A group of about 40 theologically conservative United Methodist Church clergy and theologians have formed an organization known as the Wesleyan Covenant Association.
The creation of the WCA was announced late last month and its first gathering is scheduled to be held in Chicago this October.
“In these times of great uncertainty about the future of the United Methodist Church, the Wesleyan Covenant Association stands together as an alliance to advance vibrant, scriptural Christianity within Methodism,” stated an entry on the WCA’s website.
“We are a coalition of congregations, clergy, and laity from all jurisdictions that are committed to promoting ministry that combines a high view of Scripture, Wesleyan vitality, Orthodox theology, and Holy Spirit empowerment.”
The Rev. Keith Boyette, pastor at Wilderness Community Church of Spotsylvania, Virginia, and one of the organizers of the WCA, told The Christian Post that the group’s formation comes in response to the pro-LGBT activism within the Mainline denomination.
“I became involved in the WCA because of concerns about continuing and escalating dysfunction in the United Methodist Church, with whole regions of the Church within the United States declaring their intent in the months leading up to and following our recent General Conference to no longer conform to portions of our doctrine and polity,” explained Boyette.
“I likewise am concerned about increasing numbers of individual acts which breach our covenant and are contrary to our doctrine and polity that are not being addressed to enforce Church law.”
Boyette also told CP that he believed the purpose of the WCA “is to be a vibrant voice for the historic Christian faith.”
“My fervent prayer is that, as members of the WCA, we will be able to share our witness in ways that will impact the Bishop’s Commission on the Future of the Church positively and contribute to the advance of God’s Kingdom among the people called Methodists globally,” continued Boyette.
In contrast to other Mainline Protestant denominations, the UMC’s official rule book, called the Book of Discipline, states that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
The Book of Discipline also defines marriage as being between one man and one woman and prohibits non-celibate homosexuals from being ordained.
The denomination’s official position has garnered much internal debate, as theological liberals demand that the Church become more welcoming of homosexual behavior and relationships.
Earlier this year at the UMC General Conference in Portland, Oregon, delegates voted to approve a recommendation by the Council of Bishops creating a commission that will analyze “a way forward” on the homosexuality debate.
“We recommend that the General Conference defer all votes on human sexuality and refer this entire subject to a special commission, named by the Council of Bishops, to develop a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph in our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality,” read the approved recommendation.
“We will name such a commission to include persons from every region of our UMC, and will include representation from differing perspectives on the debate. We commit to maintain an ongoing dialogue with this commission as they do their work, including clear objectives and outcomes.”
For its part, in a recent letter the Council of Bishops grouped the creation of the WCA into the same category as some of the pro-LGBT efforts that have defied the UMC’s rules.
“The reported declarations of non-compliance from several annual conferences, the intention to convene a Wesleyan Covenant Association and the election of the Rev. Karen Oliveto as a bishop of the Church have opened deep wounds and fissures within The United Methodist Church and fanned fears of schism,” stated the Bishops.
“The church finds itself in an extremely fragile, highly contested season. We lament that, for some, these actions disrupt and detract from the effective ministries of congregations across our global connection. We confess that we have all played a part in delaying God’s Kingdom reign.”
The Rev. Carolyn Moore, senior pastor of Mosaic United Methodist Church in Evans, Georgia, and a supporter of the WCA, took issue with the bishops’ assessment of the association. Moore explained to CP that “to uphold the Book of Discipline is not divisive; it is faithful and responsible.”
“We are a covenantal Church. Where open disobedience to that covenant is taking place, our response ought to be to insist upon accountability to our stated values,” said Moore.
“I don’t get to make the rules. I am responsible for upholding my commitment to the Church that ordained me and I expect others to do likewise as long as they choose to be part of our communion.”