Q: What is the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) of North Georgia?
A: We are a large, growing, and diverse group of laity and clergy from North Georgia, who support tradition Wesleyan orthodoxy and biblical principles.
Q: Why was it necessary to create the WCA?
A: For many years, the United Methodist Church has become increasingly divided over the authority of scripture, biblical interpretation, and how it relates to our doctrine, specifically dealing with human sexuality. The WCA was formed to be a resource and support for United Methodists who hold to traditional Wesleyan theology and teaching.
Q: What are the main factions involved in the ongoing rift in the UMC?
A: They are typically divided up into three groups.
1). Traditionalists – Those who are orthodox and conservative in their theology. They do not support changes to The Discipline regarding issues related to human sexuality. (This includes the WCA and Reform and Renewal Coalition: Good News, the UMC Confessing Movement and UM Action.)
2). Progressives – Those who are more liberal in their theology. They support changes to The Discipline regarding issues related to human sexuality. Many progressives are advocating for full inclusion (including ordination) not only for same-sex couples but for LGBTQ persons as well. (This includes Reconciling Ministries, Affirmation, Methodist Federation for Social Action.)
3). Centrists – Those who are considered moderate or in between the theology of traditionalists and progressives. (Mainstream UMC, UMC Next, Uniting Methodists)
Q: What is the current state of the impasse?
A: The increasingly uncivil nature of the debate has gotten so intense that there seems to be almost constant developments. We will post the latest news and commentaries on this website. Longer term, many United Methodists, tired of this lengthy battle, are looking toward General Conference, scheduled for August 2022, as the best hope for achieving a negotiated settlement.
Q: What is General Conference (GC) and why does it matter?
A: The highest legislative body in the UMC meets every four years. It is the only body that can speak officially for the denomination. It has sole authority to amend the Book of Discipline, which is the denomination’s source for all its doctrine, administration, organizational work, and procedures. The voting membership at General Conference (GC) consists of an equal number of clergy and lay delegates elected by the annual conferences from around the world.
Q: What is the hope that the 2022 General Conference can resolve a debate that has been going on in the church since 1972?
A: The hope is not that the GC will pass legislation that will make traditionalists, progressives and centrists content to stay together. After decades of debate, the differences appear irreconcilable. The hope – through passage of the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation (The Protocol) – is that the GC will provide a solution that is acceptable to all parties.
Q: What will the Protocol legislation accomplish?
A: The Protocol provides a process and a timeline for an orderly and amicable separation of the UMC. This process will allow conferences, churches, and clergy to align theologically.
Q: What is preventing churches, who have problems with the direction of the UMC, from leaving now?
A: Some churches have already left the denomination, typically by working out a financial agreement with their conferences. But the biggest hindrance is the Trust Clause, which is included in the deeds of all United Methodist properties. Essentially, the Trust Clause states that the local church owns the property, in trust, for the benefit of the entire denomination. Under the Trust Clause, a church is not free to leave the denomination and keep its property and other assets. The Protocol, if approved, would allow churches to leave the denomination without being hampered by the Trust Clause.
Q: Why are so many United Methodist churches, and clergy in north Georgia, not addressing the potential split in the church?
A: There are several reasons. The one most often stated in private is fear of retaliation by the bishop and cabinet in making punitive appointments. There are legitimate reasons for this fear given previous actions. Another reason is clergy understand how divisive the issues are in the local congregations. They fear discussion will upset the balance in a congregation, which may already be in decline and cannot afford to lose any participants over the issues at stake. A third reason is many of the clergy are far more progressive than their congregations. Candid discussions will cause this to become known and will likely result in calls for changes in appointments. Since there are far more traditional congregations, where will progressive clergy go? Silence protects a vulnerable pastor.
Q: Why are we dividing the UMC over one issue, human sexuality?
A: We are not. It is more about the authority of scripture and interpretation of the Bible. Human sexuality is just the presenting issue. The examples of the theological impasse are far too many to note here. Contact one of our WCA leaders to discuss this with you.
Q: But aren’t we singling out homosexuality unfairly by specifically mentioning that one sin in the Book of Discipline and no other sins?
A: No. The specific mention of homosexuality in the Book of Discipline was in direct reply to the progressive attempt to celebrate and normalize it as part of our polity. Progressives attempted to change our polity to allow LGBTQ+ ordination and marriage ceremonies and this resulted in the need to address the issue. Traditionalists did not force this issue; progressives did.
Q: With our culture changing to embrace the LGBTQ+ lifestyle will we lose young members by remaining faithful to traditional Biblical Christianity?
A: No. The fastest growing and largest churches in North Georgia and the U.S., which are most popular with young Christians, are by and large doctrinally orthodox and hold traditional biblical values.
Q: Why should Traditionalists be the ones to separate from the UMC? Why not let the Centrists/Progressives leave?
A: First, we do not want to inherit a bloated bureaucracy, which is neither central to nor promotes our mission of making disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world.
