“Let your gentleness be known to everyone”

Like so many of you, my mind has been dwelling on the upcoming General Conference. There is a great deal of commentary and conjecture as to what may or may not happen and its impact on The United Methodist Church. There’s a lot being said as to what that future could look like. Accusations are flying back and forth, rumors abound, and I find myself becoming anxious.

I find that the anxiety I’m feeling comes because I’m not listening as closely as I should to others and to the Holy Spirit. It takes great effort to listen these days. There’s a lot being said but very little being heard. I find that I need to center myself and find the solid ground in the midst of all the noise.

Recently Philippians 4:4-7 has been coming to mind:

“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.”

Paul reminds us to rejoice and to practice gentleness. We are told the Lord is near and to not worry. How is this possible? Because our hearts and minds are being guarded by a peace that is greater than we can understand. I find all this encouraging and convicting, especially the part about being gentle with one another.

It’s not easy to be gentle. In fact, it’s easier to go in the other direction. We see this hurtful pattern modeled in how we speak to each other and how we disagree with one another. This is especially true with social media.

So why is it important to practice gentleness?

In a recent Facebook post, Rev. Shane Bishop, a United Methodist pastor from Fairview Heights, IL, shared some interesting thoughts on gentleness:

“To be gentle means you could choose to do harm but you choose not to do so.  A mouse is meek, not gentle.  My daughter’s pit bull is gentle.  Gentleness comes from a position of strength, not weakness.

When we choose not to return evil for evil, hate for hate and insult for insult, we choose a life of gentleness.  When we choose not to throw gasoline on a fiery thread, we choose gentleness. When we are mature enough to realize people of sound mind, good intelligence and deep faith may disagree with us on important things, we choose a life of gentleness.

By choosing gentleness, we honor God, respect people and preserve our Christian witness.

There is nothing wrong, and a lot right, with standing for important things.  Just do so with gentleness.”

To live a Spirit-filled life is to walk a path of gentleness. It means to intentionally practice a way of life which is in contrast with our culture. We choose not to injure or tear down. We choose to love and respect others, especially those with whom we may disagree.

As General Conference approaches, let us seek to be gentle with one another.

Statement on Mission Charlottesville

We have become aware that erroneous information is being distributed asserting that the Wesleyan Covenant Association and/or the Virginia WCA are planting and/or providing financing for the planting of a new church in Charlottesville, Va.  Neither of these statements is true.  On December 2, Mission Charlottesville held its first service. The leadership of Mission Charlottesville has completed the process for the church to be a member of the Wesleyan Covenant Association.  Membership in the Wesleyan Covenant Association is open to any church that is willing to affirm the WCA’s statement of biblical authority, statement of beliefs and statement of moral principles.  Churches do not have to be United Methodist to be members of the WCA.  Neither the WCA nor the Virginia WCA has had any role in the planting of Mission Charlottesville.  Neither the WCA nor the Virginia WCA has provided any financial resources to Mission Charlottesville in connection with its activities or launch as a church.

Keith Boyette, President, Wesleyan Covenant Association
Bob Cooper, President, Virginia WCA

Reflections on the Global Legislative Assembly and the Global Gathering of the Wesleyan Covenant Association

Reflections on the Global Legislative Assembly

and the

Global Gathering of the Wesleyan Covenant Association

On Friday, November 2, I had the opportunity to attend the Global Legislative Assembly of the Wesleyan Covenant Association as a delegate. The next day, Saturday, November 3, I also attended the Global Gathering. Both events were held at Mt. Bethel UMC in Marietta, GA

If you’re interested in learning more about the results of the Global Legislative Assembly, please click here 

I’d like to share about my experience for those few days in Marietta. I must admit I was more than a little anxious. Exactly how would these preceding go? Would there be honest and open conversation about the legislation we were asked to consider?

If you’re like me, you attend a lot of meetings. It’s not hard to feel the anxiety and apprehension in many United Methodist circles. At times it feels like we are passengers on the Titanic who have resigned themselves to the absolute certainty of hitting an iceberg at 2019 Called General Conference. There is little talk of resurrection and hope. It’s mostly about survival.

In our time together in Marietta, there was a great conversation about the future of the church. There was representation from every part of our connection. Bishops were present, theologians were in our midst, and faithful laity and clergy has made the journey to bear witness of their hope that is grounded in Jesus Christ. There was diversity and unity. We were encouraged and challenged.

We discussed what we believed and how to best to live that out. There was honest dialogue of what happens after General Conference 2019 and the necessity of a new structure if needed.

But here’s something else I noticed during those two days: there was hope. Hope for a future that is grace-filled and Spirit-empowered. Hope to reclaim and rediscover a vital Wesleyan pneumatology. Hope for a renewal of the people called Methodist.

I left those two days wondering “why aren’t we having these types of conversations within The United Methodist Church?” The primary concern was not institutional survival. It was about being empowered by and living unashamedly the faith that is entrusted to us. What I saw were people who were concerned about the church they love deeply and a longing for the Holy Spirit to move in a powerful way.

One last thing I’d like to share. We began and ended our time literally on our knees. It was the type of prayer that is passionate with an utter dependence on God. We were called to repent, to seek to be more loving, more compassionate.

I left that gathering hopeful because I was reminded that the Holy Spirit is not done with the people called Methodists.

Bob Cooper (President, VaWCA)

News from the Recent Global Legislative Assembly 2018

On November 2, 2018, the Global Legislative Assembly of the Wesleyan Covenant Association met in Marietta, Ga for the Inaugural Meeting. Delegates from around the world gathered for this meeting and during the day, they drafted and passed several key documents.

This documents may be read by clicking on the links below.

A Statement by the WCA Council

Fundamental Features and Principles of a New Methodist Denomination

Next Steps Resolution 2018

Radical Hospitality and Genuine Community

Resolution Concerning General Conference

Minutes of the Global Legislative Assembly 2018

The Virginia WCA was well represented at the Global Legislative Assembly by four delegates, Rev. David Ford, Becky Livermon, Michelle Engle, Rev. Bob Cooper,

Phase 3 of Praying Our Way Forward Launched

The Council of Bishops, in partnership with The Upper Room, is launching Phase 3 of Praying our Way ForwardPhase 1 involved 84 members of the Council of Bishops praying for The United Methodist Church’s way forward for 15 minutes daily, from August to December 2016. This was followed by Phase 2, which resulted in 18 continuous months of daily individual and corporate prayer by faithful members of annual conferences around the globe.

Read more at this link

Our Finest Hour?

One of my favorite movies is Apollo 13. It is an amazing story of teamwork and overcoming adversity. One of my favorite scenes is when the crew of Apollo 13 is beginning the descent to earth. There is much concern about if the crew can even survive re-entry. Two NASA officials are discussing all the things that could go wrong and how this could be the worst disaster NASA has ever experienced. In that moment, the Director of Flight Operations, Gene Krantz, (played by Ed Harris) speaks up: “With all due respect sir, I believe this is going to be our finest hour.”

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