Unashamed! Simulcasts

Three churches in the Holston Conference will be hosting simulcasts of the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Unashamed! Nov. 3 event.

First UMC
200 S. College Ave.
Bluefield, VA 24605
(276) 326-1466

West End UMC, at the Wytheville Meeting Center
333 Community Blvd., Wytheville, VA 24382
West End UMC Phone: (276) 223-0326

Sulphur Springs UMC
329 Sulphur Rd., Whitwell, TN 37397
Phone: (423) 658-2838

The event begins at 9 a.m., with opening worship at 10 a.m. A full schedule and registration link can be found here. Whether you plan to be in Marietta, Ga., to attend in person, or at one of the simulcast sites, registration is required. The event costs $50, a bargain when you consider the speakers and the opportunity to spend a day with scriptural, Holy Spirit-filled Christians.

Okay, So Now What?

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.

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.

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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By Chuck Griffin

From a United Methodist News story on the Uniting Methodists’ strategy meeting in Charlotte, N.C.:

Dave Nuckols, Minnesota Conference lay leader, Connectional Table treasurer and a Commission on the Way Forward member, told the group that strong U.S. support for the One Church Plan won’t be enough.

“Clearly we need to have support from all regions of the church, and I think it’s clear there will be support from Africa and the Philippines,” he said in an interview.

The idea that there will be support of the so-called One Church Plan from Africa and the Philippines is an unusually bold assertion, one made without any evidence. I would be impressed if Nuckols could provide such evidence.
By the way, don’t confuse “Uniting Methodists” with “United Methodists.” I would argue the former violates the copyright and trademark of the latter, although I seriously doubt if the latter would try to enforce its rights.