By Rowland S. Buck
Chair, Holston WCA
On Saturday, Aug. 25, 160 people from all over the Holston Annual Conference convened to organize the Holston Wesleyan Covenant Association. As we sang our opening hymn, “Victory in Jesus,” I was encouraged, not just by the robust and rousing voices in praise, but also by the confidence that Jesus is our victory, whatever happens.
The truth is none of us knows what will happen—today, tomorrow, or in February 2019 when the called General Conference of the United Methodist Church meets. But we are confident that nothing will change who gives us victory. It is an old, old story. But it is still unfolding. And God is still moving.
The letter to the Hebrews gives us a fitting summary of where we are as members of the Holston Wesleyan Covenant Association:
“So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. ” (Hebrews 6:18-19)
We are standing firm in the hope that is guaranteed by both God’s promise and his oath to keep his promise. Hope doesn’t keep us in the past, hope leads us forward, even into the inner sanctuary, the presence of God.
Hope pulls us forward, like a ship dropping its anchor ahead, and then using that anchor to pull it forward in the midst of raging storms. Our hope is informed by a commitment to the Scriptures as the primary authority for all matters of faith and practice.
Our hope is practiced in community as we draw support and strength from each other. Our hope is pulling us into the future, not with fear and trepidation, but with confidence and assurance that the next Methodism will be a vibrant and vital witness to the world of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So where does our hope that is ours in Christ, and in connection to each other as the Wesleyan Covenant Association lead us? Let me suggest three things:
Prayer. Wesley encouraged us to pray by saying, “God does nothing except in response to believing prayer.” We pray not fearful of the future, but wanting the Holy Spirit to be unleashed in us, and to unleash us into the world for the future. Let’s commit to pray. The Council of Bishops has asked us to pray for the United Methodist Church. Let’s do it!
They have asked us to pause to pray at 2:23 till 2:26 (a.m. or p.m.) each day—the times reflect the dates of the 2019 General Conference. They have also invited us to participate in weekly 24-hour fasts in the Wesleyan tradition, beginning after supper on Thursday until supper on Friday. We can gather and we can encourage others to pray. And not just for the United Methodist Church. Every great awakening and revival has begun by people committing to prayer. Let’s pray for a global awakening.
Advancement. We are not about quaking in the shadows until the storm passes. We are confident in God’s Word and in the power of His Holy Spirit. The Wesleyan revival was launched with this attitude:
“Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergymen or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon Earth.” ~ John Wesley
This is not about going to battle, though some of us may feel like that is what we are engaged in. This is simply about being who we say we are: warm-hearted, Spirit-filled, orthodox followers of Jesus in the Wesleyan tradition.
Engage in the ordinances of God. Lean into the Holy Spirit. Study and search the Scriptures. Conference with other Christians, and don’t hide your orthodox standing. I believe some are going along with the progressive wave simply because they don’t know that others still stand in the orthodox truth. Take a friend for coffee, decide not to be easily offended, listen, and speak truth in love, respond with a winsome and engaging spirit; seek to win friends and influence others with a loving character. This is how the kingdom of Jesus will be advanced.
Preparation. Something new is on the horizon. We want to be ready for the next movement of God’s Spirit. We will seek to trim the sails and be aware of the changes as they come. We will organize ourselves in such a way as to be flexible to the Spirit’s leading, open to where He leads, and we will move forward together. Our focus will not be our our current disagreements and political infighting. Instead, we will prepare to become a Spirit-filled, disciple-making movement to spread Scriptural holiness across the land.
The first meeting of the Holston WCA Board of Directors will be from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22. Keep us in your prayers.
Praying with this board. We are in battle. But I affirm the WCA approach on the administrative front, while I and the church I serve are on the front lines, taking a stand now and taking heat as we proceed. I rejoice in lessons I received in meeting with some of the pastors who have recently pulled out in Mississippi. They had two common core elements to their approach. 1. Every step preceded by intensive prayer. 2. In that prayer, a decision not to be drawn into carnality of anger or hatred.
Praying this wisdom for the board…. and for myself