I, as well as many others, have pointed to the United Methodist Church Judicial Council rulings in criticism of the various caucus groups, especially Reconciling Ministries, encouraging entire churches and congregations to join them. The ruling in question is 871 and the digest reads “A local church or any of its organizational units may not identify or label itself as an unofficial body or movement. Such identification or labeling is divisive and makes the local church subject to the possibility of being in conflict with the Discipline and doctrines of The United Methodist Church. The ruling of Bishop Alfred J. Norris is reversed.” (http://www.umc.org/decisions/41763) Now, to be fair, I can not find anything in their beliefs that says they are bound by the UMC Book of Discipline, so they are not breaking their internal rules, but they are breaking the rules of the UMC, their primary recruiting ground, as are the local congregations that are choosing to become a part of the WCA. I can only help but wonder how many of them know that they are breaking the rules. So that we are clear, there is nothing that would prohibit individuals from joining any group, just local churches and their organizational groups. (Annual Conferences too, but that is a separate ruling)
The question then is that if the WCA is allowing and encouraging congregations to join, then aren’t they, in that specific respect, working against the church and it’s teachings by encouraging congregations to break the rules? Many in the WCA have asked these very same questions about RMN, as have I, so it seems fair to ask them now as well. For my part, because I have asked these questions for the groups I disagree with theologically, it is vitally important that, for my own internal consistency and in my attempts to avoid hypocrisy, I ask them now. So, put simply, if it is wrong that groups like RMN allow congregational membership in defiance of the Judicial Council, then it should be equally wrong the the WCA does. If pastors who have led their congregations to become Reconciling Congregations have broken the covenant by breaking the rules, then pastors who do the same for the WCA are the same, are they not? If the Bishops that have allowed. and support, RMN in doing this are guilty of not living up to their responsibilities, then the Bishops allowing and supporting the WCA are just as guilty are they not? If you are a pastor and member of the WCA, can you in good conscience, be a part of an organization the encourages congregations to break rules? If you are laity and a member, can you?
I want a vibrant Wesleyan Christianity just as the WCA does. That is why I am asking the questions and being critical. A vibrant Wesleyan faith can not start with the same tactics that a few short years ago were decried as covenant breaking. The solution is not to become that which we have argued against, but to be better. Integrity and character matter and if the foundations are built upon the hypocritical use of the same tactics and rule breaking that we have collectively opposed, then whatever is put on top of it will fall. There is really only one question that needs to be asked, and answered, by those involved at the end of the day. Is the abyss staring back?