WCA Press Release
The newly launched Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) is a membership-driven initiative to link congregations, clergy persons, and laity to “promote the ministry of the gospel from a Wesleyan theological perspective within The United Methodist Church and kindred bodies,” according to bylaws adopted by nearly 50 United Methodist leaders gathering in Houston on August 1 and 2.
“We are a movement of like-minded, warm-hearted, Jesus loving, Wesleyan, evangelical, orthodox, and covenant-keeping Christians who are connected together in mission,” said the Rev. Dr. Jeff Greenway, lead pastor of Reynoldsburg (Ohio) United Methodist Church.
The group gathered to adopt bylaws and nominate a first slate of Council members that will be elected at their initial public gathering on October 7 in Chicago at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. Information on the Chicago event can be found online at WesleyanCovenant.org.
“Our meeting was both serious and hopeful,” said Dr. David Watson, academic dean at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. “We prayed together, broke bread, shared ideas, agreed and disagreed, and learned from each other. We affirmed together that we are not another caucus group, but a community established for mutual encouragement, resourcing, and accountability. We simply want to embody Wesleyan holiness in a way that is already articulated in United Methodism’s Doctrinal Standards, but is often set aside in actual practice.”
In addition to Watson, other prominent United Methodist theologians in the group included Dr. Billy Abraham of Perkins School of Theology in Dallas and Dr. Bill Arnold of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. There were clergy and laity representatives from all five jurisdictions in the denomination, including from embattled annual conferences such as Rocky Mountain, New York, and Iowa.
“As a young orthodox United Methodist, I am excited about the creation of the Wesleyan Covenant Association as a coalition committed to the authority of God’s Holy Word, our Wesleyan heritage, and Holy Spirit empowered revival,” said the Rev. Madeline Carrasco Henners, pastor of Luling (Texas) First United Methodist Church. “We know that many pastors in many progressive annual conferences feel isolated from their fellow orthodox brothers and sisters. This alliance will help them have their voices heard in matters affecting the unity of the global church.”
Morning devotional messages were brought by the Revs. Ryan Barnett, Kerrville (Texas) United Methodist Church, and Carolyn Moore, senior pastor of Mosaic United Methodist Church in Evans, Georgia. The concluding service of holy communion was conducted by Henners and the Rev. Jessica LaGrone, dean of the chapel at Asbury Theological Seminary.
The group established that one of its main purposes was to “promote the worship of the Holy Trinity, to preach the pure Word of God, to uphold the rich tradition of sacramental practice, to maintain Christian fellowship, to foster the edification of believers, and to welcome and advance the work of the Kingdom of God on earth.”
“During this time of so much uncertainty in United Methodism, the Wesleyan Covenant Association is bringing a fresh voice of hope, strength, and encouragement to those seeking traditional Biblical values,” said Jennifer Cowart, executive pastor at Harvest Church in Warner Robbins, Georgia.
“The United Methodist Church has a rich heritage of reaching people for Christ and helping them grow into mature disciples. However, we now find ourselves at a crossroads of what the future holds for our tribe. The WCA provides a network of like minded laity and clergy who cherish biblical traditional values.”
An erroneous report on the online version of Charisma magazine claimed that the WCA was ready to create a new denomination. Charisma issued a second story to correct their faulty reporting. Furthermore, Bishop Bruce Ough, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, inappropriately blamed the formation of the Wesleyan Covenant Association as having “opened deep wounds and fissures within The United Methodist Church and fanned fears of schism.” (See page 24.)
Leaders at the event agreed that both cases of severe mischaracterization should be retracted and corrected.
“Some have jumped to the conclusion that the formation of the Wesleyan Covenant Association is an effort to force schism and start a new denomination,” said Greenway. “I can understand why some might say that because these are confusing times and many forces are at play in the United Methodist family trying to shape what is to come. I can say unequivocally that we are not creating or starting an effort to leave our denomination, but we are developing an association of churches and leaders who are committed to live and practice what we say we believe.”
Those in attendance at the meeting want to be active in responding to the upcoming Council of Bishops’ commission that will bring proposals to shape the future of The United Methodist Church.
“We do not know what that will be, but we do believe that change is coming,” said Greenway. “As we live into what comes next, the WCA is committed to preserving the core of what we believe and practice as United Methodists. We are not leading a separation, but we are committed to being faithful to our convictions.”
The commitment to faithfulness in uncertain times was a shared sentiment at the gathering. “Christianity was born in a hostile culture. We were born in the Roman empire, that tried to destroy Christianity. And so it’s not the culture that’s going to determine who we are, it’s our faith,” said the Rev. Kenneth Levingston, senior pastor of Jones Memorial United Methodist Church in Houston. “It’s whether or not we’re willing to stand up in the culture and love it and still call it to live in a faithful way and manner with Jesus Christ.”
Wesleyan Covenant Association press release. The WCA offers email updates at www.wesleyancovenant.org/contact-us.