When John Wesley began the Methodist movement almost 300 years ago, he placed a high value on accountability. Early Methodists were required to join small, intimate groups whose sole purpose was to provide a safe place for members to confess their sins and build each other up. In these groups, people were able to be unblinkingly honest but unconditionally loved. They discovered that true accountability was not a means by which they were forced to admit, and then be punished for, their dirty deeds, but rather the chance to acknowledge their shortcomings and overcome them.
Early Methodists were also encouraged to, by Wesley’s own words, “agree to disagree” or “think and let think.” In other words, they were to be accountable for their own thoughts, words and behavior – not to blindly follow a preset group of words or ideas and check their brains at the door.
I (and so many other Methodists of today) wonder how and why this precious and powerful piece of our heritage has gotten lost over the last three centuries. This is not to say that it can’t still be seen in many places throughout our faith communities, but it does seem that it has become the more difficult and less popular path when we are faced with conflicts and disagreements. The endgame is far too often to be right rather than be together. In so many ways we have lost our commitment to truly loving each other and, I’m afraid, we all must be held accountable for that.
This Sunday, we’ll talk about what it means to Be Accountable in our faith communities, both to each other and ourselves. What would it look like if we returned to the culture of loving and encouraging each other along our faith journeys, all the while accepting that we don’t always have to agree or think alike? In the words of John Wesley, “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.”
See you Sunday.