ever since.
It’s not always been a comfortable relationship. In my college years I was drawn toward the Charismatic movement; later, toward the liturgical traditions of Anglicanism. As a result of making three films about the role of the church in the Nazi era, I have been powerfully gripped by the call to love neighbor as self and to pursue justice. I’ve been frustrated by Methodism’s tendency to sit on the fence, whether in relation to its cautious embrace of the life of the Spirit, the ancient traditions of worship, or the hesitance to take risks on behalf of the “least of these.” But I’ve remained a loyal United Methodist through the years because wherever I’ve been in my walk with Christ, I have been supported, nurtured, and challenged, and I’ve always found an example, mentor, and encourager in our founder, John Wesley.
I have to be honest: I can’t say with certainty that I see a bright future for our movement. There have been times in which we’ve stepped out of the boat and walked on the water toward Christ. These days we seem to be sinking, focusing on the impossibility of the task rather than the call that got us out of the boat. But we have all the ingredients to be a vital, faithful church. As I am certain that God has called me to pursue the call of Christ as a clergy member of this denomination, I will continue to look for inspiration from her and to challenge her to strive for the very best.