Monday, July 16, 2018

Recommended Reading: Lumber River Conference of the Holiness Methodist Church Discipline

Plans are underway in The United Methodist Church to develop a "Global Book of Discipline," a subset of the material in the current Book of Discipline that would be binding on all United Methodists everywhere, with the rest up for adaptation by local units of the church.

This push reflects, in part, that the current UMC Book of Discipline is over 800 pages long. Those 800 pages contain a large quantity of material, not all of which is equally relevant in all cultural, political, or social settings.

While 800 pages, may seem particularly long, Books of Discipline in the UMC and its predecessors have never been short. The earliest Books of Discipline that I have been able to find online, the 1791 and 1798 Doctrines and Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church, still run to nearly 200 pages.

That is why it is interesting to read the Doctrines and Discipline of the Lumber River Conference of the Holiness Methodist Church. It weighs in at a tight 53 pages, excluding an appendix of denominational paperwork forms.

The Lumber River Conference is a small group of mostly Native American churches in North Carolina that established itself as independent in 1900. Certainly part of the reason why its Doctrines and Discipline is so short is the size of the denomination - it has fewer than a dozen churches and no boards and agencies. Yet there were no boards and agencies in 1791, and the MEC still found material to fill over 190 pages. The LRCHMC's Discipline is shorter than its predecessors. Thus, the Lumber River Conference Doctrines and Discipline stands as a reminder that ever-lengthening Books of Discipline are not inevitable; they are a choice we make.

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