Pre-registration Now Available

Please note, pre-registration is now available for our Saturday, Aug. 25 Holston WCA event in Kingsport, Tenn. The event is free, but pre-registering will help us in our planning. Simply go to the Aug. 25 event page and fill in the appropriate boxes for each individual planning to attend.

Wish List

By Chuck Griffin

Change is scary for a lot of people. Change creates incredible opportunities, however.

I’m trying to keep that second principle in mind as the United Methodist Church moves toward General Conference 2019. It seems there are four basic possible outcomes:

  1. Dissolution. (As unlikely as it seems, that possibility is always present.)
  2. The denomination affirms liberal/progressive doctrine, putting in place a plan along the lines of “One Church” or “Connectional Conference.”
  3. The denomination puts in place the “Traditionalist” plan, affirming its Wesleyan roots and beginning the difficult task of enforcing orthodox doctrine.
  4. The denomination stays mired in the schismatic state it is in now. I suspect another attempt to kick the can down the road, even if only as far as 2020, likely will trigger its own form of change in a wave of church departures.

(If you want to read more about the Traditionalist, One Church or Connectional plans, details can be found here.)

I see good coming from change regardless of the form it might take after the 2019 General Conference has ended.

Somehow, some way, a group of us will rally around the idea of scriptural authority, living according to the Bible’s definition of who God is (the infinite giver of grace) and seeking what God wants for us (holiness, made possible through that grace).

It is my great hope that when change comes, we will do more than just embrace traditional doctrines. I pray we also will consider whether the institutional structures and habits to which we’ve become accustomed support the basic mission of the church.

Some possible changes I hope will be considered:

Local, Local, Local

The denomination we currently find ourselves in is much too top-heavy and interested in micromanaging the local churches. Unless we end up with Outcome 3, I wonder if something more along the lines of an affiliation of orthodox churches might develop.

The “top,” however we define it, would focus on maintaining clear doctrinal standards for affiliates, ordaining clergy according to those standards, and organizing assistance in areas where the local churches could not meet the missional needs of the community.

And while the top would want to gather data, that effort should be limited to very basic information—mission-oriented numbers like current membership and professions of faith immediately come to mind.

Those Mobile Ministers

Would it be helpful for effective pastors to remain in their communities for a decade or longer? Our best church studies show the answer is yes.

The above “affiliate” model might bring about the end of itinerancy, anyway, as it easily could lead to a system where vetted pastors are interviewed and hired under contract rather than “placed” by a bishop.

For pastors comfortable with guaranteed appointments, this might be terrifying. They need to consider this, however: They would simply be entering the world where most of their flock exists every day, a world where you have to focus on your task, build relationships and perform at a certain level to succeed.

As one Holston bishop once put it, “If you want a bigger church, grow one.”

Covenant Membership

Being a Methodist used to mean you were methodically committed to a life-changing movement. In particular, Methodists related to their fellow Christians through covenantal small groups. Even after having to become a formal denomination, the Methodist movement for many years emphasized the need to develop spiritually through those encounters.

The UMC currently asks new members to support the local church with their “prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.” This is a good starting point. But to have a vote regarding the life and direction of a local congregation, perhaps a member should be willing to enter a covenant to fulfill these vows in measurable ways.

Will you covenant to pray daily for the community? Will you show up for a small group and for worship regularly—say, 85 percent of the time? Will you learn what your spiritual gifts are and employ them accordingly? Will you tithe on your gross income? Can you name the last person you helped bring to a belief in Christ, and can you name the person you’re trying to help now?

If some baptized Christians aren’t ready for such specific commitments, it doesn’t mean they’re not saved. I’m just suggesting that the leaders who make critical decisions about the life of a local church should be able to joyfully enter such a membership covenant. Perhaps we need a new level of membership, calling these people “covenant members.”

Unlike a lot of notions we float in our orthodox Methodist circles, these three ideas are certainly debatable. I’m simply hoping that once change is upon us, we will take time to debate them, and other ideas like them.

Chuck Griffin is an ordained elder serving in the Hiwassee District.

Aug. 25 Plans

StandalonelogoOur first formal gathering of the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Holston chapter is still on for Saturday, Aug. 25, in Kingsport.

Both the Rev. Keith Boyette, president of the WCA, and the Rev. Walter Fenton, the WCA’s vice president for strategic engagement, will be present to help lead worship and carry out the business of organizing the Holston chapter.

The gathering will be held at Glen Alpine UMC in Kingsport, located at 3200 Glen Alpine Road. Registration begins at noon; worship will be at 1 p.m., followed by our business meeting. We will be electing a board and officers at this time.

Regarding WCA Membership:

Anyone is welcome to attend this event, but candidates for officers and the board must be paid members of the national WCA, and voting also will be limited to current, paid WCA members.

We will make provisions for attendees to sign up for the WCA the day of the event. Most of you, however, will find it easier to join online. To join before the Aug. 25 meeting, go to the Wesleyan Covenant Membership Page.

When you join, be sure to mark that you are in the Holston Conference. If you are unsure whether you marked yourself as being in the Holston Conference when you joined, let your current acting directors know via e-mail, and we will check on your status.

And of course, let’s all continue to be in prayer as we move toward General Conference 2019.

News Regarding GC2019 Plans

This is from United Methodist News Service …

Plans Prayerfully Pondered by United Methodists

This is a statement from the Council of Bishops, with links to the three basic plans going to the called General Conference in 2019…

Way Forward Report Released in All Four Languages of General Conference

What Faithfulness Looks Like Now

Encouraging Words

Well, there’s a war brewing within the United Methodist Church. It doesn’t look like we’re going to “move forward” without coming apart. The denomination has been trying to hold together for over forty years now. The issues are not just the issue we’re talking about, (which is the church’s teaching on homosexuality), but it is about how we view scripture, ecclesiology, and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These are central tenets of the Christian faith.

Modernists would have us “move forward” from the past, embrace new ways of thinking, become unshackled by what they have deconstructed and demythologized. They ask us to accept new norms that completely break the mold of scriptural teaching, explaining that scripture can’t compete in today’s world. A new ethos has arisen, and to speak against it, to stand up for scripture, is to be guilty of “hate speech.”

I don’t think I…

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