Second, Centrists and Progressives have no incentive to leave. For Progressives, this is a social justice issue and they have professed a desire to resist and fight until they “win.” Progressives cannot sustain themselves outside the supporting structure of the UMC. Centrists/Progressives control the power structure of the UMC and can impose their theology by penalizing those who openly oppose them.
Third, the cost of continued battle is far too great. Our witness in the world is damaged. Financial and human resources are diverted from our mission to this fight and those who need us most suffer. Local congregations are endangered as the UMC dwindles. We have learned from other denominations which have preceded us in this conflict that the time and financial costs of litigation must be avoided. The fight must end.
Fourth, it is unwise to focus on “winning.” It is folly to evaluate a settlement by the perceived happiness of one’s opponent. Nor should we deem ourselves satisfied only if we have sufficiently vindicated ourselves or punished our opponent. We have long concluded separation is both preferable and inevitable. It matters not who separates from our denomination if our main objectives are met. If our main objectives have been met, separation can be a “win-win” instead of a “win-lose” proposition. The Protocol Legislation achieves our main objectives.
Finally, it is theologically sound to be peacemakers rather than conflict sustainers. Sacrificing our self-interest for the good of the other models Christ. Forgiving past wrongs, blessing the other, and making it possible for all to move forward successfully is at the heart of loving neighbor as oneself.
Q: The message from the North Georgia Conference Office is that there will be a place in the post-separation UMC for Traditionalists. Is this true?
A: Not if past behavior is a reliable predictor of future conduct. The current theological make-up of the bishop’s cabinet and conference administrative posts do not suggest traditionalists will have a place. Not a single traditional clergy was elected to the North Georgia Delegation to General Conference or Jurisdictional Conference in the last election cycle. Not a single traditional voice on the bishop’s cabinet spoke in opposition to the “Welcoming Table” document on the webinar she hosted in April 2021. Once progressives and centrists have control of the UMC, the church will become more liberal and increasingly less tolerant of traditional orthodoxy. Once the Book of Discipline normalizes same sex weddings and LGBTQ+ ordination, it is a small step to require it in your local church rather than merely permitting it. This has been the path of other denominations which have preceded us in separating over this issue. This is exactly what happened in the Episcopal Church and particularly to Bishop William Love.
The “Welcoming Table” document released by Bishop Sue and its equivalent predecessor, the One Church Plan, will result in the U.S. becoming its own regional conference. When that happens, the U.S. will implement its own standards for doctrine and polity. To get an idea of how that will look, read information from centrists and progressives. See their vision for the future. Note Bishop Sue is a founding member of one such group, UMCNext. Here are a few useful links: UMCNext: https://umcnext.com ; LMX: https://www.thelmx.org; RMN: https://rmnetwork.org; Uniting Methodists: https://unitingmethodists.com.
Q: Doesn’t separation force the conflict down from the General Conference level to the local church level?
A: Not necessarily. A local church whose Annual Conference aligns with a theological expression similar to its own would not need a vote to remain in that alignment. But more importantly, this conflict has been forced upon us. The Protocol Legislation will allow us to face the conflict as a cohesive group all at once, rather than individual churches facing it piecemeal when the conflict inevitably comes to each local church. We are working to equip each pastor and lay leader with the tools to prepare their congregation should a local church vote become necessary.
Q: Are there any names for the potential new denomination being considered?
A: Yes. The name Global Methodist Church has been announced and a web page has been launched. The GMC has not been incorporated formally for many reasons. To learn more, go to the GMC webpage.
Q: How can the Post-separation UMC retain the name United Methodist Church when the church is no longer united?
A: The Protocol legislation accomplishes separation without dissolving the UMC or amending our Constitution. Amending the Constitution would require a super-majority vote at General Conference and ratification by Annual Conferences. Therefore, the name UMC will continue to exist. The name “United” in United Methodist never truly signified we were theologically united; it was rooted in the merger of the United Evangelical Brethren Church and The Methodist Church in 1968.
Q: What will happen to our African brothers and sisters if the Protocol passes? Will the new denomination be a global one?
A: The new denomination will be global in nature. Our African brothers and sisters will determine their own future by their alignment vote. We will continue to be in ministry with them regardless.
Q: What property/assets/liabilities of our Annual Conference would be affected by formation of a new Methodist denomination?
A: The Protocol legislation provides that all an Annual Conference assets and liabilities remain with the Annual Conference regardless of whether it stays in the Post-separation UMC or aligns with a new denomination. If the Annual Conference votes to join a new Methodist denomination, then the property, assets, and liabilities of our Annual Conference go with the new Methodist denomination.
Q: What if the General Conference in 2022 votes down the Protocol legislation and we remain stuck what will happen then?
A: In that event, the WCA would work to support other legislation that would allow local churches to exit the denomination under the best terms possible.
Q: What would the passage of the Protocol mean for my local church and her future?
A: If our Annual Conference votes to align with the new traditionally orthodox Methodist denomination, we are not required to have a vote. The local church would be a part of the new Methodist denomination by virtue of the vote of the Annual Conference.
If our Annual Conference did not vote to join the new Methodist denomination, then all local churches would initially stay in the Post-separation UMC.
