Free Methodist News

Women in Ministry — Some Hermeneutical Reflections

 

Introduction

Almost everyone believes and allows women to be in ministry. Even those who will disagree with my views on the matter do, in fact, recognize not only the privilege but duty of women to be in ministry (where would the church be if throughout history women had not served in nearly every form of ministry!) The first question is: what limitations have been paced on the leadership of women in ministry and why? The second question is: are these limitations general and universal or specific and contextual? I will return to these questions at the conclusion of this paper.

 

How We Treat The Bible

I begin with several assumptions I make about the Bible. First, the Bible is the Word of God and is therefore the final authority for Christian believing and living. The Bible is not so much a single book as it is a library of books — different kinds of literature, written over long periods of time, for different life settings of the people of God. Despite all these differences, however, we believe the Bible is unified in its witness to the one true God and reveals His plan for the world and humanity.

These assumptions are critical to our discussion. Let me explain. It is not enough to find a verse or passage that teaches something and accept that as the only or the most important word on the subject. We must rather seek to get a sense of the flow of Scripture, a general sense of what God is doing in history that we gather from the whole Bible.

One important implication of this approach is that we cannot understand all parts of the Bible as equal in value on a given subject. For example, in the Old Testament there was clear allowance for a man to marry more than one wife. Yet, in a discussion of marriage we would and should hesitate to take an Old Testament passage reflecting that practice and treat it in the same way we treat Paul’s discussion of marriage in Ephesians. Instead, we must see how specific passages in the Bible relate to the whole sweep of Scriptural truth.

Another important implication of these assumptions is that when there are verses or passages that are unclear or difficult, or that seem to contradict other passages, we must set what is unclear or difficult into the whole biblical story and interpret the unclear by what is clear. The importance of these assumptions will be clear as we proceed.

The Larger Picture of Creation and Redemption

Let me put the question of women in ministry against the broader background of God’s work in creation and redemption. What did God intend in the original creation? According to Genesis 1, when God created human beings, male and female, both of them bore his image, both of them were called to be fruitful and multiply (something impossible for each alone), and both were called to exercise dominion or stewardship in the world (God said, “let them have dominion,” 1:26). There is no differentiation as to roles in the first creation account. Both together will take care of the world God created just as both together will multiply and fill the earth with their kind.

The same conclusion rises out of the second creation account in Genesis 2. There God creates the man first and then declares that it is “not good” for the man to be alone (2:18). Read in light of chapter 1, with its frequent reports that God saw what he had made and judged it to be good, this statement that the man alone was not good is especially significant. Not good for what? In light of chapter 1, man alone could not fulfill the role God assigned to human beings. Only together could they multiply and only together could they adequately care for the world. Accordingly, God puts the man to sleep and makes a partner for him — a full partner who completes him and whose partnership makes it possible for God’s calling on humanity to be accepted and accomplished. Originally, the man and the woman are full partners — equal not only in dignity, but in responsibility.

What did human sin do to God’s original plan? In short, all of the relationships God designed become corrupt, paradise was lost, and all hell broke loose. Specifically, we note the impact of sin on the relations and roles of the man and the woman. One verse especially tells the story: Gen. 3:16. The Lord says to the woman, “I will greatly multiply your pain in child bearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” This post-sin picture depicts a radically different human situation. Once they were partners, both responsible for carrying out God’s mandate, both expected to rule over God’s creation. Now, in the wake of sin, she looks primarily to her husband and not to God; while he rules over her as he does the rest of the animal world. Later in chapter 3 we read that Adam named his wife as he had done with all the other animals (3:20).

Human sin corrupted God’s original plan for their relationship — now there’s a boss, a Lord, and now there is an underling to be ruled. From the perspective of original creation, the notion that there is a hierarchy with man above woman, no matter how well qualified, owes more to sin than God’s design.

What, then, has God done about sin and its consequences? In the Genesis account we have a hint, often called the first good news. The serpent will bruise the heel of the woman’s seed, but in the end the serpent gets it in the head (3:15). And, so he has!

Clearly, God intends to work full salvation from sin and all of its consequences. While some of those consequences may well plague us until the kingdom comes fully, in principle and in fact where sin has broken creation’s design, grace mends and restores it. According to Paul, Christ redeems us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13), and in that context the curse of the Law certainly includes the brokenness that sin has brought to every area of human life.

