An Open Letter to United Methodists from Pastor Paul Lawler
As Christ-following United Methodists, many have expressed deep concerns for the direction of our denomination for some time. This Saturday will bring positive news for our future as a denomination. Thousands will gather all over the United States for the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Move – On Mission with God Gathering. Whatever part of the country you reside in, there are over 60 sites to choose from. It is not too late for you to sign up and attend.
Why was the Wesleyan Covenant Association formed? It was formed out of a need to recommit to the authority of Scripture and the Lordship of Jesus Christ as the United Methodist Church.
One might ask, “What has precipitated the need to recommit to the authority of Scripture and the Lordship of Jesus Christ?”
As Christ-following United Methodists, we have had a deep concern for what has been propagated out of some of our seminaries. The local United Methodist church I serve regularly sends out mission teams to different parts of the world. We are seeing Muslims come to faith in Jesus Christ. We recently hosted a man in our Sunday worship gatherings who came to faith in Christ out of a Muslim background (at great cost: he lost his family and has been alienated by his parents for following Jesus). It is difficult to reconcile seeing Muslim background persons follow Jesus at a great cost, and a United Methodist seminary teaching Muslim studies, as is now the case at United Methodist Claremont School of Theology. The incongruity is rightfully appalling.
As Christ-following United Methodists, we have had a deep concern for what is falsely propagated regarding the deity of Christ by some Bishops and influencers within our denomination. In the name of the church, Bishop Joseph Sprague once described a version of Jesus that if true, undercuts the gospel and the motivation behind Wesley’s admonition to Thomas Coke and to each of us to “Offer them Christ.” The Jesus described by some is not the Jesus of the apostolic faith, but an invented version of Jesus only found through a contrived re-contextualization. To de-deify Jesus Christ should be a shock to us as the church, and stands in direct contradiction to the biblical statement, “Jesus is Lord.”
As Christ-following United Methodists, we recognize the validity of healthy, biblical hermeneutics. Out of a healthy biblical framework, a large critical mass of United Methodist want to see human sexuality upheld through marriage as being between one man and one woman.
In honoring patterns of healthy biblical hermeneutics, United Methodists are appreciative of the theological work of Dr. Richard B. Hayes of Duke Divinity regarding the integrity of Scripture as it relates to human sexuality. Out of Dr. Hayes’ work, and out of the work of many other United Methodist theologians, many United Methodist view Scripture as being authoritative and properly interpreted in the context of marriage being between one man and one woman. This, in no way, diminishes love and the sacred worth of ALL people, no matter what their struggle. On the basis of scriptural authority, we lovingly oppose changing two-thousand years of marriage as being defined as being between one man and one woman.
The Wesleyan Covenant Association was formed so that we all recognize there is a large, critical mass of United Methodist Christ-followers who hold a high view of the deity of Jesus Christ, the authority of Scripture, and marriage being defined as a sacred union between a man and a woman.
But the Wesleyan Covenant Association represents so much more. We are looking to a vibrant future as the church in making disciples of Jesus Christ, vibrant church planting, life-giving mission, and being a part of Jesus’s plan to “set captives free and bind up broken hearts” for God’s glory. This is just the beginning, and being on mission together is the most exciting part of the journey to come!
You will hear more about this exciting future as United Methodists at the Global Gathering this Saturday. If you have yet to register, I encourage you to go to www.wesleyancovenant.org immediately and sign up! There’s a simulcast site within driving distance of you. The cost is $30.00 and it includes your lunch. Come, bring a friend, and let’s anticipate the future together!
In anticipation of God’s best that’s yet to come!
For His renown,
Chairperson, Wesleyan Covenant Association of North Alabama
Senior Pastor, Christ Church United Methodist of Birmingham
Paul Lawler is the Lead-Pastor of Christ Church UMC, and founder of The Immersion School, a discipleship training center in Birmingham, Alabama. He and his wife, MJ, have four children and one daughter-in-law. In addition to serving as a pastor, Paul and his brother, Dallas area businessman, Patrick Lawler, founded the Patricia B. Hammonds Girl’s Home for 60 orphans at high risk for human trafficking in Thailand. The home is operated through the international ministry of the Compassionate Hope Foundation. Paul also serves on the North Alabama Conference Discipleship Team. He often tweets Kingdom thoughts at @plawler111