The Wesleyan Church General Board met November 16 and 17, 2021, for its 143rd session. Joining the meeting as guests were 20 district superintendents who provided input on 62 memorials to help inform subsequent memorials voting by the General Board.
Attending for the first time was Emily Last, newly elected lay representative for the Northeastern Area. Last, a member of the Central Canada District, is a graduate of Houghton College, an educator and a pastor’s spouse.
Devotions were offered by Pastor Maria Acuna, La Gran Comisión Wesleyan Church, Columbus, Ohio, and Dr. Wayne Lewis, president of Houghton College, New York.
Time was dedicated to celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Wesleyan Investment Foundation (WIF) and expressing gratitude for WIF’s faithful partnership, effective ministry and expanding impact. General Superintendent Wayne Schmidt interviewed WIF’s Chief Executive Officer Craig Dunn and ended with prayer.
Prior to the 143rd session, optional Zoom meetings were available to General Board members and district superintendents addressing each of the following memorial subjects: United Stewardship Fund (USF), Governance Simplification, Gifts of the Spirit and Credentialing.
The General Board recommended United Stewardship Fund and Governance Simplification to the General Conference, scheduled for May 22-25, 2022, in St. Louis, Missouri. Action on Gifts of the Spirit was tabled until the March 2022 General Board session. Credentialing was not recommended.
General Board action also included authorizing the subcommittee on memorials to generate two memorials for review at the March 2022 General Board session: “Ensure The Wesleyan Church (TWC) maintains its foundational principles” and “Examine TWC lifestyle standards.” Additionally, the General Board voted to establish a task force comprised of Wesleyan scholars and ministry practitioners to update the position paper on homosexuality. Motivation for the rewrite is to bring greater clarity representative of the beliefs and prayerful work of The Wesleyan Church, which would be welcomed by local church, district and university leaders. Rewriting the position paper does not alter the constitutional beliefs of The Wesleyan Church related to human sexuality as documented in The Discipline of The Wesleyan Church Articles of Religion paragraph 222.
Schmidt, during his General Superintendent report, officially declared his willingness to serve God and The Wesleyan Church for another term, if elected. Schmidt shared his belief that the “current realities and the possibilities of these next four years call for ‘continuity … with the courageous pursuit of our mission’ which God has entrusted to us.”
He celebrated movement toward being a Kingdom Force of witnesses — multigenerational, multiethnic, multieconomic, women and men, lay and clergy, everywhere to everywhere. Schmidt referenced data supplied by this past year’s Local Church Statistical Reports, one-third of Wesleyan churches are multiethnic and that 21% of credentialed clergy are women.
Additional FY 21 statistics were shared, with Schmidt noting that the pandemic’s impact is yet to be fully realized. Onsite worship declined 41% while online worship increased 141%. Membership declined 2%, conversions declined 47%, baptisms declined 33% and discipleship declined 16%.
The General Board was asked to join him in “… discerning and deciding what is best for the church we love.”
Janelle Vernon is the executive director of Communication and Administration for The Wesleyan Church.