Reflections of a Giant in United Methodism: The Rev. Maxie Dunnam

The following was shared by Maxie, and the Baltimore-Washington Chapter of the WCA wants to pass it on with a word of thanks for the witness and power of the voice Maxie has continued to provide to the church we all love.


I’m 84 years old and I’m a Methodist by choice. I was converted in my early teens under the powerful preaching of a fifth-grade-educated Baptist Preacher. I was nurtured in the faith, and inspired to answer God’s call to ministry by a dynamic, young, educated Methodist preacher. Under his guidance and mentoring, I received my “local preacher’s license” in June, 1952, at age 17.

For over 60 years, I have sought to be faithful to Christ’s call to be “one of Wesley’s preachers.” I am more Methodist/Wesleyan than I have ever been. I have been an ordained preacher in the United Methodist Church for all the years since we have been The United Methodist Church (1968).

At no time during those years has my relationship or involvement been casual. I have been “all in:” at times to a fault, probably sinfully so.

I knew the recent special General Conference would be my last as a member, and that it would be the most critical experience of my long life in the Church, significantly shaping our move forward as a denomination. In anticipation, I spent a good bit of time reflecting on this coming at the close of my active ministry leadership. I knew there would be controversy and debate; there always is at General Conference, but I never anticipated what happened…the intense emotions, the anger, the rabid judgmental accusations.

I have deliberately not written about my response or interpretation of what happened, not wanting to “shoot from the hip” as too many seemed to be doing.

I should have gotten a hint of where things were headed when I sought to get permission from the body to distribute to the delegates copies of amendments that were going to be presented in perfecting The Traditional Plan which the delagates had voted priority for consideration. I had been told by the Secretary of the Conference, I had to have the permission of the body to distribute the material, and that is what I was seeking. Confusion arose when the Secretary said he had not seen the material, and failed to acknowledge my efforts through him to get it translated and printed weeks before.

Those in opposition to The Traditional plan obviously thought what I was presenting was other than, or more than the printed proposed amendments. I was simply wanting to provide the printed proposed amendment to assist in discussion and debate. Distrust prevailed, and the “us/them” labeling began. My request for distribution was denied.

I took that simply as a matter-of-fact-way conference goes, but others obviously thought otherwise, seemingly thinking it was some sort of defeat for me and the cause I was representing. I tell the story to speak a good word for the connection. Two friends, outstanding leaders of our UM Church, avid supporters of The One Church Plan, showed up at the break just to share a brief visit (even having someone take a picture of the three of us together). They were effusive in affirming our friendship. My bishop showed up later in the day to greet me and see how I was doing. Numerous delegates, not supporters of the Traditional Plan, went out of their way to speak as though they could and should apologize for how they thought the secretary of the conference had handled discussion of my request. Two days later, the secretary sought me out and graciously apologized.

I share this as a treasured picture of the Connection, different from the acrimonious anger that especially characterized the last days of the conference. I share it as a plea for the way we should move forward. Friends and lovers of the church can disagree without demonizing one another.

The Western Jurisdiction and two annual conferences have publicly

announced they are not going to abide by the Discipline on the issues of sexuality and same sex marriage. That can only result in anarchy. The Traditional Plan, which retains the present position of our Church on the issues of sexuality and marriage, was approved by the only body that speaks for the church. Discussion of separation is rampant; it doesn’t have to be bitter and angry. It can be redemptive!

Years ago, we were going through a very difficult financial situation at Asbury Seminary. As President, the burden was heavy upon me. It was difficult to see the way forward. Struggling through that, I learned an important lesson. There is a difference between resignation and surrender. I could surrender to God and trust the Holy Spirit’s power rather than resigning to the situation.

We can do that as we move to GC 20. We do not need to resign ourselves to the divisive bitterness of GC 19, nor do we have to restrict ourselves to thinking only of a narrow unity focused on the denomination as it now is. Let’s choose rather to trust God and surrender to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, continuing to claim the possibility of God doing something new.

I will probably be at the 2020 General Conference, not as a member, but outside the bar, praying for an outcome that will affirm a dynamic, growing world orthodox Wesleyan movement which will spread the Gospel and scriptural holiness to all human kind.

I doubt if you are wondering, but if you are, be assured, I will remain a Methodist/Wesleyan by choice.

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