A new evangelical grouping is set to form within the United Methodist Church. The group – the Wesleyan Covenant Association – is being formed in response to the ongoing debate within the denomination about sexuality.
The UMC is one of the biggest mainline denominations in America, with around 7 million members, and 4 million more worldwide. A special commission of the UMC is working on the issue of homosexuality at the moment. It is expected to report back soon and may recommend some changes to church rules on same sex marriage and gay clergy.
The Wesleyan Covenant Association says that it is forming at a time of "great uncertainty about the future of The United Methodist Church, the Wesleyan Covenant Association stands together as an alliance to advance vibrant, scriptural Christianity within Methodism."
The group's website answers reports which have claimed that it is looking to found a new denomination – especially in response to the appointment of a lesbian Bishop. It says, "That is not the association's intent. The WCA hopes the UM Church can remain united. We pray we can all find ways to live as Jesus' joyful and obedient disciples in covenant with one another."
The disharmony in the UMC mirrors that in other mainline denominations in America which have split or ruptured over issues of sexuality and the interpretation of scripture. The Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church have all suffered from splits in recent years owing to differing approaches within their ranks.
The first gathering of the Wesleyan Covenant Association takes place in Chicago in October.