I have been a member of renewal and reform groups for years. People who know me would say that being a member of such groups has not made me angry, exclusive, or contentious. Being a member of such groups has helped me stay focused on the historic, catholic faith of the Christian community. My ministry has been based on teaching and preaching the basics of our faith. Being a member of renewal and reform groups have helped me to stand Sunday after Sunday and profess the historic Christian creeds with boldness and conviction. I do not have to say, “We believe,” but I can say, “I believe.” The faith I profess is not only the faith of our community, but it is my faith also.
I was at the founding meeting of the Wesleyan Covenant Association. That great, positive celebration climaxed with the exuberant profession of the Nicene Creed. The mission of the WCA resonated with me: “The Wesleyan Covenant Association aims to ground all of our beliefs and practices in the authority of Scripture and seeks to reestablish our church on this firm foundation. Living and serving under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture, we are moving forward with confidence for the future.” The WCA is “an association of individuals and congregations who share a common understanding of our Wesleyan doctrine and a desire to become a vibrant, faithful, growing 21st century church” (www.wesleyancovenant.org.).
There were many people at the founding of the WCA that had influenced my life for years. Some very influential Methodist church leaders and scholars were in the room. It was a diverse room full of people passionately dedicated to the basics of the Wesleyan expression of the Christian faith, a faith that sees human nature desperately in need of redemption, a faith that presents a God who so loves the world that the world is freely offered gifts of forgiveness, justification, and sanctification. God so loves the world that God makes possible the living of a holy life.
Organizations focused on renewal and reform have helped me to remember that Christian communities need on-going reformation by the Word of God. Human nature is bent toward self-satisfaction, self-absorption, and self-affirmation. I know that defines the bent of my nature apart from God’s gracious activity, so I need constant renewal and reformation. I am not evil, just human. I will be eternally thankful for God’s amazing gift of regeneration in Jesus Christ.
God loves to do new things (Isa. 43:19). I try not to be afraid of the new things, the fresh expressions of faithful Christian living, that God brings into our midst. Every movement, every organization, every denomination, is not for everyone. For me, the Wesleyan Covenant Association brings renewal and reformation (and joy!) into my life.
Dr. Jeff Patterson
President, Western NC WCA