On July 12, refusing to wait for the conclusions of the Bishops’ Commission on a Way Forward, the Wesleyan Covenant Association published their statement in favor of breaking their covenant with the United Methodist Church if it does not do what they want. The WCA Disavowed any compromise that might allow the Church to remain united. Citing Acts 15, ever the favorite passage of schismatics, they called for conservative and liberal Methodists to part ways.
This will come as a surprise only to those who have been wearing conservative goggles for the last year.
Back in July of 2016, Bishop Bruce Ough, the President of the Council of Bishops named the convening of the WCA in a list of events that “opened deep the wounds in the United Methodist Church.” The founding of the WCA, he said was one of the occurrences that “fanned the flames of Schism.”
This earned Bishop Ough rebuke from the conservative bloggosphere. Kevin Watson responded claiming that he was “stunned” at the paragraph where the Bishop had included the WCA in with other trends moving toward schism. He called the Bishops comments part of a “distracting and disparaging” attempt to make it appear that conservatives were part of the problem. To be fair, Watson never actually said that the WCA was not interested in schism. Instead, Watson rehearses a mental gymnastic routine to claim that if there is a schism the conservatives are not to blame. According to Watson, the liberals are the one hand clapping in our discordant ovation. Holding the General Conference hostage by the coercive strategy of threatening to leave the Church if it does not not toe the conservative line is, by fiat of the conservative mind, a perfectly reasonable form of participation in our covenant, not a violation of it.
David Watson, however, picked up where Kevin Watson (no relation) left off. David Watson lamented the poor treatment of the innocents in the Wesleyan Covenant Association.
Only in times such as these could a group that affirms all of the central teachings of United Methodism, is led primarily by pastors who have kept their ordination vows and pay their apportionments, and has publicly disavowed the intention to divide The United Methodist Church be accused of attempting to foment such a division.
Unlike Kevin Watson, David Watson did not suggest that Bishop Ough’s comments were part of a “distracting and disparaging” project. David Watson was willing to grant that Bishop Ough “did not mean to mischaracterize” the WCA. Watson does not investigate how or why such a “mischaracterization” could have occurred. He left off by characterizing the statement as “unhelpful.”
So, now we sit on the far side of the WCA “coming out.” As their critics suggested, they were simply yet another sex-fixated, homophobic institution of the religious right that is aiming at taking over the United Methodist Church. It was its conservative defenders who were mischaracterizing the WCA.
I think Bishop Ough deserves some apologies. And I think that the members of the WCA are right. They should immediately feel free to part ways with the “big tent” of United Methodism and leave the United Methodist Church.