Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
July 29th, 2016 by Joel Watts

Wesleyan Covenant Association, the source, and ethics

Wesleyan Covenant AssociationYesterday, Charisma News ran an article from an anonymous source overturning what we’ve all said about the Wesleyan Covenant Association. I’ve maintained that the WCA is not going to promote or cause schism. The anonymous (for now) source “revealed” some “inside” information that in fact, the WCA was the start of a new denomination. It isn’t.

There is something about journalistic ethics and procedures not being followed that chaps my hide, but Jessilyn Justice (the assistant news editor) seems to not have followed these rules. Rather than any factual presentation of the data (beyond pointing to official statements on the Website, there isn’t much), or turning to someone who could speak about the WCA, Justice turned to this anonymous source which said, in part,

“The Western Jurisdiction has presented the rest of The UMC with a fait accompli. If it stands, then those are now the new rules—assuming there are any rules,” a source close to the situation tells Charisma News.

“If it is not to stand, then somebody is going to have to enforce the rules upon the Western Jurisdiction—by removing Bishop Oliveto, or withholding monetary support, or going to court. And if the WJ decides to break connection and leave, forming its own church? The structure is already in place to do so, only the legal battles remain to be fought over. Regardless of the particular issue Oliveto incarnates, the larger issue is whether any group can continue together unless all the members are willing to abide by the same rules,” the source continued.

That is is taken directly from the Charisma News website and presented a conversation between journalist and anonymous source.

This isn’t a conversation between source and reporter, but lifted directly from a personal, pastoral, blog:

The Western Jurisdiction has presented the rest of The UMC with a fait accompli. If it stands, then those are now the new rules — assuming there are any rules. If it is not to stand, then somebody is going to have to enforce the rules upon the Western Jurisdiction — by removing Bishop Oliveto, or withholding monetary support, or going to court. And if the WJ decides to break connection and leave, forming its own Church? The structure is already in place to do so, only the legal battles remain to be fought over. Regardless of the particular issue Oliveto incarnates, the larger issue is whether any group can continue together unless all the members are willing to abide by the same rules.

You can compare other quotes shared between the two sites on your own. This is not a “source,” any more than quoting a website is. I’m not going to speculate on who reached out to whom first, but everyone should realize what is happening by now. I think most people know my respect, admiration, and love for the journalistic field, so something like disappoints me.

The only bit I cannot find on the personal blog is,

Right now, the Wesleyan Covenant Association is a group working within Methodism. But it will soon be the formation of another denomination.

The current president of the Council of Bishops in the Methodist Church recently made a statement that infuriated evangelicals. He said the rumors of schism have to do with the election of an openly gay bishop AND the formation of the Wesleyan Covenant Association. So he’s trying to blame evangelicals for the problems in the UMC?

Right now the Wesleyan Covenant Association has not talked about the formation of a United Methodist church outside of the present one. But everyone knows that’s what it is.

They always try to blame evangelicals for division when all we are doing is standing on the Word.

Nothing on the WCA website says that first part, but rather does say the exact opposite. Every leader I have spoken with directly says the exactly opposite of Collin/The Source’s schismatic assertion. Further, there is nothing in Collins’ original article, or any public presence of his, connected to the Wesleyan Covenant Association. The unsourced quote, then, is one solicited from someone with no direct connection to the WCA but speaking on behalf of the WCA. This is not journalism. It is nothing more than a forced story badly enough formatted to cause the casual observer to realize that something is amiss.

Yet this “source” now says something different, and rather than the myriad of official statements, this person will now be quoted. Across the United Methodist forums, this story was circulated as absolute truth, and will be used later for that purpose.

Friends, whether or you are progressive or evangelical or neither, stop believing in poorly researched “news.” The progressives accuse Fox and other conservative outlets of this all the time but let them have one article that supports their view and… well… this is why we can’t have nice things.

