An advocacy group disrupted the meeting of the United Methodist Connectional Table on November 19th. The Connectional Table, which coordinates the global ministries of the denomination, was in its morning session when the Reverend Julie Todd began chanting the names of people who had “lost their clergy credentials, abandoned plans to go into United Methodist ministry or left the church because of the denomination’s position on homosexuality”.
After discussion, the meeting agenda was altered to allow for Christian conferencing with Love Prevails advocates. Rev. Todd told the members of the Connectional Table, “Jesus Christ came singing love, Jesus Christ died singing love, Jesus Christ arose in silence. If the song is to continue, we must do the singing. And I came singing love today. I hope that you heard that. I came singing love particularly for the leaders that we have lost already as a result of the exclusionary practices. . . . Really, what we’re asking you to do is to help us keep singing the song.”
Here is an example of advocacy from a Wesleyan perspective-- even-temperedly acting in solidarity with the oppressed. This post argues that using the virtue of meekness to characterize advocacy actions as Wesleyan is appropriate given John Wesley’s description of meekness in UM doctrinal sermons 22 and 33 as well as in the doctrinal Notes for Matthew 5:5.
Meekness as a mode of advocacy involves certain kinds of attitudes and particular ways of behaving. Meek advocates are aware of injustice, feel indignant about it, and react against it. Their confrontations with the unjust are guided by knowledge more than by outrage. Their strategies for protest and reform are regulated by faith and love not by disdain. Their zeal for justice is “tempered, in every thought, and word, and work” by love of God and Neighbor.
Meek advocates are inwardly and outwardly gentle. They hate discrimination, but they do not hate the bigot. They love the oppressor as much as they love the oppressed. This loving-kindness motivates them to promote peace between enemies and to reconcile the estranged.
Wesley identified the meek as “They that hold all their passions and affections evenly balanced.” Those who work at controlling their temper will increasingly become more even-tempered, which suggests that advocacy can be a means of grace (Sermon 22, par. 1.6). If engaging in a practice causes someone to repent or if it strengthens their faith, or if they grow in virtue, then that practice has become a channel through which God’s grace flows.
Repentance, Faith, and Holiness are the primary evidence of the working of God’s grace. In the case of exercising the virtue of meekness by confronting evil with gentleness, the evidence produced is that of Holiness.
I would love to hear from those of you who have experienced advocacy as a means of grace.