By Walter Fenton
May 7, 2022
Dear WCA Family,
Greetings in the strong and mighty name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! This week begins a new chapter in the life of the Wesleyan Covenant Association in many ways. As always, I think it’s most appropriate to simply begin by thanking God for all the ways He has been at work in our midst. He is so, so good to us. I give thanks for His provision, blessings, and love. I know you join me in doing so.
First, I want to begin by expressing gratitude to the Rev. Keith Boyette. Keith has led the WCA with excellence, faithfulness, and integrity for the past five years. We have come so far in our movement, due in large part, to his leadership. Personally, he has provided guidance, wisdom, counsel, and pastoral care to me. I am beyond humbled to follow him as the WCA’s second president. Well done, good and faithful servant. The WCA looks forward to continuing our relationship with you as you lead the Global Methodist Church as its first Connectional Coordinating Officer.
Second, as I fill the shoes left behind by Keith, I want to say from the outset that I recognize just how “big” they are. I will no doubt fill them differently, but I will strive to fill them with the same level of integrity, excellence, and most of all faithfulness with which Keith has done so.
From the outset, I want to ask you for your prayers. I need them, and I covet them. I want to assure you that I pray for all of you every single day. For the past month, throughout the day, I have found myself praying constantly under my breath four simple words, “Make a way, Lord.” I invite you to join me in that simple prayer.
I have always believed that one of the best ways to know that you have discerned a correct vision from God is that it cannot be achieved apart from the movement of the Holy Spirit. I believe this to be true for the WCA. Apart from God, we will not be able to complete this mission. We need the Holy Spirit’s strength, endurance, wisdom, grace, and peace. The WCA’s Global Legislative Assembly narrowed our mission at its most recent meeting last month. We now have four, crystal clear objectives:
To act as advocate and ally on behalf of churches and annual conferences which seek pathways out of The United Methodist Church and into the Global Methodist Church.
To contend for fair, just, and amicable pathways out of the UM Church for all, including progressives as well as traditionalists.
To support efforts to maintain faithful adherence and accountability to the standards of doctrine and discipline embodied in the Book of Disciplineas it now stands in the UM Church.
To continue to act as an advisor and contributor to the leaders of the Global Methodist Church, as they work to shape its doctrine, polity, and mission during this formative period, and in preparation for a convening General Conference.
Led by the Holy Spirit and linking arms with the WCA’s Global Council and its regional chapters, we will be working to achieve these four objectives. Soon, we will have a completely new set of WCA resources to empower and equip the local chapters to help their churches and clergy move out of the UM Church and into the Global Methodist Church. We will also be holding resourcing sessions for all the regional chapters. Further, while the likelihood of adopting the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation as it is currently written is in question, I can assure you that we will work towards better legislation to help theologically conservative and progressive congregations safely depart the UM Church. We will also continue to publicly call UM Church leaders to accountability for upholding The Book of Discipline while we partner with the Global Methodist Church as it continues to grow.
Third, I want you to know a few things about me. I am in imperfect follower of Jesus, but, empowered by the Holy Spirit, I seek to be more like Jesus every day. After Jesus, there is no one more important to me than my wife, Kendra, our 17-year-old son, Paul, and my mom, Mary Frances. Before becoming a pastor, I practiced law for several years for a large law firm in Orlando, Florida. I did tax law and estate planning. I went to Asbury Theological Seminary and loved every minute of it. I was privileged to serve three UM churches and still treasure many friendships from each of them. For four years, I was the district superintendent in the greater Jacksonville, Florida area. Even though you’re taught not to use the phrase, I considered myself the pastor-to-the-pastors and tried to be a shepherd to all the amazing laity in that district. God did some great things through us in those four years.
Two years ago, I resigned from the UM Church’s Florida Annual Conference Cabinet. The Protocol had just come out. Two other cabinet colleagues and I felt called to help start what would eventually become the Global Methodist Church in Florida. COVID-19 had not become a pandemic yet. We asked permission from our bishop to do this work and he asked us to work in a “both/and” role – both in our positions as cabinet members and in helping to start this new expression of Methodism. I will never understand what happened, but three weeks later, he totally changed his mind. We were given ultimatums to either stop our work or leave the cabinet. I left the cabinet and became the president of the WCA’s Florida Regional Chapter. Over the last two years we have worked hard to empower and equip churches and clergy. Currently, we’ve been able to lead over 20 percent of the churches in the conference to band together and begin to depart. Praise God!
During my work as president of the WCA Florida Regional Chapter, the Florida Annual Conference Cabinet and Board of Ordained Ministry came after me hard. I was on personal leave, and they eventually sent me a letter requiring me to disclose the names of every lay person, clergyperson, and church with whom I had ever met or would meet. Additionally, going forward, I was to video record every meeting, phone conversation, and presentation I gave and submit it to them for their review. I refused to do so and surrendered my ordination as an elder in the UM Church. If you would like to read more about this, my friend, Tom Lambrecht, of Good News wrote a great article reporting on it.
Before I was ever asked to interview to become president of the WCA, I had already submitted my paperwork to have my ordination recognized by the Global Methodist Church. I know that brings concern to some people but let me share with you why it doesn’t to me. I want to assure you that I will humbly and righteously fight for our movement every single day. The ultimate goal is that everyone who wishes to join the new church will be able to do so without harassment. I’ve just been able to do so earlier than most. My family and I have helped to lead this movement in Florida at great personal sacrifice. It cost me my job as a district superintendent and my ordination. It put our home at risk, and I gave up well over two-thirds of my salary. Without hesitation, my family and I would do it all over again…and will do it all over again if need be.
Jesus commanded us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him. He never said doing so would be easy. My journey has been hard. I know yours has, too. I fully expect it will continue to be. I want you to know that in me you have someone who personally understands that and will stand up for you and our cause no matter what comes our way.
Lastly, I want to say a word to our sisters and brothers who are leaders in the UM Church. The WCA is not your enemy, but we will work hard to stand up for our beliefs, hold you accountable, and help churches get to the landing places in which they need to be. I sincerely extend my right hand to you in hopes that you will treat us as you would want to be treated. If you choose to continue ignoring the rules set by the only body that can speak for the denomination, the General Conference, and if you continue to make up your own rules for your own benefit while not considering what is helpful to both sides, we will contend for our faith. Jesus has given us no choice. We will do it with humility, but we will also do it with strength.
My email is email@example.com. Our office can be reached at (540) 891-4007. I am honored to help you in any way that I can. I look forward to our partnership in the Gospel. God bless you!
All God’s love,
The Rev. Jay Therrell is president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and an elder in the Global Methodist Church.
East Ohio WCA is not affiliated with the East Ohio UNITED METHODIST CHURCH.
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