I don’t speak for the WCA nor do I need to merit favor with those who do. I still maintain that there is still a way through this mess without losing The United Methodist Church and I believe the WCA will provide the renewal needed for such a venture. Further, I believe that the WCA is not the “formation of a new denomination.” I cannot, at this time, participate in such a thing and I have maintained that the WCA is directly opposed to that. And that’s why….

I’ll see you in Chicago.

Update:

Art Collins has responded. Please read what he has to say and then get a picture of what happened. Given that someone malicious and intentionally lifted Art’s words, using it as their own, only to then add a completely untrue statement, this points to a very dishonest attempt at harming the WCA.

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

23 Responses to “Wesleyan Covenant Association, the source, and ethics”
  1. Life Long Methodist says

    “I still maintain that there is still a way through this mess without losing The United Methodist Church” – well that tells me all we need to know about you. The UM church in the US has been lost for years. We’re shrinking faster than ever, we’re not baptizing people. The only good that’s being done is by churches that are effectually independent because they’ve been left with the same pastor for years – to these churches the UM moniker is nothing but a disadvantage that sucks money from them and gives them PR problems. The level of naïvety displayed here is astounding. I’m not sure if you’re upset at the prospect that the church is going to split, or the fact that you’re the last one to realize it. Or are you upset that you’re not part of the conversation? You realize that if the WCA were formed to discuss a schism that they couldn’t say that publicly, right? Sure they say their goal isn’t to start a new denomination, but that doesn’t mean it’s not on the table. What do you think the WCA was formed for? Think logically; Good news and the confessing movement exist to create conversations and encourage change within the denomination – why would the leadership from both agree to make something new just to do the exact same thing? Also, what evidence do you have that Charisma news doesn’t simply have information that you don’t? The church has already split, that’s why the WCA can say they’re not going to make a new denomination, because one already exists. Just because you disagree with it, doesn’t mean it’s not true.

    • It is sad to see someone without the gall to state their name defend an anonymous post. You can continue to make assumptions, but without the integrity to even state your name, that’s all they are…. And I’m pretty sure we can go to Proverbs to identify the remedy of your behavior.

  2. From the article,
    “Conservative Methodists will now consider breaking away from the United Methodist denomination as a whole”…

    OK. I know nothing about the subject. But this simply does not make sense. Why would a generic group (Conservatives), who has a majority, break away and form a new denomination? Since they have a majority, their logical action would be to seek a restructuring of the original denomination, based upon their beliefs. Basically to squeeze the minority progressives into, either the background, or the underground. The minority progressives would have to leave, and form a new denomination. Or exist in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” environment.

    To use an analogy, the kid with the football gets ticked off, and leaves (progressives). Not the other 21 other players get ticked off and leave (conservatives). They just find a new football, but stay on the existing football field.

    • I’ve heard people ask this question and it’s more complicated than your analogy would allow, but I’ll try my best.

      Imagine your goal is to get people to join in on your sand-lot football game, so you name it “Gary’s SportTime” You grow your group to 100 people that show up to play football. Some of your people move away to another town and grow another sandlot game to 80 people. They’re wanting to maintain a relationship and the same sand-lot football rule book. So there’s a group in your hometown sandlot group that starts demanding you change the rules of play. You don’t comply, but every time you get together to play more and more of your 100 people are saying that you need to change the rules of play. Eventually you have a large enough group that wants to chang the rules that it looks like you almost should, but because of the people in the other town, you’re still in the majority. So the minority people who want to change the rules start playing games around town where they’re playing with their own, made up rules. So people all over your town start thinking, “this is the way Gary’s Sport time works” So you try to get the officials in your group who are supposed to be keeping this from happening and they’re just sitting off to the side having a hot dog, saying your’e being divisive for pointing these things out – but these officials who are in charge now for some reason – so you can’t do anything about it. In the mean time, no one has joined your group to play football in a while – in fact it’s shrinking – and whenever you invite people they’re turned off because they’ve got the wrong idea because “Gary’s SportsTime” means a bunch of negative things to them. All the while you realize that when you get together to discuss these issues you never actually play football anymore. So, sure you’re in the majority, but the system you’ve set up keeps you from being able to do anything, people think your group aren’t actually playing football, and people are running from your group. You realize that you’re not even doing what you set out to do. You’re spending more time arguing and the only reason why you’re hanging on to this group is pride. The best thing you can do is gather the people who still want to play football, take the out of town group that’s still playing by the rules and start over, learn from your mistakes and start over.

