by Walter Fenton
November 5, 2018
Important decisions for the future, inspiring speakers, and times of worship marked three critical days of meetings for the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA), November 1–3, at Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church in Marietta, Georgia.
Meeting for the first time, the WCA’s Global Legislative Assembly passed a resolution entitled Empowering Preparations for Next Steps. The resolution authorizes the creation of a 16-member task group “to envision a revitalized Methodist movement within or, if necessary, outside the UM Church.” It also empowers the association’s 28-member governing council to convene, if necessary, a special conference of the association within 60 days of the adjournment of The United Methodist Church’s special General Conference, February 23–26, 2019, in St. Louis, Missouri. The WCA’s Global Legislative Assembly is composed of 165 delegates, representing 42 U.S. regional chapters and international members.
The WCA assembly delegates also considered the various plans coming before the special General Conference as it attempts to resolve the long running debate over the UM Church’s sexual ethics, it teachings on marriage, and its ordination standards. The delegates heartily endorsed the Traditional Plan and pathways for local churches to exit the denomination without having to litigate over property and assets. They also reaffirmed the WCA’s opposition to the One Church Plan; a proposal the association believes would quickly lead to the unraveling of the denomination. Such an action, WCA leaders said, would compel it to lead in the formation of a new expression of connectional Methodism.
The diverse body of delegates also adopted three other related resolutions regarding the doctrinal standards the WCA affirms, the features and principles of new denomination (if necessary), and a statement offering radical hospitality and genuine community to all persons.
“I truly think these were history making days for the WCA and the future of Methodism,” said WCA President, the Rev. Keith Boyette. “We live in the midst of difficult and uncertain times for the whole church, but our WCA Council members and Global Legislative delegates worked hard to find faithful, gracious, and hopeful ways forward for all United Methodists. They did that with grace and humility, and with a joyful passion for the Good New of Jesus Christ. On Saturday over 2,500 WCA members and friends met to unashamedly celebrate the redemptive power and promise of Christ’s cross and Resurrection. It was an inspiring three days that we will not forget.”
At the WCA’s Global Gathering on Saturday, Bishops Mike Lowry (Fort Worth Episcopal Area), Scott Jones (Houston Episcopal Area), and Owan Kasap (South Congo Episcopal Area) made major presentations, and several other bishops attended the all day event that was relayed to over 100 simulcast sites across the country. Other speakers included Dr. Carlos Alarcon, the Rev. Madeline Carrasco-Henners, the Rev. Dr. Leah Hidde-Gregory, the Rev. Dr. Joy Moore, and the Rev. Dr. David Watson. Boyette said the WCA would make all the presentations available in the coming weeks.
Also at the gathering, WCA Council Chairman, the Rev. Dr. Jeff Greenway shared a statement from the council. Writing from a “posture of love for the Church,” it acknowledged the “pain and struggle” and “deep divisions” within the denomination.
In an effort to “provide clarity about our present situation and future direction,” the statement “urged adoption of the Modified Traditional Plan.” It also acknowledged that some traditionalist churches are “tired of this struggle and will come to the painful conclusion that they must leave [the denomination] regardless of the outcome of the 2019 General Conference.” It went on to say that the WCA intended to “work for alternatives for such churches to be in a new expression of connectional ministry.”
“I am confident we will be prepared to move forward in constructive and positive ways whatever the General Conference decides,” said the Rev. Dr. Carolyn Moore, the Vice-Chairwoman of the WCA Council. “We know, one way or another, change is coming to the church. And as we all know, change is difficult, but sometimes it is necessary. As warm-hearted and hopeful Wesleyans we plan to lean into what God has for us, and trust he will use us for the work of his kingdom.”
WCA leaders reported that over the coming days it will be releasing highlights of its Global Gathering and more information regarding the ongoing work of the WCA’s Global Legislative Assembly and its governing council.
Walter Fenton is an elder in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference and WCA’s Vice-President for Strategic Engagement.