Envisioning a New Methodist Movement
— By Walter Fenton, Wesleyan Covenant Association —
Over the course of two inspiring days at Asbury United Methodist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) set forth its vision for a new, spirit-filled, Methodist movement fully focused on living out and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ in word and deed.
On Saturday, November 9, over three thousand WCA members and friends met together in Tulsa and at 86 simulcast sites spread across the U.S. for Transformed, the association’s fourth Global Gathering.
In a major address to the body, WCA President Keith Boyette said, “The WCA believes The United Methodist Church will come apart, either by an agreed plan of separation enacted by the 2020 General Conference or through local churches deciding to exit the denomination due to a never-ending cycle of conflict, inaction, and dysfunction. We are preparing for the launch of a new Methodist church in the aftermath of General Conference 2020. We see the WCA as the bridge to this new church.”
Boyette was echoing the decision of the WCA’s Global Legislative Assembly that met the day before at its second global gathering, also at Asbury UM Church. The 226 member assembly overwhelmingly approved three critical resolutions set before it by the WCA’s 34-member governing council.
“The Global Legislative Assembly of the Wesleyan Covenant Association supports the principles outlined in the Indianapolis Plan for Amicable Separation,” read the opening line of the first resolution. It went on to state, “If a mutually agreeable plan of separation based on these principles is not adopted at the 2020 General Conference of The United Methodist Church, we support the full implementation of the Traditional Plan.”
In a brief article and FAQ released on November 8, the WCA made clear that, “lacking a fair plan of separation and facing the enforcement of the trust clause, [some WCA affiliated local churches] would remain in the UM Church. That being the case, the WCA would also be obliged to work hard for the full passage and implementation of the Traditional Plan. Again, the WCA hopes for and is working for a fair and just plan of separation; however it will not simply acquiesce to any plan that would treat its member churches, clergy and laity unfairly.”
In the second resolution, the delegates went on to approve receiving and commending to all WCA members and friends “The Book of Doctrines and Discipline,” a working document submitted to the global body by the association’s council. As the council continues to refine the document over the coming months, its goal is to deliver its work to a convening conference of local churches, laity, and clergy who long for the creation of warm-hearted, faithful Christian church in the Wesleyan tradition.
Finally, the delegates approved the creation of six key ministry task forces that will provide a new church with a blueprint for focusing its energy as its sets out to create a revitalized, global Methodist movement. Readers can view all three resolutions by clicking HERE.
“The WCA does none of this lightly,” said the Rev. Dr. Jeff Greenway, the association’s council chairman, and senior pastor at Reynoldsburg UM Church in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. “We would have preferred to see a reformed, renewed, and faithful UM Church, but it’s clear bishops in many regions of the denomination make that impossible for now. Episcopal leaders who have repeatedly tolerated and even advocated defiance and resistance to the will of our General Conference and The Book of Discipline have presented faithful United Methodists with a very serious ethical dilemma: Do they continue to support with their time, talent and resources leaders who refuse to abide by the church’s teachings and good order, or band together to create a faithful movement focused on the Great Commission? After years of defiance and denominational dysfunction, the answer has become obvious for members and friends of the WCA. They want to focus on proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, not on an irreconcilable dispute that threatens the health and vitality of their local churches and the existence of the UM Church.”
A day filled with inspired presentations followed the WCA’s Global Legislative Assembly on November 9, at its Global Gathering.
“Friends, here’s the thing: many people – from our bishops, to church officials, and to leaders of various advocacy groups – are coming to the painful realization that there will be some kind of separation of The United Methodist Church next year,” said laywoman Cara Nicklas in a challenging opening address on the importance of deep theological reflection. “It’s not my task to talk about that this morning other than to make an observation and pose a question: In the near future, we who are called Traditionalists, will no longer be able to tell ourselves other people are keeping us from being a healthy, vibrant branch of the church catholic. It will all be on us. So, we will fully equip ourselves to be ambassadors of Christ who are transformed by the renewal of our minds?”
Nicklas was followed by a dynamic cast of speakers that repeatedly brought the over 1,000 people at the host site to their feet in ringing applause and shouts of “Amen!”
With his characteristic wisdom, wit and charm, the Rev. Dr. Billy Abraham, Professor of Wesley Studies at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology, explained how the profound interplay of the Church’s Scripture and great creeds should shape and guide faithful Christians in the days ahead.
In personal and wonderfully winsome messages, the Revs. Bob Kaylor and Nako Kellum respectively preached on God as our Creator and Christ as our friend and our Lord. Kaylor is the senior pastor of Tri-Lakes UM Church in Monument, Colorado, and Kellum co-pastors Tarpon Springs First United Methodist Church with her husband Edward, in Tarpon Springs, Florida.
Rollicking, joyful presentations by the Revs. Shane Bishop and Kenneth Levingston capped off the main addresses for the day. Bishop, senior pastor at Christ Church in Fairview Heights Illinois, preached on the power of the Holy Spirt, and Levingston, senior pastor at Jones Memorial UM Church in Houston, Texas, followed with a message on the sure hope of the Resurrection.
The day concluded with a meditation from Bishop Pedro Torio, the episcopal leader of Baguio Episcopal Area in the Philippines. The Rev. Dr. Tom Harrison, Asbury UM Church’s Senior Pastor, joined Bishop Torio to close out the day with the celebration of Holy Communion.
The Rev. Stephanie Greenwald, Associate Pastor at St. Andrew’s Community UM Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, established the program’s Transformed theme and wonderfully guided the gathering throughout the day. She was joined by Asbury UM Church’s inspiring and talented worship band.
The Rev. Dr. Carolyn Moore, the WCA’s Vice-Chairwoman, and Lead Pastor of Mosaic Church in Evans, Georgia, gave a report on the work of the WCA Council, and the Rev. Paul Lawler, Senior Pastor at Christ Church in Birmingham, Alabama, reported on the work of the Global Legislative Assembly.
“We are very thankful for what we accomplished at our Global Legislative Assembly and we were inspired and blessed by what happened at our Global Gathering,” said Moore. “Everything we’re doing … everything … is undergirded in prayer.”
Walter Fenton is a United Methodist clergy person and Vice President for Strategic Engagement of the Wesleyan Covenant Association.