      • Tom McCann says

        Bad analogy – the sports thing. I used to referee hockey at all levels, up through the low minors. I had four different sets of rules to work from, and the differences weren’t small. We just learned to do it. You call the game the way the rules for that game are written.
        Should they all be consistent? Yes, within the bounds of the skill level of the players at different levels, everyone would like to see hockey be the same everywhere. And there’s been a lot of work done to that end. But sometimes the differences are, well…. theological.

      • I like your analogy. Shows the beuracracy in the organization is the problem. Us players can just decide to play soccer instead. The hot dogs taste just as good!

    • Or punt (let each jurisdiction do their own thing!

    • Gary, to use a Bernie Sanders/Donald Trump analogy…the system is rigged…Despite the denomination being largely orthodox in nature thanks to South America and Africa. The leadership of the church especially those boards and agency that get most of the exposure and influence are largely lead by progressive leaning or over the top progressives, and there lies the problem…They control who and when accountability really comes into play.

      • Thanks. But I guess I don’t understand how the leadership could be predominately progressive, if the membership is predominately conservative. But I don’t know. I will just mind my own business and let the chips fall where they do. I don’t really have a deep, historical connection with UMC like some, so as the commercial says, “shall I stay or shall I go?” Probably doesn’t matter for me.

        • I think I miss typed my email address, so my icon is different. I am getting really messed up.

        • “But I guess I don’t understand how the leadership could be predominately progressive, if the membership is predominately conservative”

          That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? But from someone who worked at the general agency level for 15 years, it’s the truth.

          • Scott Fritzsche says

            Most people that I know are of the impression that the more traditional minded were concerned with the local church and focused their efforts there while the more progressive minded tended to be more interested and willing to do work on the administrative level. I don’t know how true that is, but it does make a certain amount of sense as a plausible explanation.

  3. Rob Gulledge says

    Thank You for doing the research to factually expose the obvious deficits in The article. The unintended effect of the article and of those who are quick to split is to severely diminish the integrity, the witness, and the credibility of all who desire the orthodox faith to be consistently manifest throughout the UMC.

  4. Tom McCann says

    Joel – Excellent work.
    I guess I’ll say that I don’t know who the ‘official’ spokesperson for WCA is, although I know some of the folks in leadership. It would be good if they would put out a clarifying statement. We don’t need more conflict based on inaccurate information.

  5. Wesley Gunn says

    While Charisma may be jumping the gun, I think that the author of that article points out the fundamental irreconcilability of the two opposing positions. The western and northeastern jurisdictions’ determinations to disobey the Discipline, disregard 2000 years of Christian tradition and sexual ethics in favor of what they see as “justice” points out the differences in how the two sides see scripture. I just do not see a way forward as a united denomination after this latest action by the western jurisdiction. And frankly, the early separation from the two rebellious jurisdictions would free orthodox/evangelical/charismatic Methodists to pursue ministry without the distraction of those who so vociferously disagree with its polity. It is like trimming a tree, which needs to happen periodically.

  6. As I wrote at the article that Beth Ann Cook links to: Stated intention is one thing. Unstated intention is another. Perception, though, can be the reality. With parallel book seller, women’s organization, and other groups, it sure looks like a new denomination is being planned. Perception.

    • Scott Fritzsche says

      It only looks that way if that is your starting point. IF it is not, it looks like a para-church organization that is committed to keeping alive a specific tradition.

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