Confession and Forgiveness
By: Dr. Gregory S. Neal

"I thought Methodists didn't make confessions?"

That depends upon what one means by "making one's confession." If one means that Methodist don't confess their sins to God, then I'm sorry, that impression is wrong. We are most certainly called to confess our sins to God.

Indeed, United Methodists have several liturgies, both in the Hymnal and in their Book of Worship, which aid groups in making Congregational Confessions of Sin. If, however, one means that United Methodists don't have the tradition of sitting down with a minister or other Christian and making a confession of sin, then you are correct: that kind of a confessional is not, as such, a formal part of Methodist religious tradition. That doesn't mean, however, that similar kinds of informal confessionals don't occur among United Methodists. Quite the contrary, in my ministry as an Ordained United Methodist Elder I've heard a surprisingly large number of confessions, and have been called upon to give words of advice, counsel, direction, and absolution. Let's face it, sometimes it's helpful for us to go to someone we respect for their Spiritual insight, tell them what we've done wrong, and seek advice on how to go about setting things right. And that, my friends, is a the essence of a true Confession of Sin.

Depending upon the background of the individual who comes to me, I'll suggest either a formal liturgy to aid that person in making their confession, or I'll suggest that they turn to 890 in the back of the United Methodist Hymnal and, changing the plural pronouns to singular pronouns, and personalizing the prayer even further by inserting the sins they wish to give over to God following the words "... and by what I have left undone." It is a powerful experience to kneel down before God and make a confession like this, and it is equally powerful, and important, to hear the wonderful words of assurance which our Lord has given his Disciples, and us, to pronounce: "In the Name of Jesus Christ, your sins are forgiven."

© 1994, Rev. Gregory S. Neal
All Rights Reserved