Join us for “Methodism’s Bright Future” on Monday, March 1, 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.

Join us for “Methodism’s Bright Future” on Monday, March 1, 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.

Join us for “Methodism’s Bright Future” on Monday, March 1, 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.

Important: You have two ways to participate: Zoom or Facebook Live. Zoom is limited to 1,000 participants, so if you can’t log on to the Zoom call, join us on Facebook Live. These live links will take you to the event. Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81244239518 Facebook Live: www.facebook.com/MississippiMethodism/live

The idea for this informational event started here in Mississippi and expanded to include 13 Annual Conferences across the Southeastern Jurisdiction. Join us March 1! It’s free. Registration is not required. Please share and invite others to join us. All are welcome.

WCA MIDWINTER UPDATE

Tom Thomas, Virginia Chapter

January 28, 2021

Celebrate the foreword thinking of the WCA Council and leadership!  Many task forces are considering a whole host of practical, essential and theological matters necessary for founding a dynamic, new, global, conservative denomination.

The following is a summary of WCA President Keith Boyette’s report on a sundry of WCA matters and news of interest to you and your churches:

  • Global Gathering – Saturday May 1, 2021 – In Person at Frazer UMC, Montgomery, Alabama
    • Global Assembly Meets – Friday April 30
    • Look for information re: Global Gathering mid-February
    • Sign up immediately if you plan to attend.  Limit is 500 persons.
    • Frazer is following health protocols for safe practices.
  • Release of new denominational name, logo, and Transitional Leadership Council members in late February
  • Commitment to passing Protocol remains as strong as ever.
  • If your church is interested in streaming the Global Gathering on May 1, please contact Tom Thomas:  dr.hot4jc@gmail.com

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WCA-VA Prayer meeting

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,“The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and His ears are open to their cry.” Psalm 34:15

What a wonderful promise! The WCA is establishing prayer groups in each state to bring together like minded brothers and sisters to undergird the vision, work, and preparation for the WCA and a new denomination

As Prayer Coordinator for WCA-VA, we extend an invitation to any who have a desire to serve the LORD and pray for the WCA to please join our Virginia prayer team. Beginning Sunday, January 24th at 4:00 pm, we will meet to pray “virtually” on one Sunday afternoon a month for the needs of our church, the WCA, and any future denomination.

We are not a gathering to discuss the “latest” or “inside” news. We are simply meeting together in the Lord’s presence and praying for the WCA and its future direction and needs.

If you are so led and have not already done so, please contact me!

Pam Thomas (WCA-VA Prayer Coordinator)
hot4jc@verizon.net

Introducing our new President!

Rev. Dr. H.O. “Tom” Thomas is the new President of the Wesleyan Covenant Association of Virginia We wanted to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit more about our new President and a word about Tom from our outgoing President Rev. Gayle Thornberry.

Tom is a Director of the Good News’ Board, recent president of the Evangelical Fellowship of the Virginia Annual Conference, and a member of the Wesleyan Covenant Association. An Ordained Elder in the Virginia Annual Conference, he has pastored diverse churches in Virginia, California and England and taught at higher educational institutions, including Asbury Theological Seminary from 1998 to 2003. Receiving his M. Div. from Asbury Theological Seminary and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in John Wesley’s theology from the University of Bristol, Bristol, England, he and his wife Pam of forty four years lived in John Wesley’s home, “The New Room”. 

Since 2017, he has been a contributor to www.moralapologetics.com and has published articles in Methodist History and the Wesleyan Theological Journal.

The Thomas’s have two children, Karissa, an attorney in Richmond, Virginia, and John, a recent graduate of Regent University. His two year old grandson is Beau. Tom enjoys being outdoors in his little parkland woods and sitting by a warm, log fire with a good book and a mug of PG Tips tea. He is making progress on a projected book project entitled, Practicing Prayer with John Wesley. His life text is, ‘Jesus, confirm my heart’s desire to work and speak and think for Thee’.  

I have known and worked with Tom for the last 8 years and I’m always so blessed by his leadership, knowledge, and delightful humor.  He will serve our chapter well.  Tom will be at the helm with a gifted team to serve alongside him on the Board.  The full board is as follows:

Executive Board:

Tom Thomas, President (Clergy)

Mike Huff, 1st V.P. and Treasurer (Laity)

David Ford, 2nd V.P. (Clergy)

Karen Workman, Secretary (Clergy)

General Board:

Michelle Engel (Laity)

Becky Livermonn (Laity)

Diane Hassel (Deaconess)

Yunho Eo (Clergy)

Jim Noland (Clergy)

Mary Sullivan-Trent (Clergy)

Shawna Hiner (Clergy)

Jim Lavender (Clergy)

Ryan Oswald (Clergy)

Matt Meisenhelter (Clergy)

Don Gibson (Clergy)

Brandon Nichols (Clergy)

Nancy Palmer (Clergy)

“A Promising Hope” WCA-VA 2020 Fall Gathering recording

The recording of the WCA-VA 2020 Fall Gathering, “A Promising Hope” is now available at https://vimeo.com/445891176.

