Oct 22, 2012

Free Methodists in Canada and Social Drinking

by Greg Pulham

There has been a great deal of conversation about what the Scriptures say about “social drinking.”  It is frequently a topic that arises when I teach our foundational course on FM polity.  Here is my take.
First, the Scriptures may indeed be read in such a way to allow for social consumption of alcohol.  But I’m quite sure it makes no prescription that we must or ought to drink socially. 
I think what the Scriptures say about this issue is well captured in the principle statement from para.630.2.6 of the Manual:
As Christians we believe that life is full, abundant, and free in Jesus Christ (John 8:35; 10:10). Therefore, we commit ourselves to be free from whatever damages, destroys, or distorts His life in us.
Following that statement of principle is a statement of how we, as FMs, think that principle ought to be applied. 
Because Christ admonishes us to love God with all our being and our neighbour as ourselves, we advocate abstaining from the use of alcoholic beverages (Mark 12:30-31). The abuse of alcohol, a legalized drug, is damaging to individuals, families, and society.  It is unpredictably addictive and its destructive effects cannot be fully measured.  Its abuse leaves a trail of broken marriages, family violence, crime, industrial loss, ill health, injury, and death. As concerned Christians, we advocate abstinence for the sake of health, family, and neighbours.  Moreover, we see the adverse social consequences as so pervasive that we seek by advocating abstinence to make a united social witness to the freedom Christ gives.
Clearly, “advocating abstinence” is the stated way in which we as FMs in Canada seek to handle this issue of social drinking. 
[I would remind that members of Conference and members of local churches have covenanted to live by these provisions of the Manual (see para.151.2 Requirements of Membership and para.161 The Questions for Membership #4).]
Here is my question:  How can I effectively advocate abstinence if I don’t abstain myself? 
How can I advocate for monogamy when I have multiple spouses at home?  How can I advocate for integrity if I don’t keep my promises?  How can I advocate for Jesus Christ if I bow down and worship idols?  It’s like saying, “Drinking is okay for me, but you ought not to do it.”  I’ve never found this to be a persuasive way to advocate. 
The Scriptures may well allow social drinking, but it certainly doesn’t command it.  For FMs in Canada, we’ve covenanted to advocate abstinence.  If we as a movement want to change how we apply the Biblical principles, then we need to re-articulate the statement “we advocate abstinence.”  I do not look forward to that discussion. 

1 comment:

  1. That is my point. The old adage applies "practice what you preach". We need to take the high road in our pursuit of holiness, not just the minimum. A special group of Jews who sought after the holy life practiced total abstinence, namely the Nazarites.

    Keith Lohnes