The question of women in ministry must be answered against the backdrop of this larger story of creation and redemption. If all we had to go on was the creation accounts, there would be no issue, for nothing in those accounts suggests any limitations on what a woman might do in obedience to God’s call. Of course, after sin enters the picture nothing is as God intended. After sin, all sorts of limitations hassle both the man and the woman. But we dare not regard these limitations as normative, since God has acted to do away with sin and destroy the works of the devil.

If this view is correct we should expect to see evidence in the biblical story that God is at work to reverse the consequences of sin with regard to women. In fact, that is precisely what we find. Throughout the history of God’s saving activity in the Bible God calls and empowers notable women to lead His people. Miriam is a prophetess and is classed with Moses and Aaron by Micah (Micah 6:4). Deborah was a prophetess and a judge. She performed the same duties as the men who judged Israel, even leading the army to victory in battle (Judges 4:4). Huldah and Noadiah also were prophetesses (2 Kings 22:14; Nahum 6:14).

These exceptional instances of women playing important ministry/leadership roles among God’s people certainly foreshadow the Kingdom Jesus and the Spirit inaugurated in the first century. Joel promised a new age where young and old as well as male and female would receive God’s Spirit (Joel 2:28-29). Specifically it is said that they will prophesy — that is, proclaim the good news of new life in Jesus. And so it began on the day of Pentecost.

Yet the full inclusion of women on that day came as no novelty of grace. Jesus had given extraordinary place to women during his ministry. The Samaritan woman, who quickly moved from new convert to village evangelist (John 4); the preference for Mary’s learning at Jesus’ feet (the traditional place of male students) over Martha’s work in the kitchen (the traditional place of the female); the blessing pronounced on the one who hears and obeys Jesus’ word as Jesus’ new family; the role of Joanna and other women disciples in supporting Jesus’ ministry; and the post-resurrection role of women — all these bear striking testimony to the dignity of women and their significant roles among the earliest disciples of Jesus.

Indeed, in the early church of Pauline and non-Pauline origin we see much evidence that women participated in ministry and leadership functions along side of men. Paul’s declaration that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek, … slave nor free, … male nor female, for you are all one in Christ,” interpreted in its context suggests that racial, social, economic, cultural, political characteristics no longer determine either a person’s status or function in the body of Christ. Now in Christ Gentiles, slaves, and women are full participants in the Body. And, as Paul elsewhere teaches, it is God who constitutes Christ’s Body, calling various ones to do various things, as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11).

When we look at the New Testament for indications of how God did, in fact, put together the Body of Christ in the first century world, we find women positioned in most of the places we find men, including as apostles (Junia, Romans 16:7), as prophets (Acts 2; 1 Corinthians 11:5), and as renowned co-workers of Paul (e.g., Priscilla, Euodia, Syntyche, Romans 16; Philippians 4:1).

The Gospel transformation of persons and their social reality, however, takes place in a fallen and broken world, a world profoundly shaped by the consequences of sin. Accordingly, we also see plenty of evidence of unredeemed social reality still present in the New Testament era and in the church. The most glaring example of this would have to be the continuing presence of slavery as a social institution. But another example of social reality not yet entirely transformed may be seen in what appears to be the subordination of women and church life still largely dominated by men.

But the word “appears” is a critical word. For God’s way is to subvert sinful social reality through grace, to over throw unjust structures from within the system, rather than simply to blow the system away. Precisely that was the approach of the early church to slavery. Philemon could be read as an endorsement of slavery (and it has). Yet, if Philemon does what Paul urges him to do, it would signal the virtual end of slavery as the ancient world knew it — at least within the Christian community.

Similarly, Paul can teach on the respective roles of husbands and wives in Ephesians and Colossians. What he says can be read as an endorsement of a hierarchical arrangement in the home — husband at the top, wife subordinate. This arrangement was the common household structure in the ancient, pagan world. Yet, if husbands and wives will read the whole of Ephesians and Colossians and allow all that Paul says to shape their lives, their relationship will not conform to that ancient social structure. Jesus simply turned everything upside down — to be head as He was head will most often mean just the opposite of what it meant in the ancient world. To give only one example, to follow Jesus’ example of headship leads the husband to empty himself (Philippians 2:5), which looks very much like subordination, not headship!

