Over the past 18 months, a new group within United Methodism has repeatedly claimed their support of United Methodism and their denial they are creating a new denomination. But a newly discovered document challenges both those claims.
The Wesleyan Covenant Association is a registered non-profit, which means they had to file founding documents with the government, specifically a Certificate of Formation of a Non-Profit Corporation. Such materials are privately filed but publicly available upon request (to be clear: these are not secret). Knowing their home state of Texas made a request for a legal copy of this public document very easy.
When we received a copy, there were three interesting takeaways from the document—and one is incredibly revealing, so rather than force you to read all three, we’ll start with that one.
01. The Missing Word
The first thing we’ll notice is there’s a discrepancy between the privately filed document and the public document the WCA has been sharing over the past year.
The public By-Laws of the Wesleyan Covenant Association are posted here. Section III is copied word-for-word from the purpose of the non-profit….except for a few missing words.
Here’s the public Section III:
The Wesleyan Covenant Association (“WCA”) is an association of congregations, clergy persons, and laity who desire to cooperate in the mission of the WCA to promote the ministry of the gospel from a Wesleyan theological perspective within The United Methodist Church and kindred bodies.
But the screenshot above from the document filed with the State of Texas above has a curious omission. Here’s how Section V of the private document writes that sentence:
The Wesleyan Covenant Association (“WCA”) is an association of congregations, clergy persons, and laity who desire to cooperate in the mission of the WCA to promote the ministry of the gospel from a Wesleyan theological perspective.
You’ll notice it cuts off too early. The private document doesn’t mention United Methodism. In fact, the private document doesn’t mention United Methodism at all, though the public document certainly does as they recruit current United Methodists to their ranks.
The discrepancy between public and private is part and parcel of the way how the Wesleyan Covenant Association operates, so this is no surprise to those of us who are watching them closely. But it is revealing that from the beginning, despite their advertising, their intention has nothing to do with supporting ministries with The United Methodist Church.
02. The Date
It’s curious to me how a myth won’t die: “when” the Wesleyan Covenant Association came into being. I keep seeing social media comments that the WCA was formed in response to the inaction by General Conference—or in response to the election of Bishop Oliveto. To be fair, none of the WCA leaders make this claim.
The picture above should settle this. The screenshot above shows a filing date of March 3rd, 2016…over two months before General Conference. And it was check-marked to begin “immediately” upon filing (see below screenshot), not activated at a later date or in response to an inciting event.
We knew this already. The website WesleyanCovenant.org was registered on May 2nd, 2016, just over a week before General Conference 2016 began. That’s been known for a year. But to register as a non-profit over two months before General Conference is an added drip that proves the organization of the caucus group long before General Conference.
No matter what the General Conference delegates decided, the WCA was ready to move, belying a lack of faith in the delegates to guide the Church in a way they thought appropriate.
03. The Lawyer
The “organizer” of the Certificate of Formation is Daniel Dalton, a lawyer in Michigan. Longtime readers of Hacking Christianity will recognize the name: Dalton is the lawyer helping a local UM church take a $1million property from The United Methodist Church and give it to a local evangelical congregation (that local church paid for part of Dalton’s services, in fact).
Dalton is also the author of a document circulating in back channels which details how to beat the Trust Clause. We have a copy and are still analyzing it, but it mostly describes the case law state-by-state and offers advice on how to proceed for churches looking to sell out the hard work of previous generations who purchased their buildings with decades of tithes.
UPDATE: It’s old news now, but a reader pointed out that Dalton’s firm is the official legal counsel of the WCA, per his press release here. So there’s no denying his connection to the scope and plans of the WCA.
We’ve previously seen similar work done by the late Dr. Tom Oden in his book Turning Around the Mainline as he dedicated over 30 pages to beating the Trust Clause. The trust clause has longtime been a bane in conservative evangelical church’s side as it keeps cooler heads prevailing and hundreds of churches weathering temporary storms and remaining United Methodist.
It remains to be seen how many churches will try these approaches, but they all will have the Wesleyan Covenant Association on speed-dial.
One Final Question
One more note is that the three names on the “Board of Directors” are wholly expected:
- Keith Boyette, current President of the WCA and author of two plans for the schism of The United Methodist Church.
- Brian Collier, who is now no longer a United Methodist Elder, having given up his credentials when he took his congregation and their $9million property from the Mississippi Annual Conference.
- Thomas Lambrecht, Vice President of the Good News caucus group and occasional commenter on this blog (hi Tom!).
So the final question is this: given the evidence above, at what point do we:
- stop identifying the Wesleyan Covenant Association as a caucus group within United Methodism, and
- start identifying them as a loosely-structured takeover denomination within United Methodism?
While nothing in the document is earth-shattering, every drop contributes to Hacking Christianity’s river of posts over the past 18 months that the Wesleyan Covenant Association is not what their closely manicured image professes to say.
We will keep vigilant, and I hope you share our work with colleagues or friends considering an affiliation.
