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When you work around the church a while it comes quite naturally, the laughter of cynical disbelief.

In 1986 the United Methodist General Conference, on the last day of two weeks of meetings, passed a resolution that said we were going to make 9 million new United Methodists by about 1994--this in a denomination that had been losing about 65,000 members every year since the early seventies.

Nine million new United Methodists!

Well, I laughed.

I thought, Isn’t this typical!

We don’t want to do the systemic changes in our church that would enable us to reach out and get new people.

This is just window dressing, sloganeering, platitudes.

We aren’t serious about it; it’s just more guilt to lay on pastors’ backs!

I went home and wrote an article, "My Dog the Methodist."

In it I argued that there was no way in heaven we were going to make 9 million new Methodists unless we started baptizing dogs.

And I offered as a fit recipient for the sacrament of baptism my mixed-breed terrier sleeping in my garage.

I said, "This dog, as far as I know, has shown no interest in biblical studies. Therefore, it would make a perfect Methodist."

I also said, "This dog has the sexual ethics of some members of my former congregations."

I laughed.

When the article came out in The Christian Century, not everybody laughed.

The magazine lost about four subscriptions, and two Methodist bishops have not spoken to me since.

But I was serious.

The cynicism behind that move!

We don’t intend to really change the way we would have to change to be that kind of church.

I laughed.

[Laughing at the Church, Citation: "Evangelical Laughter," Preaching Today, Tape No. 137.]

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