Repent, Pray, and Stand for the UMC

No matter your position of influence in the United Methodist Church, your hope in Christ is needed now.

A Full-Scaled Investment into Organized Retreat

by | May 12, 2018 | UMC Renewal, Wesley Covenant Association

Last week I heard a presentation from Walter Fenton of the Wesley Covenant Association (WCA) from WCA’s information and consolation tour. The room was packed with concerned Methodists, most, like myself, who had never heard this level of transparency and detail on the crises facing the denomination. Walter’s unaided presentation perfectly covered the current UMC news, brought members up to speed on relevant polity structures, and laid out as dispassionately as possible potential outcomes. Walter’s deep love for this church and willingness to praise its processes should be commended and emulated. Any authority he is given to speak on these issues is deserved. If your congregation hasn’t been introduced to the education he is freely sharing, then it is already well past time to invite the WCA to speak in your city. These issues require immediate prayer, communication, and action.

However, my wife and I grew troubled in spirit at the theme of capitulation and tone of hopelessness running through the dialogue. With barely a sentence between us, I knew what she was thinking, so I volunteered to ask a question after many excellent questions on tactics and contingencies had been asked by others. Surprised that my hand was selected from many before me, I stood and stated I love what the WCA advocates, but I asked,

“Why is the WCA preparing more for the breakup of the church than for victory? It seems that our common spiritual enemy would be very pleased to see the noisy few kick out the faithful many. But Jesus Himself said that the gates of hell cannot prevail against His church. So if the United Methodist Church is a church of Jesus Christ, why is no one preparing for victory? Is not the UMC a church of Jesus?[1]

Walter replied with a wise answer that demonstrated he listened to the heart of this question, and took it further describing some of the deeply painful circumstances some pastors are experiencing, for example, in the western conference under Bishop Oliveto, where they are placed in impossible situations obeying the authority of the church or the authority of God, having to host an openly gay bishop in front of their congregants and their children whom they shepherd, and so on. Yes, it is painful. Yes, the WCA understands the pain these abrogations of church leadership and teaching are causing. Behind the answer, though, was a false belief that any optimism for victory rests on a lack of knowledge of the difficulties the UMC is facing.

LOL. No, sir, my hope does not rest on a lack of understanding, but on the Word of God. My God is sovereign, and Jesus is sitting on the throne, having already achieved victory on the cross and receiving all authority in heaven and on the earth. No, sir, I do not lack understanding of the tenaciousness of our spiritual enemy. I am not ignorant of his tactics. I am not ignorant of the stakes of this battle, nor am I blind to the risks to my life, assets, and family. I am not ignorant that many have been fighting this issue of homosexuality and authority of scripture in the church valiantly for years. Their work doesn’t need to be dishonored by retreat but honored with fresh recruits. No, sir, some people are aware of the dynamics of any spiritual warfare, even if not the details of this one’s current status. Please bring us up to speed, and help us call others to fight.

The conditions for victory are not going our own way with our church property and pastoral pensions. In fact, it is not up to us to decide what victory looks like. Who are we to decide how much God wants to advance His Kingdom through the institution of the UMC? Why should we limit Him with our prayerlessness and lack of desire to fight on behalf of others?

I love Walter and the WCA and look forward to working together as brothers in arms. In the immediate term, the WCA appears to be the best available vehicle to unify and renew the denomination we call home. I’m grateful for it and the leadership it took to form it. But it is clear to me since that night and from follow-up research that the real fundamental purpose and culture of the WCA is one big contingency plan.[2] The WCA is great, it’s helpful, and it does bring some hope to many distraught Methodists.[3] But it’s not the future of the UMC. It doesn’t have to be. Let’s see why.

[1] The power of the church rests in its faith-wrought declaration of the identity of Jesus as the Christ. “[Jesus] said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’” – Matthew 16:15-18, ESV.  Today, who does the UMC say Jesus is?

[2] This conclusion is not a mere diatribe but is confirmed by WCA leadership, that the primary cause for forming the WCA was to have a backup plan for traditionalist congregations of the UMC. Contingency plans may be useful, but for every effort like the WCA to organize a healthy retreat, we should have two initiatives focused on advancement and victory. It should be a chilling warning to all Methodists that the plan to form the WCA had to activated at all.

[3] The content of this WCA introduction video is intended well, but it’s designed to comfort like a parent comforting a small child. “It’s a sad situation, I know. Here’s a lollipop.” Where is a leader casting a vision for what is at stake and calling others to fight for what is right? Contrast with the “let’s see justice” music and tone of media produced by the ideological left.