“I just wanted to express my sincere appreciation for the WCA’s Global Legislative Assembly and the Go Global! event last weekend! The music was simply phenomenal! The blend of hymns accompanied by the band was fantastic. And the Holy Spirit spoke straight to my heart through each and every one of the speakers,” wrote Liz Bowlin, Director of Children’s Ministry at Sheffield First Methodist Church in Sheffield, Alabama, in an email to WCA staff members. “I am so excited about what God is doing through the WCA and the formation of the Global Methodist Church. I am humbled to have been a delegate from North Alabama and I look forward to continuing to serve by praying daily!”
Bowlin’s remarks were indicative of the way many WCA members and friends are responding to its Third Global Legislative Assembly and its Fifth Global Gathering held on consecutive days last week at Frazer Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
The WCA’s assembly delegates met on Friday, April 30, for the first time since November 8, 2019, when they met at Asbury Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Approximately 240 of 300 global delegates met in person, while others in Africa, Eurasia, the Philippines, and the U.S. participated virtually. In the intervening time since they last met many delegates have felt like they’ve been on a rollercoaster ride.
In early 2020, the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace through Separation, a proposal negotiated and endorsed by UM Church centrist, progressives, traditionalists, and leading bishops, appeared to be headed for adoption at the May 2020 General Conference. The proposal would have allowed traditionalist local churches to join a new global and theologically conservative denomination. But then the Covid-19 pandemic forced the postponement of the General Conference not just once, but twice, and many worry it could be postponed again.
During the assembly’s morning session, delegates passionately shared their sadness, frustrations, and sense of being stuck in a demoralized denomination unable to approve a plan allowing for an amicable and orderly separation of the UM Church. They also expressed their fears that bishops in California, Georgia, and New Jersey are using the clergy appointment process to divide traditionalist pastors from traditionalist local churches to stymy their plans to join the Global Methodist Church after the passage of the Protocol.
The delegates approved three resolutions in the morning session. They endorsed the adoption of the Protocol, heartily affirmed the announcement of the Global Methodist Church in formation, and condemned appointments that separated theologically conservative pastors from their theologically conservative congregations when neither party requested a change.
“It’s obvious the assembly delegates all want to move forward into the Global Methodist Church as soon as possible,” said the Rev. Keith Boyette, the WCA’s President. “However, they are also painfully aware that doing so as a united body is difficult without the passage of the Protocol. The delegates represent thousands of traditionalist local UM churches all around the world. They’re very concerned about the health and vitality of their congregations as they recover from the pandemic lockdowns. They also feel burdened by a denomination chronically on the verge of a separation, but never quite getting there. They’d like the UM Church to find a way to separate sooner than later because they don’t think the status quo is helping any local church.”
And yet despite their frustrations, the delegates found joy, comradery, and hope for the future during an afternoon session given to hearing encouraging reports from five of the six ministry task force groups they authorized in 2019. After vigorous debate, they overwhelmingly approved resolutions affirming recommendations from four of the groups. The delegates recessed after hearing the fifth report. Plans are now in motion to complete the assembly’s agenda via a virtual gathering.
The assembly then ended with a spirited devotion by the Rev. Angela Pleasants, an elder in the Western North Carolina Annual Conference. She then presided over Holy Communion with the assistance of Elizabeth Fink, Junior High Youth Minister at First United Methodist Church in Springdale, Arkansas, the assembly’s secretary, and a delegate from the Arkansas WCA Regional Chapter.
“It was both a hard and a hopeful day, no doubt about it,” said the Rev. Dr. Carolyn Moore, Chairwoman of the WCA’s Global Council. “But it was evident to everyone in the room how passionate our delegates are about moving forward as a united body. Their intentionality, level of engagement, and sheer perseverance gives me hope. It’s obvious they want to build a new church fully invested in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus in word and deed.”
On Saturday, that zeal, sense of unity, and hope carried over into a day filled with strong speakers and inspiring music by Frazer Church’s worship team. The approximately 1,200 attendees in Montgomery were joined by WCA members and friends at 83 simulcast sites across the U.S., and by others in the U.S. and around the world who watched from their homes via a livestream link. The WCA believes that at least 3,000 people attended its Fifth Global Gathering.
Seven featured speakers challenged those who attended to fulfill Christ’s command to make disciples of the nations even when they find themselves in the midst of conflict. Focusing on the apostles Peter, Paul, and John, they called on people to be audacious, bold, and fearless as they share the good news. They also reminded them that they must bear witness to the gospel in a spirit of peace not anger.
“As we have in the past,” said Boyette, “we will make the videos of our speakers available online for everyone to watch. I’m confident that like those who attended Go Global!, people who watch the videos will be challenged, inspired, and filled with hope for the future.”