He Is Risen!

John 20:1-18 (NLT)

Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. Then they went home.

Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.

“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”

She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

“Mary!” Jesus said.

She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).

“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.

Death Leads to Resurrection

By Becky Wilder, Holston WCA Board Member

As we draw near Holy Week, I’m reminded that before resurrection a death had to be embraced. Scripture tells us that Jesus willingly laid down his life and took up his cross. If any of us had been there watching the events of that week unfold, we would have been horrified. And yet, it was God’s greatest plan for all of history.

When I think of this I wonder … what am I refusing to embrace so that God can unfold his good work in me? Am I willing to lay down my human ideas and plans to trust Him completely? Am I ready to shift to Kingdom living even though it means dying to my way of life?

This month, “The Way To The Kingdom” prayer guide is written by the Rev. Dr. Kimberly D. Reisman and focuses on becoming peacemakers. Pray through each day and then repeat the next week. (You can read the entire article by Rev. Dr. Reisman here.

Daily Prayer Points

Sunday: Pray through any divisiveness and anger, and toward reconciliation, remembering that eventually even Paul and Barnabas had to separate to continue their Kingdom work. (Matthew 5:44-47)

Monday: Pray through any bitterness and unforgiveness, and toward mercy and forgiveness. (Colossians 3:12-17)

Tuesday: Pray through any spirit of vengeance or ill-will, and toward genuine expressions of goodwill, planting seeds of peace and reconciliation. (James 3:11-13)

Wednesday: Pray through the tendency to accommodate Jesus into our worldviews, and toward being transformed into his way of life. Remember that following the way of peace is always an energetic and risky endeavor, filled with vigorous, complicated, costly and insistent goodwill. (Ephesians 5:8-11)

Thursday: Pray through any self-righteousness, and toward a recognition that human conflict is never a clear situation of pure wickedness coming up against irrefutable good. (Ephesians 2:13-16)

Friday: Pray through any hardness of heart, and toward a willingness to restore community. (Matthew 5:23-24)

Saturday: Pray through worry, weariness, and discouragement, and toward the knowledge that God has begun a new work in our Methodist movement and will be faithful to complete it. (John 16:33)

The Holston WCA Intercessory Prayer Group continues to meet on Zoom at 11 a.m. Wednesdays, and we would love for you to join us. Contact me at wilderfamily@hotmail.com and I will send you the access link.

Becky Wilder is the WCA International Intercessors Leader for the Holston Chapter.

What We Seek

By Chuck Griffin, Holston WCA President

We’ve posted a lot of articles the last few weeks detailing what traditional Methodist churches in the Holston Conference expect as the Global Methodist Church becomes a viable home for them. (The GMC officially launches May 1.) Here’s a quick summary of what we pray all involved will come to understand:

1) Traditional Methodist churches are leaving. Timing is up in the air only because those who have a grip on us cannot decide how or when to let go. Ideally, the entire Holston Annual Conference would decide at a meeting held this year whether to go to the Global Methodist Church. But even without that, we can separate gracefully.

2) We want the same graceful exit we would have received if General Conference had been held and the so-called “Protocol Legislation” had passed. General Conference’s cancellation was the result of a brazen and bogus plan to prevent the likely passage of Protocol. Feeling robbed, we will not settle for less.

3) A graceful exit is easy to define. Departing churches take their property without cost. They do not pay apportionments for any years that they will not be in the United Methodist Church—to use the term coined several years ago regarding the conference tithe, we’ve already paid our “Fair Share,” and anything more is, by definition, unfair. These churches also will not pay vaguely formulated pension liabilities in advance.  We are more than happy to agree to keep covering reasonable pension liabilities that might arise.

All those onerous extra payments, the kind defined under “disaffiliation procedures,” need to be called what they are: Exit fees. Exit fees are punitive. If we hear proposals for exit fees, we will know a decision has been made to forego grace.

We seek grace, just as we would hope to offer grace if the situation were reversed.

Living in Limbo

By Rowland S. Buck, Holston WCA Board Chair

There will be no General Conference this year, unless the Council of Bishops decides to do the right thing and call for a special General Conference to be held late this year or early 2023. I don’t think anyone really expects that to happen. Some are tired and just want to be done.

Some still hope that “The Protocol” will be acted upon in 2024. But all of us are living in limbo. The Global Methodist Church will launch May 1, 2022. While that is exciting news, the looming question is: How will we get there? Without “The Protocol” being approved by the General Conference, there is no clear way applicable to every church.

So we are in limbo, stuck between the exciting prospect of a new Methodist movement and the current stalemate in the United Methodist Church. For now, all we can do is wait to see what develops. Can I offer some guidance as to how to live in our denominational limbo?

First, pray. Prayer should never be our last resort, but always our first engagement. Prayer brings us into union with God. Prayer purifies our motives. Prayer challenges us to seek the way of Christ. Prayer tempers our anger. Prayer leads us to discover the heart of God. Prayer leads us to the mind of Christ. So pray.

Gather others in your church to pray. Pray for your pastors, regardless of which side of the issues they may fall. This is no easy time to pastor God’s church. Pray for their preaching, pray for their spiritual renewal, pray for the quality of their spiritual leadership. Pray for their spouses and families.

If you want a better pastor, preacher and leader, pray rather than criticize. Pray for our bishop. Pray for conference leadership. Pray for the Council of Bishops and the leaders of other annual conferences. Pray
for churches in Ukraine and Russia. Pray for churches in Africa.

Let this moment of uncertainty in our world and in our denomination be the catalyst to make God’s church a church of prayer.

