Continuing the Wesleyan Vision:
A Call To Unity in Holiness and Truth
By the surpassing grace of the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY (2 Cor. 9:14-15), John Wesley organized the Methodist movement in England to raise a repentant people who would pursue holiness through practices of disciplined obedience (Mat. 3:7; 4:17; 5:48). He saw great potential in people, in who they could become by abiding in Jesus through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:13, Gal. 5:16-17). Hence, it was for this reason that the doctrine of entire sanctification defined Methodist identity and practice (1 Thes. 5:23-24; 1 Jn. 4:16-17). Similarly, in America, Bishops Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke captured what is at the heart of Methodism when they proclaimed in 1796: “Our grand object is to raise and preserve a holy and united people. Holiness is our aim, and we pay no regard to numbers, but in proportion as they possess the genuine principles of vital religion.” (1 Pet. 1:3; 14-16)
Methodism in the Philippines in the decades before World War II thrived under the same vision. Filipino Methodist preachers and American missionaries promoted holiness through what they called “culto ng pagbabagong buhay” (life-changing meetings) or “culto Pentecostal” (Pentecostal meetings). It was not uncommon to see people in these gatherings so convicted of sin that they gave up cockfighting and drinking or surrendered their cigarettes and buyo (betel-nut chewing) at the altar. In some instances, couples living together outside of wedlock would get married as a result. For this reason, Methodism experienced phenomenal growth during this period since these transformations testified to its ability to bring change or re-order people’s lives through the power of the Holy Spirit (Mat. 3:8; Eph. 4:11-13; 2 Cor. 5:17).
Just as our Methodist forebears before us, we too yearn to continue the same vision for scriptural holiness for our generation (Jud. 1:3-4). We prayerfully seek God’s direction on how to faithfully retain our Methodist identity in light of recent events in the United Methodist Church, which challenges us for prayerful discernment. In light of the impending division of our denomination or “graceful separation” through the proposed “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation and Restructuring,” we add our voice to the many conversations occurring within our global connection as we move toward General Conference 2022. Hence, with one voice, we humbly declare the following:
1. We will wholeheartedly support the formation of the Global Methodist Church (GMC) once the General Conference approves the “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation and Restructuring,” also known as the Feinberg Protocol, which will create a path for a graceful separation in the United Methodist Church. This should not be misconstrued as a call for secession but rather an expression of our God-given right to openly declare our stand while our church is undergoing discernment leading up to the General Conference. The GMC envisions to be “committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the authority and inspiration of the Scriptures, and the work of the Holy Spirit in conveying God’s truth, grace, renewal, and sanctification to all people who repent and believe” as outlined in the “Atlanta Statement.” This declaration was signed in March 2020 by renewal leaders and eight bishops of the United Methodist Church, including Bishop Pedro Torio of the Baguio Episcopal Area in the Philippines. To view the statement, please see here. For more information about the GMC, please see here.
2. As we await the General Conference’s decision on the Feinberg Protocol, we remain faithful members of the United Methodist Church and continue to steadfastly support its ministries. We also strongly discourage any premature separation, and we call for unity as we wait for the General Conference and continue to minister to our people during the pandemic. We understand that our endorsement for forming a new global Methodist body may be misperceived as a lack of loyalty to the United Methodist Church, a church that has reared us in the Christian faith and which we call our spiritual home since birth. However, this should only be seen as an expression of our participation in the process of discernment our whole global United Methodist connection has been undergoing for the past five years on whether to permit same-sex marriage and the ordination of people in same-sex relationships. We believe that it is our God-given right to participate in the discernment process and that no one should be censured for doing so regardless of which side one belongs to (Rom. 2:15; 9:1). Our call mainly anticipates the approval of the proposed Feinberg Protocol, which will create a path for a graceful separation in the United Methodist Church. The Feinberg Protocol, as it currently stands, enjoys supermajority support among our leaders as well as traditionalist and progressive groups in our denomination. If the General Conference votes to approve it, we only wish to be prepared by guiding individuals and congregations in the Philippines who do not desire to align themselves with a liberal post-separation United Methodist Church.
