WCA Global Gathering: Report from Tulsa

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. 

 

Comments

  1. Phil Brewster says

    Suggestion for the draft Book of Discipline of a new Methodist Church: do NOT schedule recurring governing conference meetings during US presidential election years.

  2. One of the biggest factors to the future of The UMC is financing. The General Council on Finance & Administration at Lake Junaluska warned the Bishops; the Church has diminishing revenues of funds. We are at about 85% of previous years in all categories. The Plan for GC2020 must consider the financial health of our church or churches.
    Retired persons are most vulnerable. Unity toward any proposed plan now is vague and it makes one wonder if any plan can pass and remain viable.

    • The Episcopal Fund reported to Bishops that at the current rate of apportionments (or lack of), the fund that pays Bishops will be depleted by the end of 2023. That doesn’t take into account the split next year. If as has been suggested, a new denomination were to do away with Bishops all together, that would exponentially accelerate that terminal date.

  3. I attended one of the simulcast locations with around 15-20 others.

    The speakers and the day in general were very encouraging. I’m in agreement with what was expressed throughout the day from Tulsa: General Conference 2020 needs to be about finding a way to bless each other and move forward into different expressions of Wesley’s “Methodism” (although, honestly, only one of those will actually be faithful to biblical Wesleyan theology and practice). I am hopeful (and I hope not naively so) that the delegates at GC2020 will make that happen.

  4. As progressives, centrists, mainstreamers, plus any combinations of these struggle and continue to search for a footing and a foundation that’s not constantly shifting — the Wesleyan Covenant Association is not saddled by such a burden in that its footing and foundation is SCRIPTURE. As such, it has not looked to man made or contemporary cultural justifications for its unequivocal position. The Bible provides the answer to our UMC schism, and the WCA embraces that truth and will provide a solution for Bible believing Methodists one way or the other.

  5. Jim Wolfgang says

    I too found the livestream broadcast of the W.C.A. conference very inspiring and I am finally hopeful for authentic Methodism to get on track from the morass we are now in. I wish I could be hopeful the Council of Bishops would take matters in hand and rightly discipline any bishops who are not in compliance with the 2019 General Conference, but of course I am not. If the Indianapolis Plan passes, I will regret the Centrists will be given the “United Methodist” title, but I will get over it. I have read a draft of the partially complete W.C.A. proposed discipline for a new traditional expression of Methodism and it is to me a worthy successor of our current Book of Discipline: sound theology but MUCH less complicated. Except for congregations that insist the practice of homosexuality is an appropriate Christian lifestyle, I don’t know why any United Methodist congregation would not become a part of this reformed model of our traditional church. For any former Evangelical United Brethren members, this branch of United Methodism is equally recognized, and the E.U.B. sound practice of electing bishops at General Conference and for limited terms of service after which they do their former ministry as elders is reinstated. The role of a bishop will be to lead their ANNUAL CONFERENCE in teaching, guidance, and effective Methodist ministry: not jet setting around the country. My brief hopefulness after the 2019 General Conference is again renewed and I believe our Lord will bless this revival of Methodism, especially as I believe it is of the Holy Spirit.

  6. It would indeed be such a blessing tithing to this Bible based, mission driven church while knowing your apportionment portion would no longer be going to an alien, detached, too often non-Bible based, and unaccountable bureaucracy.

    https://wesleyancovenant.org/2019/11/13/a-mission-driven-church/

    • You nailed it. I literally served on every board and committee in my old UMC for about 8 years. That included chairing the SPPRC and President of our United Methodist Men. Consider this, Bishops in the US are paid 160K a year, receive full benefits including medical, dental, vision, life insurance and pension plan. Most have cars and drivers, offices and staff and lets not forget the executive parsonage. The NC Conference for instance owns a 900K plus parsonage for the Bishop. It requires upkeep, maintenance, lawn care, and utilities.

      I haven’t even listed the costs of having 8 District Superintendents and their Assistant and other associated cost. My point is this layer of bureaucracy comes at a heavy cost. In my 8 years in leadership, knowing every detail of church administration, here’s what we got out of paying 100% of our apportionments, supporting our Bishop. Something for nothing. Let me explain. Over three years ago the Bishop and DS wanted to plant a full time pastor to our charge. We had operated nicely with a part time local pastor up until then. New Faith Communities of the NC Conference would pay 50% of the 100K price tag for five years. We would have to pay the other 50% which was far more than we could afford.

      The Conference assured us they would send a pastor that would take our church to “the next level.” So on a leap of faith, we jumped in the deep end of the pond. As the chair of the SPPRC I asked the question “what if the new pastor does not deliver.” The answer from the DS was they would look at replacing him/her at the two year mark.

      Well, when the new pastor arrived, the church had about 230K in funds from selling off the parsonage. There were around 64 giving units, there was also an average Sunday attendance of 100. Two years later there was zero in the reserve account, about 20 giving units and average Sunday attendance had dropped to around 55.

      The conference did not want to replace the pastor, in fact they wanted to turn him into a part time pastor serving three charges each Sunday. New Faith Communities pulled their 50% funding completely, due to lack of growth. The church today is very divisive and continues to see folks leave. That’s what we got our of the bureaucracy of management above the local charge.

      I believe any new denomination should hire a non-clergy MBA to manage the administration of the denomination. I would envision that person to have the qualification of a corporate CEO (but on a smaller scale), or city/county manager – to be hired, fired and report to the WCA board of directors. We should never again create a scenario where becoming a DS or Bishop is a cottage industry unto itself.

  7. As the great churning conversation about separation rolls on, perhaps we need more wariness of presuming a clear and favorable outcome at GC2020. I know it’s “contrarian” to say so aloud, but most outcomes of volatile, contested democratic processes are “not meant” (George Will). That is, they astonish and dismay and send the chickens scuttling. Outcomes are not predictable.

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