BY FAWN IMBODEN AND JEFF FINLEY
Leaders of the Free Methodist Church and other denominations with Wesleyan Holiness Movement ties gathered Jan. 13 in Los Angeles for a meeting that participants described as historic.
Glenn Burris, president of the Foursquare Church, welcomed 18 denominational leaders to his denomination’s central offices for a Wesleyan Holiness Consortium gathering to discuss the common emphasis on holiness in the 21st century. The leaders represented 13 denominations whose roots are common in the Wesleyan Holiness Movement. According to organizers, the consortium represents the first time in a century that the Pentecostal and traditional streams of the movement have come together in unity around a common future mission.
“These families of churches have a common heritage. That heritage is the source of unity and passion for the future with a renewed emphasis on holiness in the 21st century,” said Consortium Chairman and former Free Methodist Bishop Kevin Mannoia, who depicted the unity of the participating denominations as “a rising tributary that fuels the river of God in the world.”
In opening remarks reminiscent of Ezekiel 47, Mannoia painted a picture of the river of God flowing through the world bringing life wherever it goes.
“That is the transformational impact of God’s holiness in the world. And the WHC re-weaves the Pentecostal and traditional holiness churches together in heart and mission,” Mannoia said.
The consortium was formed in 2006 at a meeting of leaders in Dallas. Since then, the consortium has expanded in influence involving regional leaders and thousands of pastors from denominations across the United States and also in South America. The denominations represented at the Jan. 13 meeting included: Free Methodist, Assemblies of God, Brethren in Christ, Church of God (Anderson, Ind.), Evangelical, Foursquare, Grace Communion International, Nazarene, Pentecostal Holiness, Salvation Army, United Methodist, United Pentecostal and Wesleyan. Other denominations participated in the consortium although their top leaders did not make the meeting.
Free Methodist Bishop David Kendall has been involved in the consortium since its inception.
“At these gatherings, pastors and leaders have joined in worship, study, instruction and strategic planning to declare and embody the biblical message that God’s grace transforms people, groups and even cultures and societies so they reflect the likeness, passions and ministries of Jesus himself,” Kendall said. “The consortium has begun to catalyze pastors and leaders in local regions to understand more clearly, embrace more consistently, and act more collaboratively to share the grace and love of Jesus that brings healing and transformation to our needy world.”
Vinson Synan, a renowned church historian at Regent University from the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, described the meeting with enthusiasm.
“This is an historic day. The divisions of a hundred years ago were laid aside today in a wonderful spirit of unity,” Synan said.
“This meeting would never have been possible 15 years ago,” said J.K. Warrick, the general superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene.
Significant outcomes of the meeting included a commitment to expand the consortium’s efforts in regional networks as well as publications through the newly formed Aldersgate Press. The consortium currently facilitates regional networks that conduct Holiness Pastors’ Days in five cities in the United States and four cities in South America. Additionally the consortium’s Presidents’ Network meets annually convening the presidents of universities and colleges seeking to integrate the impact of this message and theological distinctive on their leadership, educational approach and identity. The consortium also provides a context and support for the affiliated Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy.
Pastor Jack Hayford, a co-host of the gathering and former Foursquare president, expressed that the consortium indeed may be a “prophetic path increasing partnership toward reaching the world.”
Kendall noted the consortium is not the only group through which the Free Methodist Church – USA is cooperating with other Wesleyan Holiness Movement denominations.
“The recently proposed Global Wesleyan Alliance is a wonderful parallel organization that seeks some of the same outcomes that we are beginning to see with the consortium along with others. The consortium seeks to stir up grassroots, local gatherings and ministries to express the holistic message of the gospel,” Kendall said. “The Global Wesleyan
Alliance is composed of denominations in the Wesleyan Methodist tradition who want to explore new ways to collaborate that will advance both the individual denomination’s sense of mission but also create synergy and movement with other denominations in the broader tradition for greater kingdom impact.
“In the alliance, the key players are the duly authorized national leaders of the denominations; in the consortium, the key players are really the local regional leaders who seek to get things started in their more immediate missional context.”
For information about the Wesleyan Holiness Consortium or any of its networks, contact the WHC offices at (626) 208-5478 or visit HolinessAndUnity.org.