By Walter Fenton
Excerpted and reprinted with permission of the Wesleyan Covenant Association
In light of the third postponement of The United Methodist Church’s 2020 General Conference, delegates to the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Fourth Global Legislative Assembly endorsed a revised mission statement for their association.
They also overwhelmingly and enthusiastically voted to elect the Rev. Jay Therrell as the association’s second president.
Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, at an in-person assembly with 240 delegates from around the world, the revised mission statement and Therrell’s election were the major developments during a full day of legislative business bookended by two worship services.
“The WCA warmly supported the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation,” said Rev. Keith Boyette, WCA’s current president. “Our members and friends, who people thousands of local UM churches, were looking forward to amicably and orderly departing the UM Church later this year. But with yet another postponement of the General Conference, and a number of bishops and annual conferences imposing onerous terms for churches wanting to leave the denomination, the WCA will advocate on behalf of its members and friends at annual conferences and at the 2024 General Conference.”
The revised mission statement also committed the WCA to fulfilling aims in both the UMC and the Global Methodist Church. It will support efforts to see that the UMC maintains faithful adherence and accountability to the standards of doctrine and discipline embodied in its current Book of Discipline. And it will continue to act as an advisor to the Global Methodist Church as its leaders work to shape its doctrine, polity and mission in preparation for its convening General Conference.
“It is obvious a number of our regional chapter delegates, who represent thousands of theologically conservative local churches in Africa, Europe/Eurasia, the Philippines and the U.S. have no intention of leaving the UM Church under punitive exit terms,” said Boyette. “They plan to continue to work for the protocol’s approval, so they’ll join their allies at Africa Initiative, the Confessing Movement, Good News and UMAction to organize for the 2024 General Conference.”
An election of a new WCA president was necessitated by news that Boyette will become the Global Methodist Church’s transitional connectional coordinating officer beginning June 1. He recently withdrew from membership in the Virginia Annual Conference of the UMC and is now an elder in the Global Methodist Church. He will serve as its senior executive and administrative officer through its convening General Conference.
The Transitional Leadership Council, the body that officially brought the denomination into existence, will continue to provide governing oversight during the church’s transitional period.
Therrell, an ordained elder in the Global Methodist Church, currently leads the Florida WCA Regional Chapter. He served several local UMCs in Florida including First Methodist churches of Kissimmee, Ormond Beach and Cape Coral. He also served as the North East District superintendent for four years, serving the greater Jacksonville area.
After earning an undergraduate degree at Presbyterian College (Clinton, South Carolina), Therrell earned his law degree at the University of Florida (Gainesville). For several years he practiced estate planning and tax law before receiving a call to ministry. He completed a Master of Divinity degree at Asbury Theological Seminary’s campus in Orlando.
Under Therrell’s leadership, the Florida WCA Regional Chapter has flourished. He made presentations in numerous locations throughout the state, helping WCA members, friends and local church leaders understand the WCA’s mission and purpose. With the announcement of the protocol, he produced resources and delivered addresses to help local churches discern their options under its terms. And with the formation of the Global Methodist Church, he has helped people understand its mission and its governance structure during its transitional period. He was also part of a drafting team that assisted the Transitional Leadership Council in preparing the new Global Methodist Church’s Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline.
“I am humbled to be following a leader that I admire greatly,” said Therrell. “Keith has served our movement with extraordinary courage and wisdom. As the WCA moves forward it does so standing on the shoulders of those who led it to a firm and strong foundation. The task before us is clear: helping as many theologically conservative churches and clergy as possible move to the Global Methodist Church where they can be free to make disciples of Jesus Christ that worship passionately, love extravagantly and witness boldly. As John Wesley famously said, ‘And best of all, God is with us.’”
Therrell will assume his duties on June 1.
In other business, the assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution celebrating the formation of the Global Methodist Church. The assembly also adopted a resolution urging UMC bishops, annual conferences and their boards of trustees to adopt fair and gracious exit pathways for local churches seeking to separate from the UMC.
Delegates also heard reports from the WCA’s Task Force on Sexual Holiness, Wholeness, and Brokenness and its Task Force on a Catechism for the Global Methodist Church. After debate and deliberation, the assembly amended and approved resolutions proposed by both task force teams, and then it commended the resolutions to the Global Methodist Church’s convening General Conference.