Last month, our church council voted that Alcoa FUMC would join the Wesleyan Covenant Association and by doing so, signaled that Alcoa First United Methodist Church declared our ministry’s decision to remain traditional and orthodox. I hope this article helps clear up some confusion around what all this means.
In 1968, the Methodist Church merged with the Evangelical United Brethren Church to form the United Methodist Church, and beginning with the first annual conference following the merger in 1972, issues pertaining to church doctrine about human sexuality has been discussed and debated. After many, many years the General Conference of the United Methodist Church agreed to hold a special called session to come to terms with the church’s doctrine on human sexuality.
The Special Called Conference met in 2019 and several options were presented. Everyone had a voice and when the vote took place, The General Conference of the United Methodist Church agreed to stand firm on their long-term, long-held beliefs and follow the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.
In paraphrase, the 2019 General Conference affirmed:
1- All persons are of sacred worth, all persons are welcome in the United Methodist Church, all persons can become members of The United Methodist Church, and all persons can participate and receive the sacraments of The United Methodist Church.
2- Marriage is one of God’s gifts to humanity. Marriage is Biblically defined as a union between one man and one woman. This has been the tradition of the church since the creation of Christianity. No United Methodist Church clergy can preside over a same-sex marriage or service of same-sex union. No same-sex marriage ceremony or same-sex union service can take place on any property owned by The United Methodist Church.
3- Ordination into the ministry is a special calling. The United Methodist Church will not ordain as clergy, a self-avowed, practicing homosexual, as such actions are not compatible with Christian teachings.
4- All ordained United Methodist Clergy will be faithful in (monogamous, heterosexual) marriage, or remain celibate in singleness.
Alcoa First United Methodist Church’s Council, by joining the Wesleyan Covenant Association basically agreed to follow the rules of our current Book of Discipline and affirm the General Conference vote taken in 2019.
So why is there confusion and talk about separation? Prior to the 2019 General Conference, all the talk on both sides of the human sexuality discussion agreed to pray, discern God’s will for the future church, and agree that what ever happened, all would trust the Holy Spirit for guidance. The outcome would be the doctrine for the United Methodist Church moving forward. On the surface, all this seemed rational and meaningful.
However, after the General Conference voted to remain traditional (affirmed the historic teachings of the above issues related to human sexuality), the discussion and distractions did not stop. In fact, many ordained clergy and bishops violated the church’s Book of Discipline and broke the covenant in which we all agreed at our Ordinations. In many incidents, when clergy and bishops failed to uphold the agreed-upon doctrine, policies and procedures, there was no action taken to correct the errors. In fact, in many cases the violations and blatant disobedience
was praised and applauded.
It seems to many that the Conference in 2019, which once again affirmed the desire of the majority of those representing the United Methodist Church to stay traditional and orthodox, did not settle (as it was designed to do) the discussion and debate around human sexuality.
Since the 2019 General Conference, many groups (including those who are progressive, centrist, and traditionalist) have suggested by affirmation a proposal called PROTOCOL OF RECONCILIATION & GRACE THROUGH SEPARATION stating that in 2022, or the next General Conference, a process for amicable separation and the formation of at least one new denomination will be formed.
The Wesleyan Covenant Association is an advocate group rallying for traditional orthodox Methodism. If the Protocol is approved, the Global Methodist Church will be formed and those ministries that wish to remain traditional and uphold our long-term and long-standing traditions of Methodism will unite and become the Global Methodist Church.
By joining the Wesleyan Covenant Association, our Church Council has signaled that, should a split occur, our church would seek to remain a traditional orthodox ministry in Wesleyan theology.
If there is ever a time when our congregation seeks to split from The United Methodist Church, a vote from the full membership would be required. We are still a viable congregation in the United Methodist Church, we are still under the bounds of the Smoky Mountain District, and
under the leadership of the Holston Annual Conference. We are currently paying 100% of our District and Conference askings and fully supporting the United Methodist Church.
All people are welcome in our ministry!
Note: Orthodox defined: Of a person or their views, especially religious... conforming to what is generally or traditionally accepted as right or true; established and approved.