By Chris Ritter-
In times of confusion, a clarion call is both needful and life-giving. Martin Luther’s confession before the Diet of Worms is sometimes summarized in this way: “Here I stand. I can do no other.” In Scripture, the elderly patriarch Joshua gathered an indecisive nation of Israel to Shechem and said, “Choose you this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). We recognize that we have arrived at a kairos moment for United Methodists. It is important that we speak with a unified voice to our beloved church, naming the crucial juncture at which we now stand.
The Chicago Statement of the Wesleyan Covenant Association that follows insists upon the twin virtues of accountability and integrity. If the commission cannot point us toward a path to unity that restores order to our church, then they should develop a way to release those who cannot live by our covenant to a separate future of their own choosing. If we are one church we need to stop acting like two churches. If we are two churches, we need to stop pretending to be one.
I say these things as someone who has worked passionately for the cause of church unity over the past few years. I love The United Methodist Church and I know you do, too. It is precisely because we love the church that we cannot allow it to stay where it is. Our mission is too urgent. The times in which we live call out desperately for a faithful church. We want a house that is in order so we can focus on the work Jesus called us to do.
We invite the bishops to call a special General Conference in 2018. We commit to pray for the bishops and the commission they have formed. We call for a decisive plan that will settle the matters of biblical authority and human sexuality that are currently in dispute. We join with the College Bishops of the Southeastern Jurisdiction in viewing recent acts of covenant breaking as “disruptive and divisive.” Perhaps most importantly, we signal that there is a significant new movement of faithful clergy and laity that will not settle for the church being less than the church.
Chris Ritter is directing pastor of a multi-site ministry in Illinois that includes Geneseo First United Methodist Church, Cambridge UM Church, and Roots QC. He is a member of the Wesleyan Covenant Association council. This article is adapted from Dr. Ritter’s remarks at the Wesleyan Covenant Association gathering in Chicago on October 7, 2016.