Many thanks to Rev. Keith Boyette for joining us and our moderator Rev. Tom Thomas and our panelists, Rev Gayle Thornberry and Rev. David Ford.

We had a great time today of information, praise and worship and a word from the Lord through prayer and self-contemplation.

If you were unable to join us live, we hope you enjoy this recording.

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT:

A group of diverse #UMC bishops, clergy and laity recently met to cast a vision for a future expression of Methodism. If and when the General Conference adopts the “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation,” we intend to form a new Methodist denomination that:

  • Is passionate about Jesus and His gospel,
  • Is characterized by Joy,
  • Is truly GLOBAL in our mission, membership and leadership,
  • Trusts the Bible, in which the living core of our faith is revealed,
  • Loves everybody and welcomes all who respond to God’s love,
  • Upholds core, historic, Methodist doctrines, ethics and mission,
  • Works to eradicate racism, sexism, poverty and addiction,
  • Values Wesleyan connectional community and accountability,
  • Empowers women and people of color to lead the Church at every level,
  • Takes deep discipleship and leadership formation seriously,
  • Emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit and
  • Minimizes bureaucracy to maximize impact.

If you’re excited by this, then do three things: 1) sign up for updates at http://NewWesleyanDenomination.com, 2) share this post and 3) pray with us as we work toward achieving this God-given vision!

SIX REASONS THE PROTOCOL IS HISTORIC AND I SUPPORT IT!

By H. O. Tom Thomas, President, Evangelical Fellowship of Virginia

  Bishop John Yambasus’ mediation team released January 3, 2020 the widely publicized ‘Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation’.  The result of long negotiations of traditionalists, centrists, and progressives, it calls for “restructuring the Church through respectful and dignified separation’ (Article I: 2).

            Reflect with me on six significant reasons this agreement is so historic. The settlement foresees an epochal moment not seen in the history of Methodism since the nineteenth century.  We have not seen a fresh reinvigoration of Methodism since the nineteenth century break-offs of Free Methodists, Wesleyans, Nazarenes, Salvation Army or even the split between the Methodist Episcopal Church, South and Methodist Episcopal Church.

            We do not want to miss the forest for the trees.  Since the concord is a compromise, there are downsides which will adversely affect our people and churches both here and in Africa.  We must resist the temptation to pick it apart.  Celebrate it for its broad strokes.  Let me share why this agreement ought to be supported.

1) At General Conference 2019, the Traditionalist Plan prevailed.  Tightened policies of accountability were set to kick in January 2020.  Is not this an indication traditionalists are in the driver’s seat to exercise positive, accountable governance over the church?  We rejoice in another re-assertion of the last eleven General Conferences.  However, as I have been arguing for the last five years, is it reasonable and realistic to expect the same bad actors that spurn Scripture’s final authority and have defied the law of The Book of Discipline for years to submit respectfully now to the umpteenth decision of General Conference?  No.  In fact, their resistance has only become more open, more determined, more calculating and more vehement.

            Consider the following: forty percent of our Annual Conferences are on record stating they will not abide by General Conference’s 2019 decision. How many more are quietly inclined the same way? A number of annual conferences openly ordained practicing homosexuals last spring after General Conference 2019 with little real consequences. Sixty five to seventy percent of the US 2020 General Conference delegates are not traditionalists.  All but one general church agency was for the One Church Plan. The National Association of Schools and Colleges of the United Methodist Church advocated for the One Church Plan. In a survey done, the majority of the Council of Bishops affirms homosexual practice ought to be allowed in our church.  Let us face it, no matter what General Conference passes, United Methodism’s United States corporate leadership is in lockstep and they hold the cards.  The Traditionalist Plan is the law de jure, the law written on paper in our book.  You would never know it.  The One Church Plan is the de facto lawwhich is the law really in effect across the United States Connection.  The One Church Plan is the law in force and is the one which in fact governs the Connection.