When talk of male headship is abstracted from the premiere model Jesus offers, at its best it leads to a soft but still unredeemed model practiced by good people. But when headship takes its cue from Jesus — the Lord who serves, the master who washed feet, the king crowned with thorns and dying on a cross — the model of headship itself is called into question. That is, Jesus actual way of life breaks the old social arrangements and calls us to altogether new relationships.

Difficult Passages

I’ve tried to sketch a flow of God’s saving work rooted in creation and intended to restore the brokenness caused by sin as the background for understanding the specific issues related to women in ministry. Against that background, the general flow of God’s work leads us to expect the full inclusion of women in the life and ministry of the church. And as we have seen, the New Testament confirms this general flow.

There are however, at least two texts that would seem to run exactly counter to this flow. Here the observations I made at the beginning become critical for proper interpretation.

These specific texts in question — Paul’s assertion that women are to be silent in church and never teach or hold authority over men, and that this represents the practice in all of his churches (1 Corinthians 14:34-35; 1 Timothy 2:11-12) — when taken at face value and literally, suggest practices that contradict the whole flow of biblical revelation. The flow is quite clear, whereas the precise meanings of these texts are disputed. On principle, we should defer to the whole flow of revelation we have seen, rather than pin our practices on two passages that all would agree are difficult.

It is beyond the scope of this brief paper to explore these texts. Most critical commentaries offer analyses of the relevant historical, cultural, and social contexts in which Paul wrote. In each text, Paul most likely seeks to correct abuses, not lay down universal principles limiting the full participation of women in the life and ministry of the church.

I return to the questions with which I began. The limitations that have been placed on women in ministry do not trace back to God’s intent, as we see it in either the original creation or the recreation through Christ. The limitations on women, particularly their subordination, traces back to the consequences of sin. Unfortunately, through its history the church has often failed to see this, and has embraced unregenerate social structures, such as slavery and the racism it encourages, and also the continuing models of male priority over females, at least in terms of leadership if not in other terms as well. I conclude that none of the limitations historically imposed upon women in ministry are universal and necessarily binding upon the church.

 

 

2021 Annual Conference Schedule

Please be aware due to covid restrictions, the schedule may change and may be virtual or in person.  Thank you.

2021 Annual Conference Schedule (Dates may change)

 

Date
Conference
Location
President
May 6 Reach Virtual Bishop Matt Whitehead
May 7-8 East Michigan New Covenant Church, Clio, MI Bishop Linda Adams
May 13-14 Genesis Northgate FMC, Batavia, NY Bishop Linda Adams
May 13-15 UK/Northern Ireland Virtual Bishop Keith Cowart
May 15 Southern California Virtual Bishop Matt Whitehead
May 20-21 Great Plains McPherson FMC, McPherson, KS Bishop Linda Adams
May 21-22 New South Wilmore FMC, Wilmore, KY Bishop Keith Cowart
May 22 Pacific Coast Japanese Virtual Bishop Matt Whitehead
May 28-29 Ohio Cleveland, OH Bishop Linda Adams
June 4-5 Sierra Pacific Corralitos Community Church, Watson, CA Bishop Matt Whitehead
June 4-5 Wabash Clay City, IN Bishop Keith Cowart
June 10-11 Pacific Northwest Great Wolf Lodge, Grand Mound, WA Bishop Matt Whitehead
June 11-12 The Harvest Journey by Grace FMC, Belle Vernon, PA Bishop Linda Adams
June 13-14 Keystone Pleasantville, PA Bishop Linda Adams
June 18 North Michigan Manton Camp, Manton, MI Bishop Linda Adams
June 19 Oregon Northside Community Church, Newberg, OR Bishop Matt Whitehead
June 25-26 The River Lakewood, CO Bishop Matt Whitehead
June 25-26 Southeast Region Christ Community Church, Columbus, GA Bishop Keith Cowart
July 11-12 Mid-America Conference TBD Bishop Keith Cowart
July 25-27 Acts 12:24 Churches TBD Bishop Keith Cowart
August 7 Gateway TBD Bishop Keith Cowart
August 20-21 North Central TBD Bishop Linda Adams
October 16 Southern Michigan Jackson FMC, Jackson Michigan. Register HERE Bishop Linda Adams

As of 5/11/2021

Become a Humble Servant

“If I am not a servant of others, by process of elimination I am then a servant to myself. And that serves no one.” – Craig D. Lounsbrough

Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, He did and said many things that were largely misunderstood and confusing. In fact, the gospels tell us of an incident when Jesus was preparing His disciples for His death in Jerusalem. As the disciples processed the information they were given, they began to debate among themselves who would be the greatest among them in Christ’s kingdom. Jesus explained that they were not to be like Gentile rulers who exercise authority over others. Instead, they were to demonstrate true greatness by becoming a servant to others. He declared that He had not come to be served, but to serve and give His life for others (Matthew 20:25–28).

