Betty Crocker and the United Methodist Church

Last June while attending the North Georgia Annual Conference, I wrote the following as I wrestled with a deep personal concern about the dangers of denominational unity at any cost:

Betty Crocker is not real.

She was conjured up by someone at the Washburn Crosby Milling Company who wanted to personalize the responses to baking questions of housewives who wrote in. Betty’s now-famous signature was the result of a signature contest at the company. To produce her face, they called every female employee into the room and had someone draw a composite of all their features.

That face — the one that looks like everyone’s mom — became the face of the world’s first boxed cake mix, so complete that all you had to do was add water. It was supposed to make a perfect cake every time.

Does it get any more convenient than that?

It bombed. Folks who tried it felt like they were contributing nothing to the process. It was too easy; in fact, it was offensive to any serious cook.  Betty’s creators tried again. This time, they asked the customer to add an egg in addition to water.

That worked. The new, improved cake mix (which didn’t actually need the egg) was a huge success.

I wrote the above as I heard colleagues in the hallways at last year’s conference say things like, “Can’t we all just get along? Can’t we agree to disagree? Can’t we just be a family, with all its dysfunctions and crazy uncles?”

This is a very United Methodist question. For decades, our denomination has stretched to make room for a widening array of opinions and theological perspectives. We’ve somehow made room for conservatives and liberals, universalists and literalists, traditionalists and charismatics. Every time we’ve flexed to include another perspective it is as if we’ve added another face to the picture. We have allowed ourselves to become the Gospel According to Betty Crocker — a composite of everyone’s theological profile.

Pleasing, non-offensive. Just add water.

That hasn’t worked for us, any more than it worked for Betty. At the end of the day, all the blending — as well-intentioned as it has been — has made us something so generic, pleasant and convenient that we are unpalatable to the rest of the world. Our numbers bear this out.

Today as General Conference nears its close, I am only confirmed in my opinion: Our structure is not designed to withstand our diversity. By trying to make it fit, we’re doing no one any favors. By adding yet another study commission to the pile, we’re only prolonging the pain. Meanwhile, we’re filing the edge off our personality. It is a downright shame, because Wesleyanism was so edgy when it was Wesley preaching it. We were distinctive enough to get kicked out of places.  Today, I’m not sure we could get kicked out of anything.

Like I said, a shame.

I am praying that those doing the work of the church in Portland will hear the wisdom of angels: Be strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid. I’m praying for voices in that room audacious enough to suggest creative alternatives to simply placating every opinion and stripe. I’m praying for bishops with courage to step up and lead honest conversations now, rather than delaying the inevitable. I’m also praying for folks with courage to confess our differences and spiritual maturity to consider the very real possibility that unity at this point holds no integrity.

I am praying for Spirit-led minds at General Conference who want to do more than “just add water” — keeping us conveniently bound to the most generic face possible.

That face is not a fair representation of anyone’s gospel. It simply isn’t real.

Carolyn Moore

I follow Jesus within the communities of Mosaic Church, Asbury Seminary and the Moore household.

18 thoughts on “Betty Crocker and the United Methodist Church

  1. I don’t understand why the conflict over same sec marriage is portrayed as a theological issue rather than an exegetical and/or hermeneutical one. Many evangelicals including some conservative ones affirm same sex marriage now. Equating opposition to SSM with evangelicalism only hurts evangivalism. More generally that opposition is harming our Christian witness.

  2. Acts 15:39: “Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus.:

  3. So then whose face gets the Gospel? Have to u not know a person you respect who stands on the other side of an issue? Do we split becuase of this? Is this an essential as John Wesley in which he argued we need to be unfied? I’m tired of black and white self certainty. I definitely disagree with some brothers and sisters in the faithand as uncomfortable as it maybe I’m not ready to tell them we need to split. I just don’t agree with what I believe to be a self certainty that demands we shape ourselves into a honogiouness Betty Crooked look alike. I see you illustration the other way round. I do want a diverse church with open arms ready to agree in essentials and offer grace on non-esstials. I’m tired of even those I agree with demanding one way.

  4. As a Methodist preachers kid I was raised that Wesleys main tenet was “If you heart be as my heart, than take my hand.” That leads to a very big tent. Its articles like this, that I wish my dad and uncle, both Methodist ministers, were alive so we could discuss.

  5. I used to be afraid we would split. Now I think we have to. Don’t know what the Methodist Church will look like in a year, but I pray we do not water down the Gospel truth. I would rather leave.

    1. What is “the Gospel truth?” A staff member with Campus Crusade came to my college dorm room and shared the “four spiritual laws” with me, and I accepted Christ that day. As far as I recall, there was nothing included about homosexuality when he shared the Gospel with me. Did I miss out on something? Was I cheated out of “the Gospel truth”? Is my salvation in doubt?

  6. Thank you, Carolyn, for your wise words. As always you offer a great perspective to a difficult issue.

  7. Very well said.
    It’s not about any Denomination, it is about Jesus Christ and Him crucified! He came into this world to save sinners. The truth of Jesus must be preached/taught. If we don’t stand for God’s standards (not man’s), He want stand for us.

    1. I wish Christians would stop saying things like, “If we don’t stand for God’s standards (not man’s), he want (sic) stand for us.”

      Isn’t the whole point of Jesus coming to stand with us is the fact that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, falling short of his standards?

      The reason we’re shooting and killing each other and barking at each other like cowards behind our computer screens is because we have created a culture in which we measure ourselves by how hurtful our poorly considered swings at each other’s integrity are.

      I can’t believe so many people want to blow up or denomination over this. Allowing pastors to do gay weddings or ordaining gay clergy does not hinder the church’s ability to invite someone to church, invite them to commit to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, or help them find their place as a valued and effective part of the work of the church to become a vehicle by which the Kingdom of God can come on earth as it is in heaven and become more and more a place known by love of God and love of neighbor more than live of ourselves.

      If we put as much effort into inviting new guests to our churches as we do vilifying people who disagree with us on the issue of homosexuality, we could be on the verge of the next Great Awakening.

      1. I appreciate your interaction, Matt. Although I’ll admit to being curious about several of your comments, since this blog doesn’t use either of the statements you’re upset about, I’ll keep my comment to your final paragraph. I couldn’t agree more! I actually put a ton of effort into inviting guests into our church. So do many others in our church. We love Jesus and we share him every place we can. New people show up every week. We are firmly committed to seeing the Kingdom come on earth. If we weren’t sharing Jesus, baptizing people, seeing folks getting healed and delivered, and watching hundreds come to Christ, we certainly wouldn’t have a right to speak into a denomination that has decreased by 11% in the last four years. So yes … put effort into inviting folks to church. And share the good news about Jesus with them when they get there.

  8. Carolyn, Shannon and I love this piece! We agree with it as well. Wishing you all the best, and serving alongside you, -Curtiss

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