Why doesn’t my church have statues and a crucifix like the Catholic Church?
Both Catholics and United Methodists understand that Jesus' death on the cross-and his subsequent resurrection-are pivotal events for our faith. Through Christ's death and resurrection God redeemed humankind from sin, demonstrated once and for all that God's power and love is stronger than all power on earth-even death, and confirmed that God's promise of eternal life is for all who believe and live in Jesus' way. While most Christians can agree with that, we have differing ways of talking about what that means in the way we practice faith.
While both United Methodists and Catholics agree that the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ are important-we talk about them in ways that put emphasis in different places. It is like an orchestra that plays the same music, but different parts of the orchestra emphasize different notes in the score. Catholics tend to emphasize the healing, redeeming power of Christ's suffering and death on the cross. Protestants, including United Methodists, tend to emphasize the power of the resurrection as assurance of life beyond the power of death. So, Catholics use a depiction of the cross (called a crucifix) with an image of the suffering Jesus upon it to visualize their way of talking about the event. United Methodists, who emphasize the resurrection, use a bare cross to say that Jesus overcame his suffering and death and is risen.
As far as I know, there is nothing to forbid the use of a crucifix in a United Methodist Church. However, it is seldom done. United Methodists tend to display statues of Jesus' life or an image of the resurrected Lord.
United Methodists reflect an historical Protestant concern about the idolization of images and relics. Our Articles of Religion come out of an era (in the 18th century) when there was suspicion or distrust of the Catholic Church. Article 14 specifically cautions Methodists against the worship of images. The fear is that people will direct their worship to the image and not to God.
Protestant churches came through a period when the fear of images, relics and idols was so severe that some denominations would not allow decoration of any sort in the church building or the homes of the faithful. A small number of denominations still practice that. Most Protestant churches-including United Methodists-no longer feel that fear. But that history is one reason you will tend to find fewer works of art, decoration or statuary in our church buildings.
Rev. Arvin Luchs
United Methodist pastor