If we are honest, we can admit there are concepts within Christian doctrine that are easy to accept and embrace and others that are not. Does it not feel good to focus upon love, salvation, honor, glory, joy, hope, and peace? Perhaps thoughts of righteousness, victory, or paradise inspire you. Clearly there is nothing wrong with any of these concepts. They are indeed biblical, but they depict an incomplete doctrine if left alone. We must not exclude the biblical teachings on sin, humility, service, and sacrifice.

We Americans value personal achievement, self-determination, individual rights and privileges, material comforts, competition, and free enterprise. These values are not inherently wrong, but they often run contrary to how the Bible teaches Christians to live. The Apostle Paul tells the believers in Philippi to do nothing out of selfish ambition but to humbly consider others better than themselves (Philippians 2:3–4).

Imagine how different our lives would be if we would willingly serve others and place the needs of others above our own. How might that impact problems with hunger, education, crime, depression, anxiety, homelessness, or health care? What would happen if we would do good to all people when the opportunity arises (Galatians 6:10)?

Lent began on Ash Wednesday (February 17, 2021). As we prepare our hearts for Good Friday and the celebration of Easter, may we sincerely repent of the desire to live self-centered lives. May we look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others. May we embrace this challenge to humbly serve others as genuine followers of Christ.

Rev. Amelia Cleveland-Traylor, M.D., is a superintendent of the River Conference and a member of the Free Methodist Church – USA Board of Administration.

Moldable and Surrendered

I’m a potter. In my free time, I love to throw a lump of clay on a rotating wheel and then shape and form it into something useful and beautiful.

“Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8 NIV).

Until I started working with clay, I used to think this verse meant “relax and let God handle it.” Now? I recognize that there are two parts to the equation. Yes, the potter is the one who has a vision for clay, seeing its potential, and working it toward becoming a beautiful bowl or plate. The potter knows the clay body, and whether it’s clay that makes a great mug (a gritty clay works well) or a delicate vase (try porcelain).

But the condition of the clay can either allow for that vision or stop it cold. If the clay is too wet, too dry, too cold, too airy or too dense, the potter can’t put it on the wheel. Thankfully, the clay can usually be reworked. Dry clay can sit in water for a while. Wet clay can be slowly dried out. Temperature can be changed (but don’t ever let your clay freeze; I did that once). Tough clay can be kneaded. Airy clay can have the air holes beaten out (but it takes work).

Now that I understand the work of a potter, I have a better understanding of what my role is — and isn’t —  in my own spiritual formation. My loving Lord knows me, guides me, directs me. He has purpose and vision for me that fit with who I am. He is working toward making something beautiful.

My first job? The condition of the clay. Am I moldable in His hands?

Just as water, air, temperature and additives can impact the condition of the clay, Bible reading, prayer, fellowship and other spiritual disciplines impact the condition of my soul. These are the things that can make me moldable.

But there’s a step beyond being moldable: It’s being surrendered. The potter at the wheel gets to decide what He does with the clay. I’ve had to learn that faith and trust are vital to the work my Savior does on the wheel.

Some years ago, I was struggling with the “why” of something difficult in my life. I was grieving what I thought “should have been.” As I asked God “why?” the verse that states He was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3 KJV) was brought to my attention. Was it possible that the “why” for this difficulty was simply to make me more like Jesus? Was that enough? It was a moment of faith, trust and surrender. If that was the purpose of the grief in my life, it would be enough.

When my soul-condition is moldable and surrendered, then I know God the Potter is creating something of beauty in me.

Pam Braman, D.Min., is the superintendent of the Genesis Conference.

Repaired and Reworked by the Master Craftsman

I will openly admit that I am somewhat addicted to home improvement shows. I think it’s because you don’t often see the completion of a thing when you are in ministry. Thus, the tendency of pastors (myself included) to constantly paint walls. It is always refreshing on any of the home improvement shows to see something in great disrepair be brought back to life. It hits us deeply because it is connected to our calling, passion, and mission — where we are seeing lives impacted and changed by the Spirit of God.

