By Chuck Griffin
It being Sept. 1, we should begin with a word of welcome for our new bishop, Debra Wallace-Padgett. I know several of us in the Holston Chapter of the Wesleyan Covenant Association have expressed high hopes regarding where her leadership may take us.
Let’s be in deep prayer for her as she takes on new duties at a difficult time.
I doubt if many people would argue about my one-word description of this year’s abbreviated, part online, part in-person Holston Annual Conference experience: “painful.”
Fortunately, from a traditional Methodist perspective, no real harm was done. There was a UMCNext resolution under “New Business” that would have encouraged conference leadership to delay punishment for clergy who participate in same-sex marriages or the ordination of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals. The resolution never got near the floor, however, thanks to the eight items ahead of it on our agenda. (We had just 20 minutes for new business.)
This also meant that a prepared motion to amend the UMCNext resolution, or alternatively, a counter-resolution prepared by the Holston chapter of the WCA, never had to come into play. In short, either of those items would have asked the conference to acknowledge that if such delays in punishment were to occur, the bonds tying our churches together would be considered broken, with enforcement of the Trust Clause* suspended.
The presence of the UMCNext resolution and the counter-resolution, filed by Holston WCA Board member Rowland Buck and myself, did demonstrate how inconsistent some conference leaders can be when talking about the importance of the Discipline. The conference’s Committee on Petitions and Resolutions concurred with the UMCNext desire to ignore the Discipline, and then specifically employed a strict reading of the Discipline when recommending non-concurrence for the WCA resolution.
I did enjoy the committee’s last sentence in the non-concurrence: “Moreover, if the Trust Clause were suspended, a local church that left the Conference with its property would not be temporary, but permanent.”
I assume there are words missing from the recommendation. But read literally, it would seem to affirm the eternal nature of churches wanting to leave the UMC.
The only other item that involved the WCA was New Business Item #01, a resolution that would force a tour of all churches by conference representatives and WCA representatives to explain the so-called Protocol Legislation scheduled for General Conference in 2022. Described as prohibitively expensive, Resolution #01 was referred to the Conference Council on Finance and Administration.
I should point out that the Holston WCA board was not consulted on this resolution and has serious concerns about it.
First of all, we are happy to speak to churches wanting to hear from us, and don’t really need conference representatives at our elbows. Some churches are public about their WCA affiliation, and others for now want to be more private.
Second, it would set a bad precedent if the annual conference were to start giving an advocacy group directives regarding how its members should allocate their time and resources. We plan to communicate as much to the GCFA.
May all of you be blessed in these coming weeks. If you need a WCA speaker at your church, or just a WCA representative to join a quiet meeting with a few of your church leaders, let me know.
*The Trust Clause is the statement in the United Methodist Discipline that says all church properties are held in trust for the larger church, meaning local properties aren’t owned by their local congregations. The so-called “Protocol Legislation” set to go before our next General Conference would suspend the Trust Clause, allowing churches to join a new, traditional Methodist denomination, which is not yet active.