3. As Filipino United Methodists who hold to the primacy of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16), we are committed to the revival of Methodism in the Philippines (Rev. 2:4-5). We also believe that the push to allow same-sex marriage and the ordination of persons in same-sex relationships in the United Methodist Church is but one of the many symptoms pointing to how far it has drifted away from the spirit of the Wesleyan revival and its vision of holiness of life and heart. It points to the lack of spiritual vitality, accountability and doctrinal integrity in our churches which largely account for the never-ending exodus of Methodists, primarily young people, to other evangelical denominations in the country. Hence, we envision the birth of a new Methodist denomination that will not only bring an end to this exodus but also bring new people to the saving work of Jesus Christ (Mat. 28:18-20). We hope to recapture the Spirit-filled driven passion of early Methodists in the British Isles and North America and that of our Filipino Methodist forebears while adapting to new ways of evangelizing and discipling people towards Christlikeness in the 21st Century. Simply put, we hope and pray for the creation of a new Methodist denomination which is not really new but rather a faithful continuation of the original vision of Methodism to “spread scriptural holiness throughout the land.”
4. We also strongly take exception to the proposals for the creation of a regional conference structure as outlined in the Christmas Covenant or similar plans, which will enable policies regarding human sexuality and standards of ordination to be decided by region. This regional conference structure will result in doctrinal incoherence as each regional conference will be free to interpret what the Bible says about human sexuality differently. However, we firmly believe that God’s truth, as revealed in the Bible, is not relative. It is always true, no matter the region or location. We cannot simply take part in a denomination that has no uniform stand on questions that are clearly theological in nature. We will refuse any attempts to twist long-held Biblical truths about human sexuality, or that will put cultural shifts or societal pressures first over the truth of God’s Word (Rom. 12:1-2). We will also resist moves to keep the unity of the church without holiness in truth. For when Jesus prayed to the Father that his disciples “may be one” (Jn. 17:11), he also prayed, “sanctify them by the truth” (Jn. 17:17).
5. We are not against persons who self-identify as LGBTQ, and we envision a church that will come alongside them as a loving community (Mic. 6:8; Mat. 22:36-40). We believe that Jesus Christ died for all and therefore God’s grace—preventing (2 Tim. 1:9-10), convincing (Jn. 16:8), justifying (Eph. 2:8), and sanctifying (Rom. 8:13)—is available to all. We also strongly condemn any rhetoric or action that degrades self-identified LGBTQ persons or diminishes their worth as human beings initially created in the image of God. Nevertheless, we believe that God’s grace is not cheap grace. We prayerfully expect everyone who has covenanted themselves to our faith community to repent and turn away from sins, profess faith in Jesus, and walk under the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. We affirm God’s design for marriage as between male and female as clearly defined in the Bible and held by Christian tradition (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7, 21-24). We believe that God calls us to holy living and prohibits acts that have devastating effects upon persons, societies, and the world (1 Cor. 3:16-17).
6. Finally, we pray for an amicable, gracious, and peaceful separation that will release us for new possibilities (Acts 15:36-41). The prolonged debate surrounding same-sex marriage and the ordination of persons in same-sex relationships have led well-meaning United Methodists to hurt each other to the detriment of their global witness. This has to stop. There is wisdom in parting ways, and the Feinberg Protocol provides a way for us to do this amicably. We believe that separation will free us from discord and animosity and enable us to live out our full potential as people called Methodists in the Philippines under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We do not harbor any ill will towards family, friends, and colleagues who do not share in our ideals, and we strongly reject any un-Christlike attitudes towards them (Rom. 13:8-10). However, we respectfully disagree with them out of love. If the General Conference approves the Feinberg Protocol, we release them to be free to form a more liberal version of Methodism that they believe God is calling them to be. Likewise, our prayer is that we free ourselves to continue the original vision of Methodism for this and for future generations.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, we dedicate ourselves to promoting the above statements. May we be a “holy and united people” living out faithfully our call as Wesleyan followers of Jesus Christ.
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