More than 60 Methodist theologians, professors and clergy have signed a statement of faith calling for a return to the core tenets of the Wesleyan-Methodist tradition amid a split within the United Methodist Church over its longstanding debate on LGBT issues.
The statement, titled “The Faith Once Delivered: A Wesleyan Witness,” was published following a gathering of about 50 Christian scholars at the Next Methodism Summit in Alexandria, Virginia, back in January. The introduction behind the document, which takes its name from Jude 1:3, states that it aims “to guide the theological trajectory of Methodism for the next century or more.”
“It is nothing less than a robust affirmation of the historic Christian faith and the particular gifts of the Wesleyan movement within the larger Church,” the introduction added.
The 63-page document is split into six sections, each highlighting a different topic. According to The Christian Post, the first section highlights the attributes of God and the Holy Trinity, the second section looks at creation and the fall of man, the third part is centered on God’s self-revelation and the authority of Scripture, the fourth section discusses salvation, the fifth part explores the nature of the church and the final section touches on the end times.
Kevin Watson, who served as an assisting editor for the document, told The Christian Post that he helped create the statement because he believes “the Wesleyan-Methodist tradition needs to retrieve the riches of its own doctrinal heritage.”
“I believe many parts of the Wesleyan-Methodist tradition are experiencing a crisis of identity. We have forgotten who we are. We have lost the treasure the Lord has entrusted to us and our nerve to ‘spread Scriptural holiness,’” he said.
Watson, who is the acting director of the Wesley House of Studies of George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University and the pastor of discipleship at First Methodist Church of Waco, Texas, said that it was encouraging to see that over 60 scholars “share the same concern and willingness to invest themselves in a contemporary restatement of the core beliefs of the Wesleyan theological tradition.”
He also contended that this decree is different from other statements of faith due to its “range of contributors and the timing of the release of the document.”
“This document is not seeking to speak a new word in support of a current cultural moment. Rather, it is seeking to retrieve the basics of the faith that has already been given to us,” Watson added. “Receiving the faith that has already been given to us is the key first step to seeking to discern what faithfulness looks like in the present.”
The release of the statement comes as many United Methodist Churches consider leaving the denomination – the largest Methodist denomination in the world – over its decades-long debate on same-sex marriage and ordination of homosexual clergy.
According to the UMC Book of Discipline, homosexuality is considered “incompatible with Christian teaching.” However, many theologically liberal church leaders have refused to adopt and implement rules in accordance with that stance in their congregations.
As a result, the schism has seen a number of churches in the U.S. announce their disaffiliation from the UMC, with some joining the Global Methodist Church, a conservative theological alternative to the UMC. The Global Methodist Church, which also expressed concern over the UMC’s debate on LGBT issues, officially launched on May 1.
Photo courtesy: Scott Graham/Unsplash
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.