Last year my wife, JoAnne, and I stumbled upon a Netflix series titled “The Repair Shop.” The Repair Shop is where expert craftsmen use their talents and resources to restore sentimental objects that have become inseparable from people’s lives to prove that anything can be fixed up to be as good as new again. After binging the whole series, we both realized, “Wouldn’t it be great if we had a repair shop in our lives? What if we could drive down the street to the shop and drop off our lives, relationships, finances, stresses, health issues, bad habits, and our faith for a quick repair?”

“The Repair Shop” brought the following principles to mind that give us great spiritual formation tips.

Principle: If it’s personal, it has value.
Lesson: Your value to a loving God is not professional; it is personal.

Principle: Just because it’s in disrepair or non-usable doesn’t mean it can’t have the potential for usefulness again.
Lesson: Using broken things on broken people only leads to more brokenness. Take time for your repair so that you are usable for others.

Principle: Sometimes, it takes a group of people to help repair.
Lesson: Don’t be afraid of leading with appropriate vulnerability. I have found that it always involves others.

Principle: Every item, like every person, has a history to learn from and a legacy to give toward.
Lesson: Your story is essential, but it is not finished. And it deserves to be passed on to others.

Principle: You have to let go and allow the piece that needs repair to be placed in another’s hand who can restore, repair, and renovate it.
Lesson: Placing your life, ministry, relationships, and faith in the hand of the Master Craftsman is to recognize your need for Him and His love for you.

“The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him” (Jeremiah 18:4 NRSV).

The Master Craftsman’s hands upon you are not to shame you, abuse you, or misuse you. His hands are to rework (commonly meaning to restore and return to original purpose).

Everybody needs a repair shop — a place where the expert can begin to restore the value of who we are. As you start the Lent season, take the time with the Craftsman (Potter) and let Him restore value and what seems good to Him. He is more concerned with who you are becoming than what you are doing. And maybe all the “doing” has left us in need of being reworked again. He sees your value and invites you to His repair shop.

You are worth it, and you are loved.

Fraser Venter is a conference superintendent of the Free Methodist Church in Southern California and also the lead pastor of Cucamonga Christian Fellowship in Rancho Cucamonga, California.

Embed FM Content

Embed FM Content in Your Website

“We Believe: Statements of Belief of the Free Methodist Church” and “The Free Methodist Way” are provided here in iframe code to embed in your website.

iFrame code for “The Free Methodist Way”

<iframe name=”The Free Methodist Way” src=”https://fmcusa.org/the-free-methodist-way” width=”100%” height=”900″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”auto” class=”frame-area”> </iframe>

Copy the above code and paste it into a code snippet module in your website within any page where you want the content to appear. 

Below is a sample of how it will look on your site.

iFrame code for “We Believe”

<iframe name=”We Believe – The Free Methodist Church” src=”https://fmcusa.org/webelieve” width=”100%” height=”900″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”auto” class=”frame-area”> </iframe>

Copy the above code and paste it into a code snippet module in your website within any page where you want the content to appear. 

Below is a sample of how it will look on your site.

We Believe

We Believe

The Statements of Belief of the Free Methodist Church

The Holy Trinity
There is but one living and true God, the maker and preserver of all things. And in the unity of this Godhead there are three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These three are one in eternity, deity and purpose; everlasting, of infinite power, wisdom and goodness.

The Son – His Incarnation
God was Himself in Jesus Christ to reconcile people to God. Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, He joined together the deity of God and the humanity of humankind. Jesus of Nazareth was God in flesh, truly God and truly human. He came to save us. For us the Son of God suffered, was crucified, dead and buried. He poured out His life as blameless sacrifice for our sin and transgressions. We gratefully acknowledge that He is our Savior, the one perfect mediator between God and us.

The Son – His Resurrection and Exaltation
Jesus Christ is risen victorious from the dead, His resurrected body became more glorious, not hindered by ordinary human limitations. Thus He ascended into heaven. There He sits as our exalted Lord at the right hand of God the Father, where He intercedes for us until all His enemies shall be brought into complete subjection. He will return to judge all people. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The Holy Spirit – His Person
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. Proceeding from the Father and the Son, He is one with them, the eternal Godhead, equal in deity, majesty and power. He is God effective in creation, in life and in the church. The Incarnation and ministry of Jesus Christ were accomplished by the Holy Spirit. He continues to reveal, interpret and glorify the Son.

