Final Word from GC2019

This video from the Rev. Rob Renfroe summarizes what happened at General Conference 2019. Let’s be sure to lift up prayers of thanks for those who worked so hard these last few days on our behalf in St. Louis.

Pray Forward

By Chuck Griffin
Holston WCA Chair

I know many of us have long been in prayer regarding what is about to transpire in St. Louis at the Special General Conference, and for the people who will gather there to make a decision. Let’s very deliberately continue those prayers.

This Saturday is the opening day for GC2019. It is a day dedicated to worship and prayer. As much as possible, we should join them in Spirit. My own local church is making it possible for people to come to the sanctuary Saturday and join in prayer, and I hope many other local churches have similar plans.

There is much we can be praying. We certainly need to be praying for the health of the delegates. Travel is difficult for many of them, it is a season of virulent illnesses, and the stress levels will be high. Let’s be sure to cover them in prayers for safety and continuing wellness.

I want to offer a particular prayer focus, one with two basic points.

May the Spirit fall on the conference in an undeniable way. We believe God intervenes directly when the body willingly seeks guidance. It is my prayer that every single delegate will know without a doubt God provided guidance during this Conference. Come, Holy Spirit, come!

As the Spirit falls, may peace reign. Emotions are running high. People feel their worldviews and their ways of defining how to relate to God are threatened. Whatever happens, may it happen in a peaceful, orderly manner. As Jesus said, “Peace be with you.”

Blessings on all of you this week.


Peace Be with You

By Chuck Griffin
Holston WCA Chair

Oh, the anxiety. Oh, the chatter!

I say that in my Holston Wesleyan Covenant Association role, as a person who gets phone calls and e-mails from worried Methodists. I say that as pastor of a church. As February draws near, the reality of the United Methodist Church’s 2019 Special General Conference is on so many minds.

When my children were little, I taught them this phrase: “The important thing is to remain calm at all times.” As a sometimes anxious father, I did this to remind myself, more than them, of the importance of seeking calm in the midst of trouble. When anxieties set in, I could say out loud, “What’s the important thing?” They would reply, “to remain calm at all times.”

I’m asking all of you involved with the Holston WCA to be calm, thoughtful leaders in these days leading up to General Conference, and in the days immediately following General Conference.

Our biggest challenge right now is probably self-proclaimed experts declaring to anxious people exactly what’s about to happen. Usually, these people like to talk about how a split is imminent, either in the denomination or in a local congregation.

Look, no one can say for sure what the results will be from General Conference. We can make educated guesses, but when you consider the three big plans before the delegates, all the other petitions, and how these proposals could be modified, merged or stalled in myriad ways, you have to say there is no way to predict the exact outcome.

Ignore these self-appointed experts, who enjoy feeding on other people’s anxieties. Or if you must engage them, ask them a simple question: “And exactly how do you know what you claim to know?”

Even after General Conference, there will be much prayerful planning that must occur, and no one will have complete answers in the first few days following the St. Louis gathering.

It is possible we will see a United Methodist Church again firmly rooted in scriptural principles, and the difficult work of reinforcing those principles will begin. It could be the UMC will have drifted into a kind of liberalism that will require the birth of a new denomination. It could be we will all find ourselves scratching our heads, asking God, “Now what?”

We will of course look to our consecrated leader, our bishop. We will seek clearly worded guidance from her. We did, after all, formally and prayerfully install her in the role, and we must give her every chance to guide us after the General Conference has spoken, or even if the delegates leave St. Louis having said nothing at all.

Let’s also be sure to breathe—simple to do, easy to forget to do. Prayerfully exhale anxiety. Inhale so we deliberately invite God’s Spirit to work in us. The path will be made clear soon enough.

I also would suggest we meditate repeatedly on Philippians 4:4-9:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Blessings on you all.

Statement to Delegates

During today’s Holston Conference “Listening Post,” delegates to the United Methodist Church’s February General Conference heard from people wanting to express opinions about upcoming legislation related to homosexual ordinations and marriages. The Holston Wesleyan Covenant Association gave the delegates this statement:

First, we would like to thank all the delegates for the time you have spent preparing for this daunting task. Our prayers remain with you as General Conference 2019 approaches.

Our main point is a simple one. A church that abandons Scripture as its basis for understanding God and God’s will for humanity becomes rootless and will wither. The Methodist movement has thrived since the 18th century because it has treated the Bible as authoritative, adhering to its teachings.

Grace is the overwhelming message flowing through the Bible, and Methodists have always been people of grace. We know that all people are broken by sin, and therefore all people are welcome to come before God in worship and fellowship, pursuing forgiveness and healing.

It is inappropriate, however, for a church to affirm and celebrate actions opposed to God’s will. In its very beginning, the Bible in Genesis 1:26-28 describes God’s desire that humans reflect his image by pairing as male and female, and the Bible continues to uphold this idea as the basis of marriage throughout. A serious reader of Scripture also has to honor how the list of sins in Romans 1:16-32 is linked to the earliest break between God and humanity rather than the unique context of a past culture.

We ask that the Holston Conference delegates to General Conference 2019 support and vote to implement the Modified Traditionalist Plan, including new methods for enforcing our church’s Discipline. We also ask that you have the courage to provide a gracious exit for churches and clergy unhappy with any plan that may pass.

With Christ’s Love,

The Board of the Holston Chapter of the Wesleyan Covenant Association

The Antidote to Anger

By Chuck Griffin
Holston WCA Chair

In my last reflection, I spoke about the anger orthodox Methodists sometimes feel when we consider how the authority of Scripture, a traditional feature of the movement, is suddenly being downgraded by leaders in the United Methodist Church.

It is important that we quickly move beyond anger. As scriptural people, we should first look to the Bible for help.

Search the term “anger” in the Old and New Testaments; you’ll see it’s a common topic. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus condemns the kind of anger that causes us to lash out. We also know, however, that even Jesus could feel angry when he saw the will of God misinterpreted or the sanctity of God ignored.

For me, Ephesians 4:25-27 best captures the general tone of the Bible regarding anger. “So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.” Written in the context of a holy, righteous life, these words acknowledge we sometimes get angry—hopefully, for the right reasons—but remind us that anger should never be a consuming emotion.

One document we passed at the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Global Legislative Assembly helps us see the antidote to anger, describing behaviors of openness the orthodox Methodist community needs to retain.

Entitled “Statement Offering Radical Hospitality and Genuine Community,” it is so short and to-the-point I can quote it in full here:

“We long for and are working for a church that offers radical hospitality and genuine community to all persons. While we affirm the orthodox, biblical view of sexuality and gender, we also welcome all persons to the redemptive grace of Jesus. We are committed to being a place of refuge and community for all who experience brokenness.”

This is a call to revive historic Methodism at its best. There was a time when we were a communal movement of broken people looking to the Bible for divine revelation and guidance.

Yes, when we look to Scripture, our brokenness becomes painfully obvious. Paul, quoting the 14th Psalm, writes in Romans 3:10, “There is no one who is righteous, not even one.”  Scripture also tells us, however, that in every circumstance there is the possibility of hope and healing. We hear the story of  our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lifts us out of the mire.

I can be healed, you can be healed, any person we may encounter can be healed—no one is beyond the redemptive grace of Jesus Christ. Our savior died for all sins, and hurting people need to hear this truth.

The antidote to anger is simple: Shake it off and get back to the positive, life-affirming work of the church. Tell the story we all love again and again.