by Beth Ann Cook
November 11, 2019
“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12.2)
At Logansport First UMC we are in the middle of a sermon series called "ThanksLiving". This morning I'm praising God for a wonderful, full night's sleep in my own bed. I'm also enjoying having my friend from Burundi, Pacis (Peace) came to the US to be the delegate from her Conference to the WCA event. She is a medical doctor and has served as a lay delegate to the UMC General Conference several times.
Several friends have written good summaries of the event in Tulsa and I thought I would pass them on as well as share a few of my thoughts. I believe that we are being transformed by God's grace into a movement that He will use in a mighty way. Here are some reflections on this week:
1) We are a diverse but deeply unified by one creedal faith. The 3000+ who attended the 4th WCA Global Assembly are incredibly diverse. We believe that the church should reflect the "every tribe and tongue" nature of Revelation 5. While the majority present in Tulsa were caucasian American, our rapidly growing movement includes congregations of all ethnicities. In Tulsa we had representatives from all parts of the USA and around the globe. Our movement is growing most rapidly among immigrant churches. One of the loudest rounds of applause in Tulsa came when we affirmed our desire to support immigrant churches and formally celebrated the decision of the Association of Korean UMCs to choose WCA as their partner going forward.
The participants, who represented every Jurisdiction of the USA, Europe, Africa, and the Philippines, stand united in our commitment to Jesus Christ as Son, Lord and Savior. We truly believe and celebrate the truths expressed in the Apostle's Creed and Nicene Creeds. I wish all of you could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in that sanctuary when we confessed the words of the Nicene Creed together in Russian, French, Kiluba, and English. It was an incredibly powerful moment. This is who we are!
2) The preaching was passionate and powerful. The men and women who spoke love Jesus and are committed to unashamedly sharing God's word. We heard from incredible speakers like Cara Nicklas, an attorney who uses her vocation to serve Jesus in Oklahoma, Dr. William J. Abraham, Rev. Kenneth Levingston of Texas, Rev. Nakako Eguchi Kellum (who was born into a Shinto Buddhist family in Japan), Rev. Shane Bishop, and Rev. Bob Kaylor of Colorado, and Bishop Torio of the Philippines. One thread throughout the messages was the need to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit.
3) We don't know what will happen in Minneapolis. We honestly don't know what will happen at GC2020. We have prepared as well as we can. We have sought to negotiate in good faith with those who identify as liberationists, progressives and centrists. We are praying without ceasing for a peaceful parting of the ways that honors God. The Legislative Assembly endorsed the Indianapolis Plan even though it is a compromise and does not give us everything we would like. We want to live out this verse:
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18
But we will not compromise our faith or witness. No matter what happens, we trust God completely.
A resolution to support the Indianapolis Plan as first priority and passing and implementing the full Traditional Plan as a back up if we cannot get enough support for the Indianapolis Plan passed by over 94%. You can read the full resolution here
4) Our movement is filled with courageous brothers and sisters. I am deeply humbled to be in ministry with some of the amazing leaders on the planet. I'm especially grateful for those who witness with winsomeness in the midst of very difficult circumstances. Many have been harassed, pressured, encouraged to retire, demoted, or faced other very real hardship for standing for what we believe. Even outside of the Western Jurisdiction many pastors have been negatively impacted for simply sharing their participation in WCA and/or inviting others to be involved. It is an honor to stand with them. Please hold them in prayer.
Many of our international brothers and sisters are facing a different kind of hardship--removal of financial support by progressive churches and annual conferences. After GC 2019, many progressives decided to remove support from mission partners especially in Africa and Eastern Europe. Some wished to "punish" those who voted in ways they did not agree with. Others felt like they no longer could give to ministry in these places for their own reason. I know of one seminary in Africa that has lost over $14,000/year. That is a huge amount for them when the cost of tuition for as student is $300/year. WCA granted its first funds from the Central Conference Ministry Fund to help some of these ministries bridge the gap. Please prayerfully consider giving to this fund or stepping your your local ministry partnerships. WCA Central Conference Ministry Fund
5) Everyone is ready to live into the new thing. I believe everyone in Tulsa recognized that the UMC as we know it is on hospice. I have heard that this is true for many progressives and centrists as well. Even some Bishops have issued a statement saying it is time for an amicable parting of the ways. The UMC we have known will soon pass away. This is a hard thing; we are all grieving. Yet, I'm also excited about the future. The Assembly received the work of a special task force looking at what a future Book of Doctrine & Discipline might be like. You can read that here: Draft of Book of Doctrines and Discipline. This document is not a "done deal". Instead it is a gift to the future orthodox expression of the Methodist Church as a starting point. If you wish to share feedback on it, you are invited to email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Blessings and peace,