A local church which desires a different affiliation than its Annual Conference may conduct an affiliation vote to consider a different affiliation. If such a vote occurs, the church council (e.g., its Administrative Board or Council or its Leadership Board) shall determine a voting threshold of either a simple majority or two-thirds of those present and voting at a duly called church conference in order for the motion to opt for a different affiliation to be adopted. The vote on a motion to opt for a different affiliation shall occur in a church conference. The church conference must be held in consultation with the District Superintendent who shall authorize such a church conference to be conducted. Decisions about affiliation by a local church must be made by December 31, 2024. If a local church does not vote, it remains a part of the Methodist denomination selected by its Annual Conference.
Q: What are the benefits for my local church to affiliate with the Global Methodist Church?
A: We would no longer be a part of the ongoing constitutional and theological crises that has cost the church millions of dollars and untold hours of human capacity. We would be a part of a denomination whose primary focus becomes making disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world which is faithful to the Bible and the lordship of Jesus. We would join other like-minded Methodist Christians and would thus experience a greater synergy in our task of making disciples.
While retaining our connectional system, the GMC will be organized to allow local congregations more input in critically important aspects of church life. This includes such areas as clergy deployment, direction of mission support, and greater control over local church finances. The ministry of the local church will be the focus of the GMC and not propping up the bloated bureaucracy of a denomination.
The role of bishops will be vastly different. They will have a limited appointment in that office. There will be a process for holding bishops accountable to the doctrine and polity of the church.
We are anticipating apportionments paid by local churches in the GMC will be less than what we have been accustomed to in The United Methodist Church. The organization and structure of the proposed Book of Doctrines and Discipline for the GMC anticipates a smaller bureaucracy and reduced costs. Reductions in the amounts paid would free up cash flow for local and global missions, paying down debt, and general ministry.
The assets and property (the buildings and land the local church sits on) would no longer be owned by the denomination but by the local church. The Trust Clause, found in the United Methodist Book of Discipline, would no longer exist. The Trust Clause, which was established with good intent over a hundred years ago, would no longer be misused as a modern tool of control. See https://timothytennent.com/2019/12/04/how-the-trust-clause-got-turned-on-its-head/.
Q: In taking the unprecedented action against Mount Bethel, the largest UMC church in North Georgia, the bishop said she had unanimous support of her cabinet. Is there not a single traditionalist voice among the district superintendents?
A: Apparently not, at least not one who is willing to oppose her actions. As far as we can ascertain, there is not a single traditionalist placed in leadership by this bishop in the whole of the Annual Conference. There may be an exception, but it would be most notable. The irony is the cry for inclusion and acceptance includes only those who agree with her agenda for the church. Everyone else is labeled as having a “heart of war” or being a “splinter group.”
Q: Is there any oversight or accountability for a bishop?
A: Effectively, no. The Council of Bishops has historically been unable or unwilling to discipline itself. Even the Judicial Council has ruled a bishop ineligible for the office, but the council refuses to enforce the ruling. This is one of the major reasons we are currently in the crisis resulting in the necessary division.
Q: How can I be involved?
A: Pray. Connect with other traditionalists in NGA. Keep yourself informed. Organize a group and invite one of our speakers to appear. Share what you know with others who are recently coming to grips with these issues.
Q: What can I read to get a Biblical understanding of the issues facing the UMC?
A: The Rise of Theological Liberalism and the Decline of American Methodism, James V. Heidinger, II (Seedbed 2017). This book provides the reader a Methodist specific understanding of how liberal theology emerged and how it has impacted Methodism in America.
For the Body: Recovering A Theology Of Gender, Sexuality, And The Human Body, Dr. Timothy Tennent (Zonderan/Seedbed 2020). This book presents deep theological issues in a way accessible to lay persons. There is a leader’s guide and video DVD to be used in small group discussions. It is a wonderful resource for Sunday School classes.
The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon (Abingdon Press 2010). This is a deeply scholarly analysis of the subject. It is the comprehensive resource to have on your shelf to combat the arguments of those who attempt to twist the Biblical Hebrew and Greek. There is a section which addresses common progressive arguments.
Are We Really Better Together? An Evangelical Perspective on the Division of the UMC, Rob Renfroe and Walter Fenton (Abingdon Press 2018). The authors set out to address the division within The United Methodist Church and contend that remaining united is hurting the church and the proclamation of the gospel.
Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe, Dr. Voddie T. Baucham, Jr. (Salem Books 2021). This important book explains the source, history, and progression of the social justice movement and why it is not consistent with Biblical teaching.
Q: Where can I go online to read leading traditional thinkers and keep myself current when events occur?
A: Wesleyan Covenant Association
Because the WCA has taken the lead in developing a book of Doctrines and Disciplines for a new Methodist denomination and has already formed task forces to equip local churches in patterns of revitalization, the regular posts on this web-site are essential reads for staying informed in regard to the future of the next expression of Methodism. We are deeply thankful for all labor of Keith Boyette, President of the WCA; Walter Fenton, Vice-President of Advancement; and Teresa Marcus, who serves as Administrator of this movement.