Unity and Reality

December 14, 2017

By Walter Fenton

I think most Wesleyan Covenant Association members accept the following as givens:

Christians committed to the orthodox faith are richly endowed by the work of the church catholic as expressed in Scripture, the great creeds, and the learned and inspired biblical interpretations of their ancestors. These great resources, they believe, should guide us as we bear witness to Christ in our daily lives and as we live in community as the church.

No church will ever be entirely free of disagreements. The best to be strived for is that disagreements are channeled in such a way that they actually enhance the body’s unity, respect its governance, and enable it to work more effectively towards the fulfillment of its principal mission.

Different perspectives can sharpen and clarify a church’s core convictions; therefore ample time and space should be set aside for open, thoughtful, vigorous, and gracious conversation engaged with humility and mutual respect.

Only essentials should bind a community of faith together.

People know they will not always get their way in a church, but they will remain committed to and invested in its core mission if there is a fair process where their voice can be heard, and the essentials at the core are not arbitrarily vitiated.

In a free and open society, where people are at liberty to align with any number of religious traditions and the denominations within them, there comes a point when it serves no good purpose to remain in a church where internal divisions come to undermine its primary mission and even the very institution itself.

People take no joy in evicting others from a faith community; they do so reluctantly and after all other means have been exhausted. They regard the church as a free association where people believe they are called to covenant together around shared theological beliefs and ethical standards. They trust each other to live by the covenant they have entered into; and if they cannot, they believe people should voluntary remove themselves. They are very reticent to evict others by judicial or administrative means.

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I think most Wesleyan Covenant Association members adhere, more or less, to these views. I am also confident they are hopeful, warm-hearted, and committed to the core teachings of the Christian faith. At the same time, they are practical-minded people. They are realistic about the challenges and shortcomings any church here below will face as long as it is filled with sinners in need of God’s redeeming (themselves included). By and large, they are people who are patient and prayerful, so they pray for the Commission on a Way Forward and patiently await the results of the special General Conference in February of 2019. Yet that patience is not without limits.

Finally, Wesleyan Covenant Association members will hope and work for unity, but not at all costs. As much as they love the institution, they will not love it to death. They prize its primary mission above the institutional instruments created to fulfill it. So, if need be they will find other ways to effectively labor at that mission as they await that day when God will perfect the work he has begun in them.