If our Church’s  leadership will not conform itself to millennia of the unanimous witness of God’s Holy Word, and will not give credence to the consensus of thousands of years of  Jewish and Christian commentary, then will it submit to the human voice of The Book of Discipline?  Can leopards change their spots?  The hope of doubling down on accountability and completing the work on the Traditional Plan this General Conference 2020 is a pipe-dream.  Strong, effective accountability across the denomination has not happened in eleven General Conferences.  It will not happen after General Conference 2020.  The will of the United States corporate leadership is not there to enforce accountability, now or in the foreseeable future.  The Protocol is historic because it will break this anarchy!

2) Perhaps the most monumental reason for supporting the Protocol is that Bible believing Christians can be set free from the oppression and reign of sin.  Many may not know, but John Wesley used the following principle to determine when persons should separate from the church.  John Wesley said when one is asked to do what Scripture forbids, or forbidden to do what Scripture positively commands, one has a ‘bounden’ duty to separate.  Specifically, if you cannot ‘continue without sin’, you must separate ‘without delay’.  I, for one, cannot continue in the United Methodist Church without continuing in sin!  There must be resolution or else!   With the Protocol, Biblical Christians can now be free of the complicity of accommodating themselves to a church advocating that pastors and people live in sin.  The Protocol will allow the formation of a new church where believers may worship the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in spirit and truth and in good conscience.  This makes the Protocol historic!

3)  The Protocol agreement is to date the best way to leave the sin and still have a place to go!  It is the best way out for a way in.  It is an Exit Plan with an intentional designation!  Explicitly, the Protocol offers local churches an opportunity without harassment to choose to be a part of a new traditionalist denomination and take with them all their property and assets free and clear.  There is no apportionment payment expectation and no fees.  Of course, each new denomination will have to fund its share of retired pastors’ pensions.  Evangelical pastors and churches have been longing for years for a plan that allows their churches to be in a church where Scripture is truly honored!  This is what the historic Protocol agreement allows!

4) Centrists and Progressives by the Protocol have moved to a position of acceptance of “separation”.  This is striking!  Even after General Conference 2019, centrist leader Tom Berlin was not interested in working with the Evangelical Fellowship and Wesleyan Covenant Association here in Virginia on a joint Annual Conference resolution for General Conference for ‘amicable separation’.  Centrists consistently over the years assume the vast majority of United Methodists are ‘centrists’.  Centrists’ working assumption is Traditionalists and Progressives are fringe groups.  Annual Conference delegation votes reported last summer only confirmed them in the view.  Centrist and Progressives, which traditionalist leaders confirm, report sixty five to seventy five percent of United States delegates going to General Conference in 2020 are pro-homosexual practice.

The traditionalist coalition, the Renewal and Reform Coalition, has also done the math.  In spite of those figures, Traditionalists have the votes – by a whisker – if everything goes right – to vote in our legislation.  It is too close for confidence.  In the past leading Centrists and Progressives, bishops included, have premised that a plan of separation would concede too much – assets, agencies, infrastructure, and local churches – to minority interests (conservatives).  The fact that those who have been entrenched in the views of theological diversity in unity above all are conceding ‘separation’ cannot be underestimated!  They are legitimizing a term which is loath to them.  By entering into a pact with traditionalists they are implicitly recognizing the Wesleyan Covenant Association movement which for them is illegitimate and schismatic.  The Protocol is truly historic!        

            5) Since 1972, the vast majority of United Methodist clergy today have ministered in a United Methodist church conceived in the construct of ‘doctrinal pluralism’.  ‘Doctrinal pluralism’ (not to be confused with racial or ethnic pluralism) affirms that diverse theologies should live in Christian unity.  ‘Doctrinal pluralism’ is a false construct wrongly attributed to John Wesley which was introduced in 1972 into the newly founded United Methodist Church to make it a theological ‘big tent’ smorgasbord.  Our Church turned away from its long connection to historic Methodism to become a church of many diverse, contradictory theologies.  Doctrinal pluralism now forty eight years later has become a way to justify ‘any belief goes’, e.g. even ‘queer theology’.

Regent University professor Dale M. Coulter observes the Protocol represents the death of doctrinal pluralism.  He calls doctrinal pluralism a ‘failed experiment in Methodist unity’.  The Protocol now offers Traditionalists, often the victims of pluralism for almost two generations, a way to be a part of a church where a clear consensus on vital Gospel truths promotes heartfelt preaching of Jesus Christ as the Savior of sinners!  Evangelical UMC pastors have never known such in their ministerial careers!  The Protocol offers a truly historic new beginning!

