The Critical Role of the Laity

This is a simple plea. Laity, step up and be counted.

Methodism, like any properly structured collection of Christians, traditionally has emphasized the leadership of spiritually mature, scripturally astute lay people. Clergy have an important role, too, but these professionals have failed in their role if there is no vibrant community of lay people once they’ve done their work. Clergy exist to equip the laity to do the work of the kingdom, not to perform that work in their stead.

If the work of the Wesleyan Covenant Association is to succeed, orthodox lay people who have immersed themselves in God’s word must take a more active role. As a clergy person, let me put it this way: Please, don’t wait on us.

In places where you see clergy leading, pull alongside them, quickly, so their strength does not flag. In places where you don’t see clergy leading, respectfully challenge what is going on, letting the Bible be your guide and the source of your authority.

Some helpful actions:

  1. Pray for your pastors. Pray hard; pray they hear directly from the Holy Spirit. Ask they be inspired to teach and preach from God’s word. Seek for them a clear sense of assurance that what they find in the Bible can be declared with confidence.
  2. Encourage your pastors to be in small groups, either with other clergy or mixing with mature lay people. These groups should, in particular, emphasize how we live what Scripture teaches us.
  3. Ask the right questions. What is your church doing to execute the basic mission Jesus gave us? (Matthew 28:19-20) What is your church’s position on scriptural authority? How deep is the average church member’s understanding of the Bible, and what is being done to grow that understanding?
  4. Gather as laity. You have the right to band together in small groups any time you want. If you’re starting a group, a good resource would be Kevin M. Watson’s “The Class Meeting: Reclaiming a Forgotten (and Essential) Small Group Experience.”
  5. Join the Wesleyan Covenant Association. We need joiners, not watchers.

The Holy Spirit already is with you, beautiful lay folk. Be the blessing to the kingdom you are called to be.

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

Bishops’ Motion: Some Guidance

As you may have heard, the UM Council of Bishops made its recommendation regarding General Conference today. You can read the press release here.

In short, they’re sending all three options—”traditionalist,” “one church,” and “connectional”— to the 2019 General Conference, but recommending “one church,” which, if approved, would strip out our Discipline’s language regarding homosexual marriage and ordination and essentially liberalize our denomination.

The WCA’s overview of what has also been called “Option 2” is available via the link below.

Should We Each Do

What Is Right in Our Own Eyes?

WCA Global Assembly

Mt. Bethel UMC, Marietta, Ga.

The national WCA just announced the date and location for our Global Assembly, and it will be a short trip for many of us in the Holston Conference. We might need to start thinking about buses!

WCA Global Assembly
Saturday, Nov. 3
Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church
Marietta, Ga.

Save the date and spread the word! The theme is “Unashamed,” a reference to Romans 1:16: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”

Our Purpose, Clearly Stated

We at Holston WCA hope all of you will take time to read this article from Keith Boyette, president of the national WCA. There have been a lot of theories floating around regarding the WCA’s intent. If this doesn’t make our organization’s strategy clear, we don’t know what will.

The Article: “So Now What?”

Staying on Mission

In a leadership seminar I attended several years ago, a speaker observed how preachers are quick to attack dangers other churches might face, but not so quick to point out internal threats.

For example, a fundamentalist preacher will attack liberal theology in the church down the street, but is much less likely to explore the harmful effects of dogmatism. Or a Pentecostal preacher might decry other Christians’ inability to speak in tongues, but be far less likely to consider the dangerous side of what John Wesley called “enthusiasm.”

We need to focus more on those matters close to home, the speaker said. With that in mind, I thought I would take a moment to express what I think the WCA’s greatest internal threat may be.

I can sum it up in one word: “Conflation.” As Christians, we are always in danger of mixing the secular and the sacred, the world and the church. As WCA members, we must be careful not to mix American politics into our group’s mission.

I’ve already seen some evidence of this happening in online forums. As we might expect, some of our WCA supporters also are politically active as American conservatives, rallying behind our current president and his causes.

In mid-January, President Trump made some derogatory remarks regarding immigrants and their countries of origin. The exact words he said were debatable, but no one contested that he had used dehumanizing language to describe people in the developing world. The WCA, taking a scriptural stance, rejected the president’s statements, preaching truth into the ongoing debate.

As I watched reactions online, I was surprised at how the WCA statement confused some of the conservative United Methodist Church members watching us, people who apparently presumed the WCA is some sort of religious arm of an American political movement.

The WCA is not, of course. No political party does a great job of standing for what is biblical, so there cannot be direct ties between what politicians want and what the WCA seeks.

These kinds of conflicts between conservative political positions and scriptural thinking could happen again, particularly when we consider the unpredictable nature of our current president. Let’s be careful, folks.

The WCA has its spokespeople and news releases, but individual members witness to what we’re trying to accomplish, too. We don’t want careless conflation by our own members to pull the WCA off message, particularly as we near the time for United Methodist annual conferences and other forums for debate.

The WCA is part of the body of Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit to stand for scriptural authority. We also are so global that it would be short-sighted to think there could be a pairing of our mission with American politics. The African bishops and pastors encouraging the WCA serve as glorious evidence of how we exist beyond national boundaries.

Additionally, we do not want to fall into the trap church progressives desperately want to set. In mid-March, UM Insight ran an article that categorized the WCA and other advocacy groups as part of an evangelical takeover, one practicing an “unholy marriage with politics.”

The progressives wish this were true, as it places our conflict on the secular playing field where they feel comfortable. Seeing them out there waiting, we shouldn’t even get off the bus.

As members of the WCA, we are bound by one basic idea: The Holy Bible authoritatively expresses the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The global church has trusted this idea for centuries, letting Scripture guide us into lives of discipleship. The power of the Holy Spirit to bring change to people’s lives through Scripture has never diminished.

We are so much more than politics.

Chuck Griffin is an ordained elder in the Hiwassee District.