By Keith Boyette
November 12, 2021
The Wesleyan Covenant Association recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. Many of you will recall our first gathering in Chicago, Illinois in October of 2016. We came together out of a desperate desire to be the people who had been called of God to contend for the faith. We longed to receive a fresh impartation of the Holy Spirit in the midst of a denomination beset by conflict. Five years is a blink of the eye on God’s timeline. But for us time-bound creatures, it can seem like an eternity.
The WCA has not made a big deal out of our fifth anniversary; we simply give thanks for the work and prayers of thousands of people and the things God has accomplished through us. We fully anticipated our work would have been completed by this date. And having fulfilled our purpose, we looked forward to celebrating the birth of a global church built on Scripture and the great teachings of the Christian faith. But then the pandemic revealed the folly of our timetable. As we all know but easily forget, our lives are in God’s hands and we are living by His schedule, not ours.
I frequently draw strength from the great biblical themes of bondage and liberation, and exile and return. Israel’s exodus from Egypt reminds us that our being betwixt and between for five years is nothing compared to its 400 years of slavery and 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. God was faithful and at work throughout all that time. Likewise, although Israel’s exile was a season of suffering and discipline, God raised up a new generation of leaders imparting to them renewed hope and a fresh vision for the future.
Recently, God drew my attention to the words spoken by the prophet Zechariah during Israel’s return from exile. The people are part of a nation and a land that had experienced devastation, but a small group of leaders inspired them to begin to rebuild – to join God as He displayed an aspect of His resurrection power. One of the leaders God raised up was Zerubbabel – an administrator who participated in rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem. Inspired by God, Zechariah declares, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hands” (Zechariah 4:10 NLT).
The WCA has accomplished much in five years – from contending for the faith at the 2019 special General Conference to negotiating the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation; from the creative ideas in the WCA’s draft “Book of Doctrines and Discipline” to the numerous reports and recommendations from ministry task force groups, and from facilitating the coalition that formed the Transitional Leadership Council to the announcement of the Global Methodist Church in formation, we are attempting to faithfully discern God’s will for theologically conservative United Methodists.
Anyone who tells you they know what will happen with General Conference in August-September 2022 is likely engaged in wishful thinking. Consider the source and his or her interest in any predictions. At this juncture, here is what we know for certain. The dates for General Conference are reserved with the Minneapolis Convention Center. Hotel reservations for delegates have been made. The General Conference staff is busy doing what they normally do as they prepare for General Conference. And they are working to address vaccinations for delegates and visas for those who will require them. Let us keep them in our thoughts and prayers as they go about their tasks.
We also know that travel to and from Africa, Europe, and the Philippines is possible today. Recently, several colleagues and I traveled to Nairobi, Kenya to meet with African partners who traveled from across the continent to join us there. On November 8, the U.S. began allowing persons immunized with approved vaccines to enter the country. Some General Conference delegates from Africa, Europe, and the Philippines are already fully immunized with such vaccines. We are working with others to ensure every delegate (including an adequate number of reserves) will be fully vaccinated by March 2022. And we are also willing to assist the General Conference staff in securing visas for those delegates who need them.
I am confident the day is approaching when God will birth a new Methodist movement – the Global Methodist Church. He will make a way for local churches to align with it. As we await that day let us keep our eyes on our mission. Nothing prevents us, either corporately or individually, from fulfilling the work God has entrusted to us. In this season of anticipation let us deepen our trust in God. As the psalmist says, “Trust in the LORD, and do good” (Psalm 37:3). God is with us. He has promised that He will not leave us nor forsake us. The God who delights in small beginnings is the God who moves mountains and who is able, through His mighty power at work in us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
Keith Boyette is president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and chairperson of the Transitional Leadership Council of the Global Methodist Church (in formation). He is an elder in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church.