We are in a time of great uncertainty in The United Methodist Church. Persistent and escalating disobedience to the order and discipline of our church has created anarchy. The 2016 General Conference entrusted the Bishops’ Commission on a Way Forward for the Church with the task of arriving at a recommended way to break the impasse over the church’s ministry with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons. A special General Conference to be held on February 23-26, 2019 will receive that recommendation and determine how our church will move forward.
The formation of the Wesleyan Covenant Association (“WCA”) was occasioned by the discernment that the broader evangelical community within United Methodism needed a unified voice to respond to the Bishops’ Commission. The WCA unites the constituencies of the various renewal groups already operating within the UM Church, and also reaches beyond to include the voices of those previously uninvolved in renewal efforts. By uniting all evangelical voices together in one organization, the WCA can have a greater impact on the outcome of the proposals from the Bishops’ Commission and be in a better position to respond.
The WCA has already spoken into the process, through the Chicago Statement adopted at its inaugural meeting in October 2016 and through a statement submitted to the Bishop’s Commission at their invitation.
In the Chicago statement, the WCA called upon the Council of Bishops to swiftly constitute the Commission and call for a special General Conference in early 2018. The Commission was formed, and the bishops have called a special General Conference for early 2019, one year later than we had hoped. But our voice helped to move the process forward.
The Chicago Statement also calls upon the Commission to work deliberately and expeditiously as it prepares its recommendation, regularly update the people of the church regarding its progress or lack thereof, and to formulate a recommendation that would definitively resolve our debate over The United Methodist Church’s sexual ethics and its understanding of marriage. We are pleased that the Commission is taking its task seriously, as indicated by the number and length of its meetings, as well as the ambitious timeline for its work. We welcome the regular reports from the Commission about its meetings, including the perspective of various Commission members. We trust that a definitive resolution will come from the Commission in its recommendation.
Regarding that recommendation, the Chicago Statement declares, “We believe it is imperative for the commission to propose a plan that calls for accountability and integrity to our covenant, and restores the good order of our church’s polity. If the commission determines no such a plan is possible, then we believe it should prepare a plan of separation that honors the consciences of all the people of the church and allows them to go forward in peace and good will. A plan that requires traditionalists to compromise their principles and understanding of Scripture, including any form of the ‘local option’ around ordination and marriage, will not be acceptable to the members of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, stands little chance of passing General Conference, would not definitively resolve our conflict, and would, in fact, lead to the fracturing of the church.”
The Commission and others in the church recognize the significant role the WCA plays in representing Methodists who are committed to the historic Christian faith in the Wesleyan tradition as evidenced by the invitation to submit our thoughts on the primary work of the Commission. The WCA’s Statement to the Commission emphasizes that while the presenting issue which gives rise to the Commission’s work is the nature, conditions, and extent of inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the church, there are deeper theological fissures and systemic problems that are the true source of division in The United Methodist Church.
The Statement to the Commission names the reality that we are not one church and that our differences are irreconciliable. While the WCA would fully support a plan that calls for accountability and integrity to our covenant, restoring the good order of our church’s polity, ongoing acts of disobedience and accommodation of behaviors contrary to our doctrine and polity make achieving such an outcome unlikely. The Statement rejects any form of “local option” which would require those committed to the historic Christian faith in the Wesleyan tradition to compromise our principles and understanding of Scripture. The Statement continues to call for a proposal that acknowledges our different perspectives and provides us with a way to live into the future with grace and integrity, freeing persons of good faith who have an irreconcilable understanding of the Christian faith to move forward in keeping with their deeply held commitments.
We believe the Commission hears and understands these minimal parameters that the WCA espouses for any proposal desiring our support. If the Commission’s recommendation is something we can support, the WCA will do so. If not, the WCA will create a unified response, while maintaining our beliefs. We believe that we will be in a better position to respond to the Commission’s recommendation as a unified body of Spirit-filled orthodox believers. Therefore, we seek to gather together as many like-minded clergy, laity, and congregational members of the Wesleyan Covenant Association as possible. This unified association will enable us to respond together and move forward together in the strongest way possible.
The WCA is establishing mechanisms for local congregations and members, as well as regional chapters, to give input to the national direction of the organization. Beginning in 2018, regional chapters will elect representatives to the national annual meeting with the power to elect Council members and ratify policy decisions. We hope to time the scheduling of that national meeting, so that we are able to consider and respond to the Commission’s proposal. As a grassroots, bottom-up organization, we will welcome the voices and participation of all our members, as opposed to having a top-down, board-directed approach to our response.
Joining now as an individual or congregational member will ensure that you will have a voice in the response to the Bishops’ Commission. We welcome your participation.
We invite you join us in this mission. If you or someone you know have not yet joined, and want to become a member of the WCA, complete the membership application accessible HERE.