            6) One of the most common responses to the Protocol by Traditionalists is ‘The United Methodist Church is our church, why should we leave?’  As one put it, the Protocol feels like an ‘eviction’ notice to Traditionalists. We are having to give up our name, our Discipline, our assets, et cetera. Because of the ‘optics’ of the Centrists and Progressives keeping the UMC name and the structures, many persons view the agreement as Traditionalists leaving the church.  Let me speak to this in two parts, A and B.  (A) Let’s keep in mind the Protocol’s text: ‘the undersigned propose restricting the United Methodist Church by separation as the best means to resolve our differences, allowing each part of the church to remain true to its theological understanding, while recognizing the dignity, equality, integrity, and respect of every person’.

            Giving up the name ‘United Methodist’ and its logo of ‘cross and flame’ is a sticking point for Methodists.  Especially in Africa and in the Central Conferences the name is revered and respected.  Here in the United States, not so much for a significant section of Traditionalist clergy.  In polls of Traditionalist clergy leaders over the years, the great majority feel the name has become a liability.  Furthermore, our boards, agencies, and seminaries have become such entrenched strongholds of progressivism they would do better in the hands of the Centrist and Progressive ‘post-UMC’ church. Quite honestly, many Traditionalists feel our brand is almost beyond redemption.  It has become sullied with its association with the affirmation of homosexual practice and other liberal views.  Traditionalists believe we need to re-brand ourselves for future effective evangelism and church growth.  Moreover, Traditionalists envision a new church with a much leaner and much less expensive structure.  The Protocol gives us this chance to start afresh!  This is an historic opportunity!

            (B) Many Traditionalists are lamenting that it is we who are having to leave ‘our’ church.  What do people mean ‘our’ church?  Do Centrists and Progressives have less claim to the church?  Have they put in less time, effort, sacrifice and financial support?  Do they not consider the United Methodist Church ‘our’ church too?  Even though since 1972 our church has maintained the same position regarding the practice of homosexuality, ‘doctrinal pluralism’ has otherwise allowed persons with crazy, heretical doctrines to call United Methodism ‘our’ church too!  We have co-existed with mutually exclusive, pluralistic theologies and are all calling the same church ‘our’ church! Since the 1972 reception of theological pluralism an argument can be made Traditionalists do not have the exclusive right to call the UM church ‘our’ church.  We have been sharing it with many people of disparate theologies.

            There is another reason to hold the possessive ‘our’ lightly.  Ask yourself:  whose Church is it? Is it mine, or yours, or ‘ours’?  It is Jesus Christ’s Church. He is the Head of the Church for whom He shed His blood.  As you think about buildings, assets and the like, think about how Jesus dealt with the first century Jewish Temple and the Jewish institution of his day.  As he entered the Temple, he attempted to cleanse it and reclaim it as the One with the rightful authority.  ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer…’ Jesus said (Matthew 21:13).  It was His house and He the One for whom it was founded.  If it could only have been.  Jesus’s battle line was not in fighting over a building or temple structure or institutional infrastructure.  Though rightfully His, Jesus was content to leave it all to the scribes and Pharisees.  “See, your house is left to you, desolate” he said.  One could argue that for the idolatrous love of the structure and institution the Jewish Establishment missed Jesus! Jesus let them turn ‘his’ house into their house.  Letting it go, Jesus did a new thing in Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

            Both of my great grandfathers, George R. Stuart and John P. Pettyjohn, had significant roles in establishing Lake Junaluska.  Lake Junaluska may very well be a casualty in the separation and no longer in ‘my’ church.  Nevertheless, the price one pays to be God’s own people, a holy nation, and a chosen race to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ is worth it.  We say with Moses, Jesus is worth more than the treasuries of Egypt!  The Protocol agreement is an entrée to renewal and revival.  In fact, it may even be the final fruit and realization of the heartfelt prayers for renewal and reform begun in the 1960’s.

            For these reasons, the Protocol agreement is truly historic!  Though disruptions are coming and friends will be victims, the Protocol proposal is an epochal moment in Methodism the likes of which we have not seen in one hundred and fifty years!  Support it!

Ministry Task Forces Forming

The recent Global Legislative Assembly held by the Wesleyan Covenant Association authorized the creation of six ministry task forces to identify best practices, discern God’s call, and connect and resource local churches in ministry as we move into a new season of outreach to our neighbors globally. These task forces are now being formed. We invite you to nominate yourself or others as possible members of such task forces. To learn more, visit the WCA website at https://wesleyancovenant.org/2019/11/18/ministry-task-forces-forming/

New website address & new emails

As you may be aware, a short time ago we changed the name of this organization to the Wesleyan Covenant Association of Virginia. Now, in order to better reflect that title, we have also obtained a new domain and email addresses as well. The new domain is wcaofva.org and the new email addresses are info@wcaofva.org for the webmaster or general information and president@wcaofva.org to reach Gayle Thornberry, our President. If you have any questions, please contact us. Thank you!