Thanks for reading, commenting, and your shares on social media.
I remember when a group tried to take over our church by slowly building strength in all the committees. The only thing stopping them was the trust and the Pastor who was working through nominations to block them. Eventually they all left to take over another church of an independent nature. It was hard but Faith survived.
Jill A. Warren
They’re like the Amway of Methodism. Lure people in with false claims & entrap them. They’re in violation of nonprofit regs if falsely raising funds for a mission other than that stated in founding documents. AG offices handle these types of cases should anyone care to complain.
Jill- I do not see how the WCA is in any violation of their founding documents, even the ones officially filed with Texas. Specifically, how do you find them violating even one of the missions stated in their founding documents? I think you’re comments are another example of how this entire blog tends to point to “smoke” but there is never a fire, never any real headline, just manufactured accusations that hold no real water.
Brad, you don’t find it a bit fraudulent to publicly claim your intention is to work “within” the denomination, but your legal documents all say something different? That doesn’t strike you as at least dishonest?
Thanks Jeremy! I wonder if various bishops and leaders will quit supporting this schismatic organization? It is anything but Wesleyan.
Two months? Even with an attorney, an IRS non-profit application has a lot of those “T”s and “I”s that have to be dotted and crossed. This was in the works further back than two months ahead of the GC. Thank you for the heads up. There are a lot of WCA and WCA/Good News sympathizers in my area. I’ll have to be vigilant.
Is it possible that they modified their bylaws exactly because of criticism related to their commitment to the church? It seems *very* possible that this isn’t a forked-tongue conspiracy you propose, but rather a clarification of their intended work. Did you reach out to any of their leaders for comment before publishing?
Are they really trying to “take over?” I seriously doubt that. I believe that their intent is to offer another path.
No, they will want all the assets as well. Where they fail to beat to the trust clauses, they will form another denomination but I promise their first order of business will be to try to take over.
Yet another masterful attempt by Jeremy to leverage innuendo and special pleading to demonize and bludgeon those he disagrees with.
Paul, it looks like you might be guilty of plagiarism by how often you copy and paste your allegations. 🙂 Blessings!
You are a talented writer. It is a shame that you choose to waste your talent on yellow journalism.
May God forgive UMJeremy….
Why does this have to be so sneaky? Just say what’s going on, already. “We disagree with the General Conference on the issue of same-sex marriage and ordination of clergy in same-sex relationships. We have not been able to get the General Conference to agree with us, so our new plan is to get churches to leave the UMC and bring their buildings and resources with them to form a new denomination that does not perform same-sex weddings or ordain non-heterosexual clergy.”
If this is God’s will, just say it, do what you’re going to do, and let the chips fall where they may.
Actually those in the WCA, of which I am not a member, agree with the General Conference on the issue of same sex marriage and the ordination of clergy in same-sex relationships. They agree with every General Conference that has ever spoken on the issue and those same GCs have agreed with them. Which is why there is no need to form a new denomination when WCA-minded folks are already in one with which they emphatically agree.
I don’t think it is a take-over, but is really a group which feels that it was not being heard, either at the General Conference level, or lower. Rather that take over what now exists, I think it is more that some are tired of the bloated General agencies and committees, as well as the lack of accountability of Bishops, some Conferences, and some clergy and laity. Why would you want to take over something that is in deep trouble. Maybe it is that they want to change toward something better, or simply offer a way to be stronger.
Have you ever tried to figure out what to do with a beloved, grandparent’s cabin with a disparate group of cousins? The WCA is the cousin stashing the old, bamboo, fishing rods in their car while the rest of us are still sitting around the dinner table trying to hash it out.
This isn’t about process, or “winning”, or stuff. This is about entitlement.
Excellent work Jeremy.
I am retired Fulltime Local Pastor and read with some concern your post. Please add me to your email list for further posts.
Thank you for informing us and explaining it so well. Please add me to your email posts as well!!
We appreciate your posts here sir, even if some of us had naturally already made our minds up about whether this group was really Christ-like and truly Christian as we saw them.
It is revealing of their intent, certainly.
It is incredibly difficult to see how a group can back track from this clear position.
I’d rather they didn’t though, honestly. I’ll sit down with Thomas Lambrecht and challenge him any day to explain why I am who I am. And I’ll drink wine and eat bread with him, until we understand each other and the reality of creation outside of Levitical Law and Roman life centuries ago before the eruption in Pompeii.
And I’ll still be in my UMC I hope, hopefully one day with my same sex spouse, on a level with all as we appreciate the variation in all species of created life, as I pray for those churches in my denomination and outside it who do not understand.
You write as though this is some group that is out of touch with mainstream Methodism. In fact, this group is much closer to the roots of Methodism than the progressive element and the WCA is simply trying to maintain that connection. Your true colors show in this article that is extremely biased and petty.
Elder, Alabama-West Florida Conference
The reality of the WCA is clear. They will either:
1. Drive off enough progressives that they can effect a takeover of the UMC and push it far more conservative.
2. As soon as something doesn’t go their way, they will pack their bags and leave
Good catch, Jeremy! Bravo!
Well-written and informative, Jeremy! Thanks for clearing up what some of us assumed all along.
Brother Jeremy, you sure have developed a mega-wedgie about the WCA, which like the boogie man, is “sinister” and requiring ‘vigilance’ as a couple of your respondents have opined. As another respondent wisely observed, the WCA has brought a voice to those marginalized and excluded by the culture and leadership of some conferences. The WCA has affirmed their dignity as evangelical-traditional UM believers, and actively encouraged them to remain in the denomination, support the Way Forward process, and uphold the covenant, the Discipline and the decisions of the General Conference. You highlight Tom Lambrecht’s presence on the CWF team of the Good News movement…but hey, Matt of Reconciling ministries also is (rightly) on the team, both present to reflect where defined parts of UMC members affiliate. You have been appointed to a great church with great challenges and a great history; you have the gifts, under God, to arrest the decline and renew a strong gospel and social witness from the heart of Seattle. Pace yourself in using energy toward research that provides only modest news. Your posting reminded me of the Southern politician in the 1930’s who campaigned against his opponent by barnstorming the rural areas, and in sinister tones telling the down-home folks that his opponent was rumored to have come down with a serious case of halitosis contracted under suspicious circumstances. Brother Jeremy, mellow out and see how many self-avowed practicing evangelicals are actually left in your district, and listen to their stories.
Bob, your comment is disingenuous, to say the least. You speak of being “marginalized” and “excluded”. The WCA intends to to continue to marginalize and exclude progressives and moderates, as well as the LGBT community. A rather troubling example of this is a friend of mine at a large UM church in Texas, who was told she could no longer teach Sunday school, or serve on the education committee in any capacity…because her adult son (who happens to be gay) recently started attending the same church, and she refused to condemn him.
Hi Matt. Your anecdotal story simply shows both sides of the political spectrum mischaracterize our BOD’s position on LGBTQ persons. They are of sacred worth as are heterosexual persons and are to be welcomed in worship. Assuming the gay son or his mother wasn’t being disruptive in a church service, Sunday School Class or other church function, both should be welcomed in any UMC setting. Apparently some in that Church misunderstand our BOD. By the same token, those claiming the current language in the BOD is killing gay people are equally misguided. I understand that’s their opinion, but it’s just that, an opinion.
I find the missing words to be a concern. The affiliation with the UMC is not noted in the legal charter of the organization, and appears to me to be the formation of a new denomination not within the UMC. If so, then are the clergy who have signed with the WCA in violation of the BOD?
Gw Bill Warren
It is in the congregation that opinions, feelings, and actions that guide the congregations take place. If each congregation would decide their future as reforming or reconciling, then help a sister congregation form as congregation with the other intent we would remain strong and likely grow as people joined knowing where the congregation stands. It is possible some would even share facilities with pastors appointed appropriately to the intent.
Echoing the comments of Claire Terese, when does a non-profit organization dedicated to ‘connecting local churches who worship Jesus Christ’ become a church outside the bounds and discipline of the United Methodist Church? I know many pastors who have been denied dual membership in U.M and other denominations because it was ruled a violation of our discipline and our ordination vows. Indeed, many ‘Wesleyan’ churches and organizations exist that are not United Methodist. So even if one claims to be biblical, Wesleyan or even United Methodist, it doesn’t make it so. If your flock(s) are organized independently, walk independently, express independent goals, even quack independently, then your probably a duck and no longer United Methodist.
Possibly Hippocrates was right, “For extreme diseases, extreme methods of cure, as to restriction, are most suitable.” In this case, is turn about is fair play? Nope. Wrong when the left sought to hold the UMC hostage. Now, just as wrong with the right. But, it shows just how far either side is willing to go to get what it wants, i.e., accomplish it’s agenda.
There is nothing wrong with going back to Biblical Principles, which is what the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) is doing. Revival is inevitable in the United Methodist Church, just like in other churches. What does the Bible say about homosexuality? It is condemned throughout both in the Old testament and even in the New Testament.So to me WCA is on the right track, provided it addresses even other sins that have permeated the church. For such a time like this, when sin has permeated the church we need to repent and go back to restore what is in ruins. WCA are the Nehemiah’s and Ezra’s of this era. WCA is not about Schism in the United Methodist Church but revival!!!
Jill Warren, thank you for pointing out how an organization can be in violation of the law when “Raising funds for a mission other than those stated in the founding documents”. The UMC Book of Discipline states that the church does not condone LGBTQ clergy or marital ceremonies. The Bible states that it is an “abomination”. Looks like it’s time to take the United Methodist Church to court for operating under false pretenses. They have a lot of donated funds to return, if they are found guilty! Hmmmmm….
I know I’m way behind the times, but I just read this article, Jeremy, and I so appreciate you.