I Joined the Wesleyan Covenant Association

June 9, 2017

Pastor Bob Phillips

Dr. Bob Phillips retires July 1, 2017, as Directing Pastor of First UMC, Peoria, Il. Bob is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Illinois, with advanced degrees from Asbury, Princeton and St. Andrews (Scotland). He retired with the rank of Captain as the senior United Methodist Chaplain in the US Navy in 2005.

I Joined the Wesleyan Covenant Association…

But Not for These Reasons!

1. I did not join the WCA…because I hate gays, lesbians, liberals, Democrats, science, intellectuals or tofu eaters. Where there are two Methodists, there are three opinions. The UMC is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates; you never know what you are going to get. Church is tastier to God and to non-Christians when this freedom is affirmed. Wesley said, “At all opinions that do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think.”

2. I did not join the WCA…to create a pure church where impure people are excluded, or a ‘wheat church’ where the tares have been pulled. The One who came “not to call the righteous but sinners,” who warned us against fixating on splinters while ignoring logs, and who made clear God is his own weed-puller was

pretty clear about this.

3. I did not join the WCA …because our worst problem is the sex stuff and once we neatly kennel this pup, American Methodism will grow. Nearly every UM church that affirms or opposes same sex marriage shares this common quality. They are in decline. The “wicked problem” of our denomination (a technical term for a real, colorful and complicated mess) will not be fixed by the 2019 special General Conference or any action focused on any one problem.

4. I did not join the WCA…because happiness is a known enemy, it’s fun to ‘round up the usual suspects,’ and the prophet Samuel had the most fun of his ministry when he “hewed Agag into pieces before the Lord.” Facebook commandos with incendiary remarks, energy poured into criticisms, questioning of motives or integrity, and definitions of success measured by how “we” flattened “they” waste spiritual energy and don’t honor God.

5. I did not join the WCA…to snuggle in a ‘Bible-believing church’ that knows better than focus on ‘social gospel’ stuff best left to politicians. I pastor a church that decided, even before I arrived, to remain in the heart of the city, knowing that the biblical definition of a ‘regional church’ is one located where the poor can reach and attend. “Bible-believing Wesleyan Christianity” has produced a church that feeds tens of thousands of meals, tutors, provides summer sports for kids on the margin, partners with underserved schools for Fine Arts and mentoring support, offers the only faith-based ministry to AIDS-HIV patients with limited resources between Chicago and St. Louis, aligns with the Mexican consulate in Chicago to provide legal assistance to over 1,000 Mexican citizens each year, runs a free clinic, provides free clothing and supplies to hundreds of needy families…and all in the name of Jesus. And the church is doing it all because of its commitment to an unapologetic evangelical Wesleyan Christianity. Anything else falls under the judgment of Matthew 25:41. Look it up.

I Joined the Wesleyan Covenant Association…For These Reasons

1. I joined the WCA…to bear a positive, unified witness to the evangelical understanding of the gospel within Wesleyan Christianity. The church I serve preaches and teaches conversion and new birth in Christ, holiness of heart and life, from a Bible that is God’s inspired and authoritative word, in the name of a Jesus who really was born of a virgin, really atoned for sin on the cross, really got up on Easter and really is coming again. All of this happens in a congregation that includes Republicans and Democrats, gays and straights, physicians and grade school drop-outs and folks from 5 continents and virtually every social stratum in the community. We need pastors and laity who with integrity and grace affirm these truths.

2. I joined the WCA…to affirm and empower evangelicals who serve in areas where they have no meaningful voice in their conference or jurisdiction. When a clearly contentious candidate is elected to the office of bishop unanimously by a jurisdiction, true diversity clearly has come to an end through official channels. Spiritually beleaguered brothers and sisters have a right to know that their theological and moral perspective is affirmed by the majority global Wesleyan United Methodist Church, and not just about sexuality issues.

3. I joined the WCA…to embrace and practice a healthy, growing Christianity. Many of the leaders in the WCA movement are in larger congregations because, under God, they grew them. A passion that sees ‘making disciples of Jesus Christ’ as the core mission of the church is the need of the hour. Many hungry to see the institution changed to enable growth are offering wisdom to a denomination in atrophy. “Faithful, not successful” has mutated from a healthy biblical warning to a rationale for excusing mediocrity and provable ineffectiveness in reaching others for Christ.

4. I joined the WCA…to recover and proclaim Great Commandment Christianity as the Wesleyan core in “The Character of a Methodist,” and Christian Perfection. This movement sees these words as far more than recycled moralizing. “We love because He first loved us” empowers full love of God and neighbor for the WCA, separating it from a right wing that seems to care little for justice or the poor, and from a left wing that dodges the claim of Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life.

5. I joined the WCA…because the future of the global Wesleyan church seems most welcomed and embraced in that family. I heard someone describe the creation of the Church of the Nazarene from the Methodist family with this insight: They took the fire and left us the stove. A Holy Spirit fire is burning in African/Third World Methodism, a church also facing hard challenges and imperfections. The WCA aligns with and affirms this movement, not to manipulate votes for church politics, but because African spirituality in Christ is the real deal. The WCA is happy to say so and affirms the importance the fire and the stove, and in that order. This fire requires a transformed stove.

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