I had never really thought about it before. For 20 years I've confirmed students into full membership in the United Methodist Church. I've always used the prescribed liturgy from the Book of Worship. So I've always read that question and expected an affirmative answer.
Last Saturday we took the Confirmation Class of 2019 through a rehearsal so they would know exactly what to expect and when to do what. I read the question in a new way. "Will you be loyal to the United Methodist Church and do all in your power to strengthen its ministries?"
I had a brief internal crisis. I have been clear that I do not intend to leave the denomination. I have been equally clear that the February passage of the Traditional Plan is unacceptable, unworkable, and unenforceable. So how can I ask our Confirmands to be loyal?
I can ask them to be loyal in the same way that I am loyal - by supporting that in the denomination that can be supported and holding our denomination accountable when it does not live up its own ideals.
I said as much during the Confirmation service itself on Sunday. I interpreted the question before the Confirmands were able to answer to clarify what I understand the question to me in the context of a Reconciling Congregation and our current denominational dispute. In that way, our public Confirmation Sunday became also for me a private reconfirmation moment.
I confirm that I will be loyal to the United Methodist Church by strengthening its historic ministries, including ministries of love and reconciliation.
I confirm that I will be loyal to the United Methodist Church by continuing to follow Wesley's First General Rule, to do no harm. I will fail at that, but I will continue to strive to do my best. Doing no harm includes treating all people as whole people even when the Book of Discipline makes some people "less than."
I confirm that I will be loyal to the United Methodist Church by fulfilling my baptismal covenant to "resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves." I will fulfill that covenant even when the actions of General Conference itself perpetuate injustice and oppression. I will not oppress those who disagree with and I will not oppress those who are harmed by our current position.
I confirm that I will do this by "accepting the freedom God gives me" to resist. I will not be coerced to disregard the Spirit's clear leading by threats of punishment. I will not reject the oppressed
I confirm that I will be loyal to the United Methodist Church through my:
Prayers - that we may be healed from division and distrust and constant prayer for discernment
Presence - that I will be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves out of fear of retribution
Gifts - that I will use my God-given gifts including financial gifts to support equal treatment
Service - that I will use a portion of my time and energy to move the denomination in the direction I believe we are compelled to move
Witness - that I will share the Good News of God's love and redemption through Jesus Christ, who is my Lord and my Savior. It is this love that calls all people to turning toward God and working for God's Kingdom.
I will be loyal to the United Methodist Church - not to the Church as it is, but to the Church as God is calling her to be. And so I pray that "The God of all grace, who has called us to eternal glory in Christ, establish [me] and strengthen [me] by the power of the Holy Spirit, that [I] may live in grace and peace." So may it be for all of us.
**quotes taken from Baptismal Covenant 1 of the United Methodist Church.