Betty Crocker Methodism
By Carolyn Moore
Betty Crocker is not real.
She was conjured up by someone at the Washburn Crosby Milling Company who wanted to personalize the responses to baking questions of housewives who wrote in. Betty’s now-famous signature was the result of a signature contest at the company. To produce her face, they called every female employee into the room and had someone draw a composite of all their features.
That face — the one that looks like everyone’s mom — became the face of the world’s first boxed cake mix, so complete that all you had to do was add water. It was supposed to make a perfect cake every time.
Does it get any more convenient than that?
It bombed. Folks who tried it felt like they were contributing nothing to the process. It was too easy; in fact, it was offensive to any serious cook. Betty’s creators tried again. This time, they asked the customer to add an egg in addition to water.
That worked. The new, improved cake mix (which didn’t actually need the egg) was a huge success.
I think of Betty Crocker when I hear United Methodists, “Can’t we all just get along? Can’t we agree to disagree? Can’t we just be a family, with all its dysfunctions and crazy uncles?”
This is a very United Methodist question. For decades, our denomination has stretched to make room for a widening array of opinions and theological perspectives. We’ve somehow made room for conservatives and liberals, universalists and literalists, traditionalists and charismatics. Every time we’ve flexed to include another perspective it is as if we’ve added another face to the picture. We have allowed ourselves to become the Gospel According to Betty Crocker — a composite of everyone’s theological profile.
Pleasing, non-offensive. Just add water.
That hasn’t worked for us, any more than it worked for Betty. At the end of the day, all the blending — as well-intentioned as it has been — has made us something so generic, pleasant and convenient that we are unpalatable to the rest of the world. Our numbers bear this out.
Today as General Conference comes to an end, I am only confirmed that our structure is not designed to withstand our diversity. By trying to make it fit, we’re doing no one any favors. By adding yet another study commission to the pile, we’re only prolonging the pain. Meanwhile, we’re filing the edge off our personality. It is a downright shame, because Wesleyanism was so edgy when it was Wesley preaching it. We were distinctive enough to get kicked out of places. Today, I’m not sure we could get kicked out of anything.
Like I said, a shame.
I am praying that those doing the work of the Church in Portland will hear the wisdom of angels: Be strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid. I’m praying for voices in that room audacious enough to suggest creative alternatives to simply placating every opinion and stripe. I’m praying for bishops with courage to step and lead honest conversations now, rather than delaying the inevitable. I’m also praying for folks with courage to confess our differences and spiritual maturity to consider the very real possibility that unity at this point holds no integrity.
I am praying for Spirit-led minds at General Conference who want to do more than “just add water” — keeping us conveniently bound to the most generic face possible.
That face is not a fair representation of anyone’s gospel. It simply isn’t real.
Carolyn Moore is the pastor of Mosaic United Methodist Church in Augusta, Georgia. This article is adapted with permission from Art of Holiness (artofholiness.com).
Integrity and Unity
By Elizabeth Glass Turner
There’s a lot of lamenting over the lack of unity at General Conference, in the Council of Bishops, among United Methodists across the United States and around the world. A quick scan of the live Twitter feed shows various constituencies forwarding their causes while others smack their heads against the wall at the instantly published and visible rancor.
Not all disagreement is unhealthy, as any basic marriage counselor will affirm. Conflict can be healthy if it means honest communication is occurring. The problem is when honest communication occurs over the course of decades, both sides remain, and hurt and anger linger. So why can’t we all just get along?
Integrity means identifying what is important to you, through reflection, self-awareness and deliberation, and then acting accordingly. Unity is not always the greatest good, but self-preservation easily masquerades as such. What if we don’t long for unity as much as we long for self-preservation?
There is a notable difference between the fruit of the Spirit and the fruit of self-interest. Unity requires honesty and truthfulness to be genuine. Self-preservation thrives in illusion, lack of transparency and self-delusion. Self-preservation easily lies to itself. Unity cannot be an illusion. Self-preservation flourishes in that soil.
To value honesty is to value integrity over unity. Most people prefer honest people to those who lack transparency. That is at the heart of much General Conference discomfort: the fear of hypocrisy, the desperation for unity, the lament for a much-hoped-for experiment of collaboration since 1968. In other words, this isn’t going away.
Contrary to many assertions, I do not think that the cause is hatred. I believe there are deep but honest theological differences. I respect honest differences – I can get along more easily with someone who is honest. I respect and trust their consistency, even if I think that at a pragmatic level that may mean we exist in different fellowships.
Let me be clear: neither side owns kindness or personifies hate. At the same time, theology matters. In the end, the way in which we handle honest confrontations matters. Honesty allows us to be kind; it is when we attempt to enforce false agreement that frustration and anger spill over, because deep down, we cannot ignore the cognitive dissonance – whether on the floor of General Conference or in the cloistered gathering of the Council of Bishops.
God save us from motives of self-preservation. God grant us the hope that comes with clear, resounding honesty. God give us courage to live with integrity as each sees fit, no matter where the road leads.
As for me, I do not desire an artificial time of Kum Ba Yah around the camp fire while the world burns.
Elizabeth Glass Turner is the editor of WesleyanAccent.com.
Words of parting
By Catherine Booth
“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” Philippians 1:21
My comrades, as I lie here just outside the Gates of the City, looking back on the path upon which I have been travelling for so many years gone by, I find nothing that gives me real satisfaction but what has been done in God and for God, and for the benefit and blessing of this poor dying world.
Let me urge you to stand clear of every false and evil way, no matter what inducements of pleasure or gain or public opinion may lure you to it.
Be sure and seek at all cost to maintain Holiness of heart and life, and give yourselves up without reservation to the war with evil and to the rescue of your perishing fellow men.
Remember how short life is, how rapidly it passes away, how soon eternity will be here, and Oh! let me entreat of you to live as you will wish you had done when you come to stand, as I do now, with your feet in the River.
God bless you! I would like to come and help you tomorrow. I would gladly have stayed here a little longer to have pushed forward … to have taken part in the special effort for a hundred thousand souls … but I shall hear of their ingathering as surely, and rejoice over it as fully, in the Country whither I am going.
Good-bye. I will meet you in the Morning.
Yours, washed in the Blood of the Lamb,
Catherine Booth [on her death bed]
– Catherine Booth (1829-1890) was co-founder of The Salvation Army, along with her husband William Booth.