by Bob Phillips

The creation of a new Wesleyan Christian expression will include some profound changes for congregations. Bluntly, any local church that sees the main changes for aligning with the GMC as the end of the trust clause, the reduction of apportionments and a change in the church sign, in the words of Westley (not John but Westley from Princess Bride) had best “get used to disappointment.” Emphasis on gospel basics, a call to serious evangelistic outreach for conversions and discipleship, accountability and mission passion reflected at every level of the church will not be easy. The end of ‘strap-hangers’ and ‘free rider’ and ‘no-load’ categories of membership will elicit much grumping from the previously inert and invisible crowd. The temptation to undertake such changes in ways where legalism trumps love also will be real. Cheap grace dies hard and with much squealing, but it must go.

That said, relatively little has been said about several simple, low-key but symbolically rich changes and re-sets envisioned in the GMC. I offer the following examples:

Deity Pronouns

God’s preferred pronouns, reflected in the grammar of scripture and the ways Jesus spoke of and to God, are clear: he, him, his. Inclusive language speaking of all humankind is one thing, and a proper modification from, “All men” this or that. Modern theology, in seeking to sponge away use of the masculine pronoun for God, is presenting us with an infinite-impersonal deity that is more like the Force of Obi Wan, Luke and Leia. The infinite-personal God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ will be preached and taught in the GMC, and yes, folks are not thereby suggesting God has male parts. “The Lord is God. It is He who has made us.” (Psalm 100:3).


My jurisdiction declared in a special document in 2021 and in the grid through which 3 bishops recently were elected that what really matters in fulfilling our baptismal vows is for local churches to renounce classism, colonialism, heterosexism, racism, Christian Nationalism and (in case I have omitted something) ism-ism. Nearly every clergy and layperson at that Jurisdictional gathering, and every annual conference represented, came from settings of sustained decline. Are these ‘isms’ the reasons we aren’t effective in reaching people for Jesus Christ? The GMC says priorities need to be elsewhere, a shift that does not make the GMC bigots or indifferent to justice. The rousing last-day speech at our Jurisdictional by a biological male who identifies as a female to, “Queer the church” (with no speaker selected to offer another vision) won’t be an issue in the GMC because ‘queering the church’ is not a priority of the GMC.


Speaking of “unfit for the Kingdom” stated above, in the GMC the word really is ‘Kingdom,” as in Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven…’who is the King of Glory’ (Psalm 24). “Kin-dom’ and other such terms is a dog that won’t hunt in the GMC. Listening to folks speak of “them” or “they” and later realizing the reference is to an individual shifts my thought to concerns of a dissociative personality disorder or, worse, Jesus’ interrogation of the Gerasene demoniac. “What is your name?” ‘My name is Legion, for our pronouns are “we” and “us.’” GMC leaders and churches will not be pushing this on congregations, and that does not mean the GMC denies the real existence of gender dysphoria and related psychosexual illness.


I reviewed postings in the previous seven days on certain Facebook sites and blogs. The GMC position on marriage reflects hate, rejection, bigotry, a desire to see a whole class of people burn and assorted other merry thoughts. Such hissers seem unaware that the GMC position on sexuality and the nature of Christian marriage reflect teachings aligned fully with roughly 95% of the world’s professing Christians. GMC and WCA folks are awash with accusations that they are “purveyors of misinformation,” a polite 9 syllable term for “Liars!” The GMC is filled with disgruntled malcontents, advocates of Christian nationalism, in bed with racists, misogynists, secretly opposed to women or minorities in ministry, eager to impose fundamentalism on the unsuspecting children of Wesley, so ‘they’ say. Worst of all, the GMC calls names. It is for the GMC to embrace Ephesians 4:15, speak the truth in love, and not reply in kind, or in unkind. Let’s be real. Allies of the WCA and GMC have shot unfair and nasty words at brothers and sisters in Christ that also grieve the Holy Spirit. If we see it from our camp, it is our responsibility to intervene graciously but firmly. The name-calling will only recede when it is clear to the larger world that nasty innuendoes are coming from one side only. Remember the large number who are not ‘traditionalist’ Christians but are gracious. Christians in the big picture of the Kingdom. “Think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Global is Local

A toast to “Bottom up,” rather than the top-down style of leadership and direction currently employed in the status quo. Rather than treating local churches as the bottom of the pecking order, the GMC shifts the organization to a bottom-up vision in which Christ, living in risen glory through the local church, creates the larger collective vision. Our current system at Annual Conference has clergy with 50% of the vote, while representing .05% of the membership, the most obvious example of “colonialism and classism” in our denomination. Recall, as organization theory makes clear, “Every organization is perfectly aligned to the results it gets.” Acts reflects how the organization at that time and place enabled powerful, Spirit-led growth. The Holy Spirit does not run an organization into bankruptcy, but we have offered 55 years of decline. Apostolic leadership, yes; layers of bureaucracy, paperwork and directed official priorities and programs from a top-down system, no? Even motivated and sincere Christians will fail if placed in a dysfunctional and ineffective system. A toast (root beer) to a “Bottom-Up” approach.

Chair WCA, Illinois Great Rivers Conference

Degrees from University of Illinois, Asbury and Princeton Seminaries, University of St. Andrews

Graduate of Senior Executive Seminar on Morality, Ethics and Public Policy, Brookings Institution

Captain, Chaplain Corps, US Navy (ret)

See Bob’s work on Methodist Mitosis in Methodist Review.

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