[Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series. Check out the companion post here: “I Joined the Wesleyan Covenant Association…. But Not for These Reasons.“]
by Bob Phillips
- I joined the WCA…to bear a positive, unified witness to the evangelical understanding of the gospel within Wesleyan Christianity. The church I serve preaches and teaches conversion and new birth in Christ, holiness of heart and life, from a Bible that is God’s inspired and authoritative word, in the name of a Jesus who really was born of a virgin, really atoned for sin on the cross, really got up on Easter and really is coming again. All of this happens in a congregation that includes Republicans and Democrats, gays and straights, physicians and grade school drop-outs and folks from 5 continents and virtually every social stratum in the community. We need pastors and laity who with integrity and grace affirm these truths.
- I joined the WCA…to affirm and empower evangelicals who serve in areas where they have no meaningful voice in their conference or jurisdiction. When a clearly contentious candidate is elected to the office of bishop unanimously by a jurisdiction, true diversity clearly has come to an end through official channels. Spiritually beleaguered brothers and sisters have a right to know that their theological and moral perspective is affirmed by the majority global Wesleyan United Methodist Church, and not just about sexuality issues.
- I joined the WCA…to embrace and practice a healthy, growing Christianity. Many of the leaders in the WCA movement are in larger congregations because, under God, they grew them. A passion that sees ‘making disciples of Jesus Christ’ as the core mission of the church is the need of the hour. Many hungry to see the institution changed to enable growth are offering wisdom to a denomination in atrophy. “Faithful, not successful” has mutated from a healthy biblical warning to a rationale for excusing mediocrity and provable ineffectiveness in reaching others for Christ.
- I joined the WCA…to recover and proclaim Great Commandment Christianity as the Wesleyan core in “The Character of a Methodist,” and Christian Perfection. This movement sees these words as far more than recycled moralizing. “We love because He first loved us” empowers full love of God and neighbor for the WCA, separating it from a right wing that seems to care little for justice or the poor, and from a left wing that dodges the claim of Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life.
- I joined the WCA…because the future of the global Wesleyan church seems most welcomed and embraced in that family. I heard someone describe the creation of the Church of the Nazarene from the Methodist family with this insight: They took the fire and left us the stove. A Holy Spirit fire is burning in African/Third World Methodism, a church also facing hard challenges and imperfections. The WCA aligns with and affirms this movement, not to manipulate votes for church politics, but because African spirituality in Christ is the real deal. The WCA is happy to say so and affirms the importance the fire and the stove, and in that order. This fire requires a transformed stove.
[See also “I Joined the Wesleyan Covenant Association…. But Not for These Reasons.“]
Dr. Bob Phillips retires July 1, 2017, as Directing Pastor of First UMC, Peoria, Il. Bob is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Illinois, with advanced degrees from Asbury, Princeton and St. Andrews (Scotland). He retired with the rank of Captain as the senior United Methodist Chaplain in the US Navy in 2005.
Yes, “A Holy Spirit fire is burning in African/Third World Methodism.”It may take us and the WCA in many unanticipated new directions.
To wit: “The Rev. George Wilson, director of the Liberian church’s Connectional Table, said the church is heading in the right direction if it must help the government in shaping the lives of the Liberian people. ‘Our lives are impacted by the activities of these corporate entities and to sit, watch and do nothing especially after this historic Paris conference will render us useless as a church,’ he pointed out.”
“The UMC Liberia Climate Change Task Force is not just a short-term project, Wilson said, but will become an additional department within the church at the 183rd Annual Session of the Liberia Annual Conference scheduled in February.”
It seems somewhat presumptuous to believe that one interpretation of scripture is more righteous than another.
Thanks for reading the post. Apply your comment to the prosperity preachers, white supremacists, or Fred Phelps and you will perhaps see that judgments like these must be made for the good of the church. Otherwise we have no standard. Paul would not have told Timothy to rightly handle the Word of God if it were not possible to mishandle it.
When many progressive Christians, including UMC clergy! are asked if Jesus the only way to salvation, I cringe when I hear or read them respond, “Jesus is the only way for me,” implying that no, they don’t believe Jesus is the only way. That’s right up there with denying the physical literal resurrection, and they do that too! Even clergy! It’s mind-boggling to me.