Hear Brother Wesley: “ Whether we think of, or speak to, God, whether we act or suffer for him, all is prayer, when we have no other object than his love, and the desire of pleasing him. Proceed with much prayer, and your way will be made plain.”

Second, this is a great time to remember the primary reason there is a Methodist movement: entire sanctification—holiness of heart and life. Again, hear Mr. Wesley: “This doctrine (entire sanctification or Christian Perfection) is the grand depositum which God has lodged with the people called Methodists; and for the sake of propagating this chiefly He appeared to have raised us up.”

Wesley wrote this the year before he died. He never wavered from this pursuit of holiness from the days of “The Holy Club” at Oxford to his death bed. If you are planning to leave the United Methodist Church because you are disgruntled with the way things have turned out, and do not move into the future with anything but your disgruntlement, you will end up being disgruntled wherever you land. But this moment is the perfect time to reassess why you are a Methodist! Is it for the hope of entire sanctification?

If not, then to what end are you a Methodist? I don’t even remember hearing the concept of “entire sanctification” or “Christian perfection” until I was in seminary! We stopped talking about it long ago, which is probably one of the reasons we are in this mess. But now is the time to take up Methodism in its fullest, original form.

I would invite you to read “Perfect Love” by Kevin Watson. Read this talk by Dr. Joseph Dongell and begin to reacquaint yourself with sanctifying grace.

Third, begin to have spiritual conversations with others in your congregation. This will not be easy, but it is time to talk about these things because truth matters. There is no reason to argue or purposefully agitate others. There is no need to be condemning or unkind. But there is a need for Christians to talk with each other about matters of faith.

Our current schism in The United Methodist Church has been caused by a slow drift from our doctrinal standards and from a diluted understanding of the primacy of Holy Scripture. As a group, we have failed to teach the doctrines of our faith and to help new and mature Christians alike develop a worldview shaped by those doctrines.

During my ministry, I have been constantly surprised at how difficult it is for church members to have spiritual conversations with each other. We can share prayer requests and we might even ask each other if we are “saved.” But we find it rather difficult to talk about what Jesus has done for us, how we have experienced justification, or what God is doing in our lives to sanctify us.

Part of that is a lack of vocabulary to talk about such things and the desire to not talk in “church speak.” Another reason is that we view these as personal and private issues and many of us develop personal theologies that we don’t want to see challenged. Can we see where that approach has gotten us?

Our denomination and the church in North America is in theological crisis. We say we are people of faith but we have neglected the discipline of how to articulate that faith in winsome and non-threatening ways.

We have become biblically illiterate so that Scripture rarely informs our personal theology. We know this about ourselves, so we are reluctant to articulate our beliefs with others and be challenged, fearing we will be proven silly. So we refrain in silence.

It need not be this way. Take a friend out for coffee and broach the subject of doctrine. If you don’t know where to begin, start with the Articles of Religion. Let the shared “I-don’t-knows” become the fodder for future discussions and even Bible study together. Let the conversations focus on learning together rather than correcting each other. Let Scripture inform your experience, rather than your experience determine your interpretation of Scripture.

In other words, when Scripture points to something that is unfamiliar in your experience, let it lead you to a longing for the experience. I have never spoken in tongues, but the Bible clearly describes such an experience. I have friends who have. I have family members who do. But it is not my experience. I do not doubt that Scripture speaks of such a thing, nor do I deny its reality or truth. Since I have not experienced it, I was never sure what to do about it. But I can long for it, since the Bible says it is a gift God gives to His children.

And if God wants me to have it, why would I reject it? Would I reject forgiveness? Or healing? Or the gift of administration? Of course not. So let Scripture lead us to desiring any and all that God wants to give.

There is plenty to do in this time of limbo. We can’t control how long this will last. We can’t control what others do. But we can spend the time productively. As Paul says in Colossians 4:5, “Make the most of every opportunity.” This is an opportunity—a moment to decide what kind of Christ-followers we will be. We can languish in limbo or we can pray; we can open ourselves to God’s sanctifying grace; we can begin to have spiritual conversations that are seasoned with grace.

And in the meantime, we will trust that God is at work.

Be Counted

By Chuck Griffin, Holston WCA President

At our annual meeting of the Holston Chapter of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, we issued a document called the “Statement of Intent.” It also has been available on our website as part of our “Looking Ahead” document, which has been downloaded about 400 times since March 19.

Already, these completed statements are starting to arrive at the Holston WCA, and we’re getting inquiries about the document, so I thought I should take a few moments to revisit it.

To avoid confusion, I will repeat what the Statement of Intent says at the top. This is not a document of the United Methodist Church; it in no way binds you to the Global Methodist Church or releases you from the UMC.

Filling out the Statement of Intent accomplishes something important, though. It lets your WCA chapter put a number on how many churches in the Holston Conference really feel ready to move to the Global Methodist Church. Ultimately, this information will allow the WCA to help these churches work together to achieve their common goal.

We keep these forms very private. As a church, you of course might want to declare your intent publicly, along the lines of what First UMC of Alcoa did last August. That’s up to your church leadership, though. The Holston WCA leadership won’t be releasing those names on our own.

Ideally, a church’s top administrative body will vote to send in the Statement of Intent.

Please also note that the form can be used by groups of traditional Methodists within churches unlikely to leave the UMC. We want to count you, too, so we can provide assistance as you make important decisions. You have lots of options before you as an organized group of traditional Methodists, even if you feel out of place in your church.

It is our prayer that all churches in the Holston Conference of the UMC are having open and frank conversations now about whether they ultimately will want to be in the UMC or the GMC.

Again, here’s the “Looking Ahead” document, with the Statement of Intent on the last page: