In February of this year, several leaders of some of America's "Holiness movement" released what they called a "Holiness Manifesto". The Holiness movement is a revivalistic offshoot of Methodism, and is generally more focused on sanctification than most United Methodists. They claim (correctly) spiritual descent from John Wesley; many of the finest Wesleyan scholars and theologians in recent years have come not from United Methodism, but from Holiness denominations. Generally, they are part of the "conservative" wing of the Wesleyan movement, even as United Methodism is the "centrist" or "left" wing. Holiness groups include the Church of the Nazarene, the Free Methodist Church, and the Salvation Army.
Though The United Methodist Church was not a part of the "manifesto team", there is much in the document to give us reason to rejoice. The manifesto begins by recognizing the decline of the American Church and that many have grasped at the latest trends as potential ways to not only stop the decline but to more faithfully execute our mission. The document calls us to clarity, hoping that we might recommit to mission as opposed to maintenance, survival, or trendiness.
The manifesto is a declaration of the holiness of God and the fact that we are called to be a holy people. Through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to strive for holiness...for sanctification...for perfection in love. The manifesto also briefly describes what holiness is and what it is not.
It's a good piece, and there is little in it that might find complaints from liberals or conservatives. In fact, we heard much the same message at our own Annual Conference last week, though professed in more "mainline" language.
We have at times forgotten the absolute holiness of God, concentrating instead on the "friendliness" of God, the lighter side of the Gospel. But the important concept of God's holy transcendence is a crucial part not only of the Wesleyan message, but the whole of the Christian Gospel. I would urge my sisters and brothers to reflect upon the brief mainifesto and use it as a prayer to recommit to the proclamation of the fullness of God's holy nature.
The manifesto can be found online here.