In Defense of the Discipline

In Defense of the Discipline

by Jim Noland, D.Min. 
Jim is an Elder in the Virginia Annual Conference. Jim retired from Reveille UMC in Richmond, VA in 2014. Jim served six appointments over the course of 30 years. Jim holds degrees from the University of Virginia, Perkins School of Theology, and Wesley Theological Seminary. For several years, Jim taught Methodist History and Doctrine at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, and for over 20 years he has taught in the Course of Study at Wesley. Jim has served on the Board of Ministry and for twelve years he chaired the Conference Committee on Investigation.

In the recent and ongoing controversy within The United Methodist Church concerning how the church should relate to homosexual persons, there has been remarkably little examination of scripture.  Instead of a serious theological conversation we have experienced a great deal of talk about process, and this within a highly politicized environment. 

This is puzzling for a number of reasons.  True, we United Methodists are not committed to sola scriptura and few of us are literalists with regard to Biblical interpretation.  But we are committed to a theology that views scripture as primary, so one would have expected a more nuanced and deeper debate. 

Recently I attended a UMC worship service in which the burden of the sermon was that since we ignore the great bulk of the holiness code in Leviticus (such things as not eating pork and shrimp), then we should also disregard its prohibitions with regard to sexual affairs.  And by implication any such prohibitions in the New Testament as well.  

This sermon presented a shockingly shallow view of an issue which was in fact addressed in the first century as recorded in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Acts. When Paul and Barnabas met with the apostles and elders to consider how to deal with gentile converts in what is called “The Council of Jerusalem,” it was decided that the holiness code was not binding on non-Jewish Christians, but that they should “abstain from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood”(Acts 15:19). 

Advocates for deleting the restrictive language from The Discipline often point out, correctly, that there are few verses regarding homosexuality in the Bible.  To this I would say that there none that view it favorably and that, in addition, an argument from silence is unconvincing.  For example, the fact that the Bible is silent on the issue of climate change does not mean that it should not be an issue for Christians.  It is also worth noting that the term “homosexual” did not even exist until it was coined in the late nineteenth century. 

A more telling objection is that we no longer abide by the Pauline restrictions on women in the church.  However, a strong case can be made that these were particular to the context of specific congregations and that the overall tenor of Paul’s ministry expressed a counter-cultural acceptance of women (see for example his comments on Prisca and Phoebe).  He also explicitly articulated that in Christ there is “neither male nor female.” So, in accepting women in ministry we have not simply disregarded scripture; rather we have explored its deeper meaning. 

Can we do the same with homosexuality? That is the question.  One of the clearest discussions of this issue can be found in Victor Paul Furnish’s The Moral Teaching of Paul.  Furnish is clear that Paul condemns homosexual practices, but he argues that we can no longer accept many of Paul’s assumptions about the issue, primarily that homosexual acts are “freely chosen.” This is because, according to Furnish, Paul had no understanding of sexual orientation as an inherent, involuntary condition.  Given this analysis, which is widely shared, a loving church should relax its restrictive stance, much as it did earlier with regard to race.  On this view it is a matter of justice for a minority. 

The problem is that Furnish’s view is also dated.  The concept of sexual orientation as an innate condition is increasingly giving way to a much more fluid view of human sexuality in which all gender roles are simply social constructs that unduly inhibit the free expression of one’s chosen sexual identity.  You will note the addition of “sexual expression” to the more recent pronouncements of the progressive wing of the church. 

The truth is that the United Methodist conversation on changing The Discipline has not taken into consideration the changing theories of sexuality being advanced in academia.  The current landscape is beginning to look more like the one Paul inhabited, wherein the human will plays a strong role.  The issue is returning to one of behavior rather than fixed orientation.  Thus, The Discipline was perhaps wise beyond its understanding to view homosexuals as persons of sacred worth while rejecting certain sexual practices. 

The most profound scriptural analysis of this issue occurs in the first chapter of Romans.  Here, I would argue, Paul does not so much define what we call homosexuality as a sin as he views it, along with many other items, as a consequence of the fundamental sin of idolatry.  And the primary idolatry is the idolatry of the self as the final authority with regard to good and evil, right and wrong. That is to say, that the essence of sin is the elevation of the human will over the will of God as revealed first in nature and then more fully in the Christ we meet in scripture. 

United Methodists are a compassionate people, but to alter The Discipline by simply removing the restrictive language without so much as substituting anything that might resemble an affirmative or even a limiting principle would be to capitulate to an increasingly pagan culture. 

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