The Methodist Church of Great Britain has became the second denomination to restrict participation in the far-right British National Party, which limits its own membership to “Indigenous Caucasian” ethnic groups.
The BNP, which opposes immigration and has claimed to be “defending Britain’s Christian culture” against the “Islamification” of Britain, surprised and dismayed the political establishment by winning two seats in the European Parliament last week.
The Party has been roundly condemned by leaders of the British Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the Church of England. In February, the Church of England voted to ban its clergy from BNP membership. Last week, Britian’s Methodist Church voted to prohibit all BNP members from joining the church.
Is this good theology or just PC theocracy?
“We must be clear that racism is a denial of the gospel. An openness to all people, regardless of nationality, is at the heart of Methodist identity,” said Rev. Sylvester Deigh, whose motion to ban BNP members from joining the British Methodist Church was adopted Thursday by the church’s annual conference.
“This does not mean that people will be excluded from attending church — God welcomes all, saints and sinners alike. But it does mean that members of racist political parties will not be able to become full members of the Church.”
People of faith certainly should take a stand against racism, but if the church is going to prohibit racists from joining, who’s next? Sexists? Homosexuals or homophobes? Those who join parties that support or oppose legal abortion?
Should the U.S. Catholic Church prohibit its members (including Sen. Edward Kennedy) from joining the Democratic Party, because of its support for legal abortion? Should the United Methodist Church preclude its members (including George W. Bush) from joining the Republican Party, because of its support for Bush’s doctrine of preemptive war?
Killing or just about any form of violence is a denial of the gospel, so should the church refuse membership to members of the military? Greed is a denial of the gospel, so should the church reject investment bankers and millionaires? Lust and adultery and divorce are a denial of the gospel, so should we say goodbye to the politicians in our sanctuaries?
Let he who is without sin cast the first membership vote.
Anglican priest John Wesley, who started the Methodist movement in England in the 1700s, defined a Methodist as “one that lives according to the method laid down in the Bible.”
Wesley and his fellow Methodists met weekly to hold each other accountable to gospel standards. That included feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and giving away each year all they had after providing for their own necessities.
If the Church is going to make gospel standards a requirement for membership, the BNP soon will be larger than the Church.