By Debra Baty
September 24, 2021
It has often been noted that disagreements over sexuality and gender are merely the symptom of the more foundational truths we no longer hold in common across The United Methodist Church. Conflicts over essentials such as the divinity and Lordship of Christ, the authority and reliability of the Scriptures, our understanding of sin and redemption, etc. are causing us to realize that we are actually two (or more) different churches. The Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation provides an amicable way for the UM Church to reconcile with this reality, and many continue to pray and advocate for its passing.
The ways in which these essential foundational truths ripple out into our understanding of sexuality and gender are reflected in the “Sexual Holiness, Wholeness, and Brokenness Task Force Report”, which was unanimously approved by the Global Council of the Wesleyan Covenant Association. As the introduction to this report states, “The questions regarding sexuality are weighty ones in our churches, cultures, and individual lives. They involve matters of meaning and identity, how we relate to and are related to one another; they reveal our capacity for deeply wounding one another and our longing for love.”
Our team of clergy and laity wrestled with these questions and sought the wisdom of God and the counsel of the church universal throughout its 2,000 year history, including our Wesleyan heritage. It was a humbling challenge, with careful consideration taken over every aspect of the report. In reflecting on our work together, Jerry Rectenwald, Lay Leader at First United Methodist Church, Elwood City, Pennsylvania, stated, “It was truly a labor of love. The compassion that the Lord has placed in our hearts was always the motivating factor. We long to see God’s people healed and whole.”
Another task force member, the Rev. Kyle Tennant, Lead Pastor at Regeneration Church in Warren, Ohio, said:
“In our cultural moment, Christians are too often remembered for what they are against. Those of us who long for a new, robustly biblical Methodism find this to be the case for us [in the UM Church]. It was profoundly life-giving to apply sustained, prayerful thought, with other gifted, godly men and women, to what we’re for – wholeness, freedom, and holiness in the Way of Jesus.”
Being able to work together in an atmosphere of trust was encouraging and stimulating, and sparks the anticipation of more vibrant and vital discussions in the future.
In this spirit, the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Global Council will be hosting sessions for members of the WCA who wish to further discuss this report and its recommendations. (More information will be released at a later date.)
As noted in the report, the recommendations were limited by the vast scope of the ministry needs in regards to sexual brokenness. However, as the report states, “Jesus is not limited in His knowledge of every person. The Lord has paid the ransom for every sin, He is able to heal every wound and redeem every life. The Holy Spirit is able to empower us to help support one another as we are sanctified, transformed, and made new in the likeness of Christ in the Global Methodist Church.”
We look forward to all the Lord has in store for us in the days ahead as we grow in the love of Jesus as He leads us into wholeness, freedom, and holiness together in the Global Methodist Church.
Debra Baty is a Lay Leader at Asbury Church in Madison, Alabama, and has served as a delegate to the North Alabama Annual Conference. She has also served on the WCA Accountable Discipleship Task Force, as the chairwoman of the WCA Sexual Holiness, Wholeness, and Brokenness Task Force, and she is a council member of the WCA Global Council.