By Carolyn Moore
May 30, 2023
On August 1, 2016, God began to do something new in global Methodism when fifty United Methodists met in Houston to pray and begin to imagine a new chapter in Methodist renewal. At that initial meeting, we didn’t yet know whether renewal meant rejuvenation of an existing system, or a bold step out of that system into something new. In fact, most of us were still convinced we could reason or pray or plead or somehow wrest an orthodox Methodism from the grip of a progressive minority. That didn’t happen. We have now lived into this chapter long enough to know how the story would unfold. Even with General Conference votes in our favor, neither grace nor reconciliation have prevailed.
But friends, think about what the WCA has accomplished! From that modest room of fifty people, we have seen a whole new movement take shape — a movement that has galvanized the imagination of thousands of churches and pastors and hundreds of thousands of lay people. We’ve created a network of regional chapters and prayer warriors. In the last seven years, our movement has published three books (A Firm Foundation, Multiplying Methodism, and The Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline) and a bazillion blogs and podcasts (if you don’t believe me, go to peopleneedjesus.net and start counting).
The WCA has provided hope for countless discouraged United Methodists as we have contended for the faith in a wise and reasonable way. True, some would disagree that we have been either wise or reasonable, but then again I’ve found that someone will disagree with just about anything we say. Yet, even the conflict has taught us valuable lessons. In these seven years, I’ve learned that United Methodists are good at meeting and good at fighting, but we are not so good at praying, holy conferencing, or the art of true compromise. We still have a lot to learn.
Through the WCA, American Methodists have strengthened ties with our African, European and Filipino brothers and sisters and have formed partnerships that prove our global commitment. And by the way, I believe we are only just getting started in our quest to gather like-minded, warm-hearted Wesleyans from across the globe. Did you know that more than a billion followers of Jesus in the world have their spiritual roots in a Wesleyan expression of faith? My goodness, what potential! The world is full of Methodist-minded followers of Jesus who are waiting for a strongly orthodox expression of faith to emerge — and with leadership they can trust.
And our impact goes deeper still. The existence of the WCA cultivated the conditions that led to the 2019 General Conference. The moment the Traditional Plan passed — miraculously, irrationally — was a prophetic moment. Whatever else happens, we know that before the real hemorrhaging started, the United Methodist Church did not have the soul to pass a progressive vision for its future. When the institution rejected that General Conference vote, the existence of the WCA also contributed to the climate necessary to produce The Protocol of Grace and Reconciliation Through Separation. The beauty of the Protocol was its recognition that every church — whether progressive or orthodox — ought to have the right to freely embrace or reject its place in a theologically weakened UMC. From day one, the WCA has contended for the right of any church to disaffiliate for matters of conscience. That was the right thing to do, and is still the right thing to do. We have also contended for any church to make its own choice about where to land after disaffiliation. When a traditional church chooses a path beyond the newly formed Global Methodist Church, they do so because the WCA fought for that right, just as surely as we have advocated for those who have chosen to join the GMC.
Deciding whether to put our energy into reforming the UMC or into carving a pathway out was quite an exercise in spiritual discernment. Only God knows the sheer number of hours spent on the debate of whether we — both personally and corporately as an organization — were “leaning in” or “leaning out” in our posture toward separation. To help in that discernment process we consulted with leaders of other denominations, who told us their biggest mistake was waiting for the denomination to fall apart before they started building a new thing. They encouraged us to plan for what God might do, so while we contended for the faith within the UMC we also began, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, to prepare for what many saw as an unthinkable option: the creation of a new Wesleyan expression of faith.
Let it be noted that well before the Global Methodist Church was launched on May 1, 2022, thousands of Wesleyan Covenant Association minds and hearts worked literally thousands of hours to create the sleek and elegant Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline. And then, the WCA gifted that work to the next Methodism, arming that movement with a clear set of doctrines and a more streamlined structure built on Methodist values of connection, accountability, and laity and the local church. The WCA also developed a system and offered guidance to churches moving from the UMC into the GMC. And the WCA raised up from its ranks leaders who were seasoned, informed, and ready to step up and immediately form the Transitional Leadership Council of the GMC. If you have been part of the WCA at any level and for any length of time, you’ve been a participant in such a great move of the Spirit. Thanks to its self-giving, creative, and wise membership, the WCA has become a faithful incubator of a movement that will contribute beautifully to the Body of Christ for generations to come.
So where do we go from here? I believe there is still work for the Wesleyan Covenant Association. As long as there are traditionally minded laypersons, pastors and churches stuck in a system that doesn’t hear or respect them, and that doesn’t recognize their valuable rights, we are not done yet. We will continue to support regional chapters, resource local churches, strategically engage in General Conference, and encourage laity and pastors to stay the course. And that encouragement is open to any church — progressive or orthodox — seeking a peaceful way out or way forward. We believe churches ought to have the right to choose their future, now that the leadership of the UMC has chosen its path.
Let me say again, we are not done yet. I can say that I have never been more personally grateful for the work of the WCA than I have been in the last year. As the friction in my own annual conference has intensified, the WCA has helped us all feel less alone and has added so much value to the process of seeking disaffiliation. I am grateful that the WCA will continue to support and encourage churches like mine, which are looking for a open door so we can serve our communities with integrity.
I am honored beyond words to have served for seven years on the Global Council (five as Vice-Chair and two as Chair). And I am equally honored to hand the reigns of leadership over to the next class of members who will serve the Council and this cause with passion and wisdom. Our founding Chair, Jeff Greenway, did a brilliant inaugural job of organizing our Council and we all owe him and Keith Boyette, especially, a great debt of thanks for laying such a solid foundation. So many others have given significantly and tirelessly to this cause and every one of them deserve our deepest gratitude.
None of us who were in that room in Houston nearly seven years ago could have predicted this current state of affairs or the journey that has led us here. The WCA has elevated a conversation that Methodism desperately needed to engage. While it has been messier than anyone wanted, I am convinced it has been good for the Kingdom of God. How could it be otherwise, when it has compelled United Methodists to actually talk about what they believe? This, to me, has been the primary contribution of the WCA. Pretty much everything we’ve done has been founded on the conviction that what you believe … matters. And on that conviction, we have challenged a people to consider this one vital and historic question: “Brothers and sisters, what do you believe?”
That’s the question every human being has had to answer since the first followers of Jesus answered it with the earliest creed on record: Jesus is Lord. And that proclamation, and every creed hammered out since in serious theological debate, ought not be just recited but proclaimed as if we were in that room with those early church fathers who first carved a new path based on the truth that Jesus is indeed Lord, to the glory of God the Father. May the work of the WCA be found worthy of that creed, and acceptable to our good, good Father.
The Rev. Carolyn Moore is the outgoing chairperson of the WCA’s Global Council, and we extend our deep gratitude to her for her leadership and many contributions to our movement.
East Ohio WCA is not affiliated with the East Ohio UNITED METHODIST CHURCH.
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