By Keith Boyette –
One of the hardest seasons in life is awaiting the birth of a baby.
I’ve done it three times. The nurses told me that my title was coach. I think that was to make me feel good about my presence in the room because I don’t think that my wife appreciated or needed my coaching. Labor and delivery often do not go by the book. There can be unexpected delays, changes in circumstances, and moments of uncertainty. But eventually one way or another the moment arrives and the baby is born. All that hard work and all that pain suddenly seems to evaporate as this new life comes into the world and you hold your flesh and blood, knowing that this is a gift from God.
The waiting part is filled with frustration, anxiety, and a desire to make things happen, but the birth is filled with joy, victory, and a new vision. As the psalmist declares, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). The psalmist continues, “You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy. That I may sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever” (Psalm 30:11-12, NLT)
You and I are awaiting a birth. The name is revealed: The Global Methodist Church. We know a lot about this church, we eagerly await the moment of birth when it’s legally formed and begins to operate. But we’re not there yet and that is so frustrating and discouraging. More than a few of us are impatient. Some of us want to force the issue: Deliver that baby! After all, we’ve been waiting for this delivery for months, even years.
The Hebrews waited 400 years for deliverance from servitude in Egypt. They wandered 40 years in the wilderness before they could cross the Jordan to the Promised Land. And God’s people were in exile for 70 years before they were permitted to return to their homeland in Israel.
Our wait has been long but compared to those biblical delays, well, maybe not so long. Still, I’m tired of waiting. I’m impatient. I get anxious. I am discouraged at times, but I have learned that God does amazing work when we are waiting if we trust him and allow him to work.
If delivery had occurred sooner, would we have been ready? When the baby comes you can’t say it’s not convenient yet. You have to be ready to move. And if there is one thing I have learned in my lifetime, it is to trust the timing of God. I have seen over and over again his timing is perfect. His ways are mysterious. I don’t always understand them but in retrospect, I always see his wisdom.
I want to thank the thousands of people around the world who have worked to prepare for the launch of the Global Methodist Church. All of those persons who have served on the Global Council of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and delegates to our global legislative assemblies. So many people have served as officers and board members of our regional chapters, intercessors, and partners in ministry that have joined in this journey.
The members of the Transitional Leadership Council have met weekly for more than a year preparing to usher this new baby into the world. So many have generously given time, resources, and prayers to sustain this work.
The purpose of the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation is to demonstrate to the world that we Methodists, despite significant conflict, could love one another as we part ways, blessing one another in our separation. God sent us a Jewish lawyer to find the way. Unfortunately, recent events in various annual conferences have undercut the environment created by the Protocol. I urge persons of good will in continuing to pursue the goals and objectives embodied in the Protocol.
Our stepping out into a new day is not dependent on the adoption of the Protocol but it is the best way for most churches to address the future if they are going to be a part of the Global Methodist Church. Launching the GMC does not free churches from their present entanglement. The Protocol implementing legislation justly permits churches to align with the Global Methodist Church with all of their buildings, property, and assets without paying significant sums of money.
This is the fair, the right, indeed, the Christian approach to resolving the impasse. Leading bishops, centrists, and progressives acknowledged this critical point when they endorsed the Protocol and committed to working for its adoption.
The announcement of the impending birth of the Global Methodist Church is a moment of great hope for Methodists worldwide. Committed to the Wesleyan tradition, the Global Methodist Church will unashamedly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. Our unity will be in the person of Jesus – not in an institution.
We are single-minded in our mission. We dare to proclaim the message of our forefather John Wesley that God desires to transform our character so that we increasingly reflect the character of Jesus. Using Wesley’s phrase, we are prepared to become “more vile” for the privilege of sharing Christ with people of every nation, tribe, and tongue – especially with the poor, the outcast, and the marginalized.
We desire to be a truly global church that enables the strengths in one region of the church to be shared across the church in every part of the world so that we all mutually benefit. Rather than being a church dominated by being U.S.-centric, we expect to be a church that experiences the rich diversity of leadership and vision that rises from all corners of our connection.
We see our connection being rooted and grounded in the great confessions of faith so eloquently expressed in the sermons of John Wesley. I believe we’re on the cusp of a great theological revival. Rather than being fractured in what we believe and practice, we will humbly submit to Christ and live in obedience to the teachings that he affirmed from the Old and New Testaments.
I suspect most of you have heard the words of Mr. Wesley as he looked forward to our generation: “I am not afraid that the people called Methodist shall cease to exist in Europe or America, but I am afraid lest they exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast to both the doctrine, the spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”
As we launch into the new future that God has called for the people called Methodists, we will not settle for the form of religion. We will press on to experience the fullness of the power of God that he promises to his church. We will hold fast to the doctrines that have been entrusted to us by those who have faithfully delivered the faith to our generation. We will know nothing but the Holy Spirit which God has poured out upon his people, seeking always to be filled to overflowing. And we will be a church that adheres to God’s discipline as we seek to be a fitting dwelling place for him as he draws near to us and draws people to himself.
We live in what some have referred to as an already-and-not-yet season – between the first coming as Jesus as savior and his second coming when the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our God and King. In a similar vein, we are already in another not-yet season – we can be Methodists of the Global Methodist Church in anticipation of its launch very shortly. We can live out its doctrine. We can embody its mission and vision. We can keep our eyes focused on where God is calling us. We can be the church God is calling us to be, regardless of what the powers and principalities of this world dare to say.
Declared in the phrasing of the 18th century, John Wesley said, “Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not if they are clergymen or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on earth.”
Will you choose to be part of a generation who by the power of God working within us will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven upon the earth. Will you join me?
Keith Boyette is a United Methodist clergyperson and the president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and the chairperson of the Transitional Leadership Council of the Global Methodist Church (in formation). He is an elder in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church. This article is adapted from his address to the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Global Gathering in April.