A recent piece speaking about good reasons to align with the WCA has been making the rounds. I have no issue with anyone who joins the WCA, but I do have concerns about it, and have had concerns about it, since it originated. Those concerns remain and I think that this is a good opportunity to voice them again.
I do not at all believe the claims that many have made that the WCA is the root of all evil within the UMC. Those claims are over blown and silly. To be fair to the opening paragraphs in the piece, I have heard many of those claims myself, and debunked them to the best of my ability as they are not based in fact and not conducive to rational conversation. On the flip side, the rank and file of the WCA has often engaged in the same sort of slander. It is important that we all understand that many people, from all the various perspectives, have made ugly accusations, and said ugly things, absent evidence. That said, on to the specific points.
- “The WCA gives a clear and coherent global voice to a traditional understanding of the Wesleyan way.” One of my larger concerns about the WCA is that it falls short doing this, especially in the main area that we are struggling with, Biblical interpretation. Nowhere in the statements of the WCA, that I have found, do they clarify how the Bible is to be viewed. I agree with their statements in Biblical authority and the like, but there is nothing about how scripture is to be viewed. I understand that much of what is said alludes to what is known as infallibility, there is nothing that says so succinctly. The literal inerrant view of the Bible is a distinctly modern view of scripture (the last 100 years or so), that says the Bible contains no errors whatsoever. The history of this is easy to find, so I will not delve into it here. The infallible understanding of scripture affirms that the Bible is true in faith and practice, but does recognize that while it contains history, it is not a history book, and while it contains things scientific, it is not a science text. Yes, matters of faith and practice are trustworthy and true, without a doubt, but other items may not be.What is the big deal you ask? Part of the big deal is history. What history has shown in, both within this denomination, and in the church catholic, is that when there are two competing views of scripture, there will inevitably be conflict, and often severe conflict. We are seeing this in the UMC now. Part of it is my step son. If his pastor or Sunday school teacher is teaching from a modern literal inerrant view point, it creates potential conflict with what is being taught to him at home. I have already had to many instances of having to unteach what he has been taught at church. Sooner or later, this disagreement on how the Bible is to be viewed will bubble over into needless argument and disagreement. To reach me, the WCA needs to decide if the scriptures are literally inerrant, infallible, etc. There needs to be some understanding of how the Bible is to be viewed and at least some basic guidance on how it is to be best interpreted.
The lack of such guidance is not a clear and coherent view but rather the exact opposite. It is setting up for the same type of conflict that we are experiencing now I fear.
- The WCA is a crucial voice in discerning the future organization of Methodism. Part of the reason that we got to this point was all of the para-church groups and organizations that arose within Methodism. I have no doubt that all were formed with the best of intentions, and some were necessary to counter bad teaching within the church, but they have become our identity more than Methodist, and in some cases, even Christian. I can’t help but have some trepidation that those “at the table” are the same groups that lead us to the table in the first place. The idea that if you are a traditional Wesleyan believer that the WCA is the only way to have your voice heard is false.
- The WCA is a voice of sanity beyond any single issue. See number 1 above. Yes, I believe that the questions surrounding sexual ethics are a presenting issue, but no, the WCA does not have clear statements and standards of scriptural understanding that do anything to prevent such presenting issues from arising in the future. Without that the next argument could be a Ken Hamm like devotion to literal seven day creation as an essential of the faith.
- The WCA has a global vision for Wesleyan Christianity. This I agree with by and large.
- The WCA affirms the best biblical perspective on a ‘connectional’ church To be honest, I don’t even know what this means. I know that Wesley had some strong thoughts on this of course, but even he did not go so far as to say they were Biblical admitting that such structure as we have now was not thought of before Constantine. It sounds as if the plan is to replace the bureaucracy with a different bureaucracy which will end up with the same struggles.A few end notes about the WCA, and the claims to represent the traditional Wesleyan way. The traditional Wesleyan way did not include membership fees, but rather invited everyone to come, and to give, as they were able. The membership fees for individuals and churches is a large concern to me. So is the requirement that you proselytize for the WCA,, especially as it encourages me to spread the word to not only my congregation, but to others as well. .
Another note. The Judicial Council in ruling 871 addressed to issue of churches joining nonofficial groups. The digest of the case says “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.” The WCA has had a great deal to say about those who are in violation of the rules of the church, yet they ask congregations to do the exact same thing. This is disingenuous. If I have misunderstood the ruling, then my apologies in advance, but I don’t think that I have.
I do not have have serious issues with anyone who is a member of the WCA, or those who are considering joining. I think that it is important to examine things from a rational perspective with the best information available. I am not affiliated with any group other than my local church, so I have no horse in the race so to speak, save to desire a church that is actually focused on making disciples. I do believe that the WCA wants this as well,but I do not believe that, as currently fashioned, it can in the long run.