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Late Summer Musings on the Wesleyan Covenant Association

July 23, 2018

For years, I stood in the middle ground of the United Methodist Church.  Right-middle to be sure but middle none-the-less.  My plan was to batten down the proverbial hatches, keep Christ Church growing (we have grown for twenty-one consecutive years) and hope the denominational storm would pass.  When asked about my lack of denominational positioning, I would respond, “I am going to hold the middle until there isn’t a middle anymore and then I am jumping right.”  The storm did not pass.  I jumped right.  In the aftermath of the 2016 General Conference, I lost hope there was enough true middle to realistically occupy…and there were too few people holding it.  I mourned for a couple of months and then I accepted an invitation to join the Council of the Wesleyan Covenant Association.

Since joining WCA exactly none of my positions concerning the denomination have changed.  Nothing has changed in my leadership at Christ Church, the content of the messages I preach or my upbeat attitude toward faith and life.  I have never considered Christian people who think differently than me to be my enemies.  Still don’t.  I do not doubt or disparage their positions, nor do I deny their right to hold them.  I don’t think they are evil.  I just disagree with them.  In addition, I do not plan to spend time defending and debating my positions or attempting to get others to rally to them.  This is all you are going to get out of me.  A blog.  So if you are hoping for a popping on-line debate, I will take a “hard pass.”  This is just where I stand.  With no ill will.  In good conscience.  Always smiling.

I have a burning desire to see the churches of this tribe flourish and I am hopeful we can find a way to keep our wildly diverse denomination under one roof with integrity.  Yes, you read this correctly; I am a part of WCA but I am hopeful United Methodism can stay together.  I am a “leaner in.”  Staying together may not be possible or even be best but it is certainly worth our best efforts.  I prayed for the Commission on a Way Forward and for the Bishops.  I pray for the 2019 Special Session of General Conference.  I pray for all of us caught in the “meantime.”

I have written much concerning United Methodism over the years; primarily along the themes of turning around our decades of decline, getting back on mission and the intentional development of leadership.  This is where I think our real challenge lies.  Even if we suddenly agreed on everything concerning human sexuality, we would still be in precipitous decline in the American church.  Too many of our churches are off-mission.  Too many of our clergy are ineffective.  Too many of our structures are anachronistic.  On top of that, we have collectively digressed into the lack of civility concerning our differences that plagues our larger culture.  This is unacceptable as well.  We are in need of the kind of fresh wind and fresh fire that produces professions of faith, baptisms, committed disciples of Jesus Christ and unapologetic evangelism.  We need to address our in-house differences civilly and as quickly as possible for the purpose of focusing our collective attention toward our shared mission.  United Methodists, regardless of theological convictions, need better “weather” in which to pursue our mission of “making disciples for the transformation of the world.”  The end game must be to powerfully recover our mission, not to preserve our structures.

The formation of Wesleyan Covenant Association has invited a spirit of revival and counts some of our most effective pastors and most dynamic congregations among its members.  I am a member of the WCA Council and I have found this incredibly gifted group to be thoughtful, warm and loving people…toward everyone.  This Council defies the modern notion that being an orthodox Christian makes you a hateful person.  WCA has provided community for many, inspired hope for the future and has allowed the Bishops and the 2019 delegates to get an accurate reading of where many United Methodist pastors and churches actually stand as they do their work.  I think this is a good thing.  It is not just the people who scream the loudest who need to be heard.

Tie Black and White

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop, A Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church, has been the Sr. Pastor of Fairview Heights Christ in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997.

3 Comments
  1. You are not alone. I, too, lean in towards the middle, but when faced with a choice, I will go right every time. We are the silent followers. Keep that in mind. I enjoy your blog and read it when it comes to my inbox.

  2. I feel your pain and I feel your struggle! As a UMC Pastor for 40 plus years it saddens me to continue to see the continual loss of worship attendance as well as membership continue to decline in every Annual Conference as Best I could tell from the stats reported. In February of 2019 there will not be winners and losers . There are no winners in this struggle. The only winners in our denomination will be those who continue to lift up the saving grace of Christ to the World . We must not lose sight of our call to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. That’s what keeps us smiling and hopeful!

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