The Holy Spirit – His Work in Salvation
The Holy Spirit is the administrator of the salvation planned by the Father and provided by the Son’s death, resurrection, and ascension. He is the effective agent in our conviction, regeneration, sanctification and glorification. He is our Lord’s ever-present self, indwelling, assuring and enabling the believer.

The Holy Spirit – His Relation to the Church
The Holy Spirit is poured out upon the church by the Father and the Son. He is the church’s life and witnessing power. He bestows the love of God and makes real the lordship of Jesus Christ in the believer so that both His gifts of words and service may achieve the common good and build and increase the church. In relation to the world He is the Spirit of truth, and His instrument is the Word of God.

Authority
The Bible is God’s written Word, uniquely inspired by the Holy Spirit. It bears unerring witness to Jesus Christ, the living Word. As attested by the early church and subsequent councils, it is the trustworthy record of God’s revelation, completely truthful in all it affirms. It has been faithfully preserved and proves itself true in human experience.

The Scriptures have come to us through human authors who wrote, as God moved them, in the languages and literary forms of their times. God continues, by the illumination of the Holy Spirit, to speak through this Word to each generation and culture.

The Bible has authority over all human life. It teaches the truth about God, His creation, His people, His one and only Son and the destiny of humankind. It also teaches the way of salvation and the life of faith. Whatever is not found in the Bible nor can be proved by it is not to be required as an article of belief or as necessary to salvation.

Authority of the Old Testament
The Old Testament is not contrary to the New. Both Testaments bear witness to God’s salvation in Christ; both speak of God’s will for His people. The ancient laws for ceremonies and rites, and the civil precepts for the nation Israel are not necessarily binding on Christians today. But, on the example of Jesus we are obligated to obey the moral commandments of the old Testament.

The books of the Old Testament are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

New Testament
The New Testament fulfils and interprets the Old Testament. It is the record of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. It is God’s final word regarding humankind, sin, salvation, the world and its destiny.

The books of the New Testament are: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation.

Free Moral Persons
God created human beings in His own image, innocent, morally free, and responsible to choose between good and evil, right and wrong. By the sin of Adam, humans as the offspring of Adam are corrupted in their very nature so that from birth they are inclined to sin. They are unable by their own strength and work to restore themselves in right relationship with God and to merit eternal salvation. God, the omnipotent, provides all the resources of the Trinity to make it possible for humans to respond to His grace through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. By God’s grace and help people are enabled to do good works with a free will.

Law of Life and Love
God’s law for all human life, personal and social, is expressed in two divine commands: Love the Lord God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. These commands reveal what is best for persons in their relationship with God, others and society. They set forth the principles of human duty in both individual and social action. They recognize God as the only Sovereign. All people as created by Him and in His image have the same inherent rights regardless of gender, race or color. All should therefore give God absolute obedience in their individual, social and political acts. They should strive to secure to everyone respect for their person, their rights and their greatest happiness in the possession and exercise of the right within the moral law.

Good Works
Good works are the fruit of faith in Jesus Christ but works cannot save us from our sins nor from God’s judgement. As expressions of Christian faith and love, our good works performed with reverence and humility are both acceptable and pleasing to God. However, good works do not earn God’s grace.

Christ’s Sacrifice
Christ offered once and for all the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. No other satisfaction for sin is necessary; none other can atone.

New Life in Christ
A new life and a right relationship with God are made possible through the redemptive acts of God in Jesus Christ. God, by His Spirit, acts to impart new life and put people into a relationship with Himself as they repent, and their faith responds to His grace. Justification, regeneration and adoption speak significantly to entrance into and continuance in the new life.

Justification
Justification is a legal term that emphasizes that by a new relationship in Jesus Christ people are in fact accounted righteous, being freed from both the guilt and the penalty of their sins.

Regeneration
Regeneration is a biological term which illustrates that by a new relationship in Christ, one does in fact have a new life and a new spiritual nature capable of faith, love and obedience to Christ Jesus the Lord. The believer is born again and is a new creation. The old life is past; a new life is begun.

Adoption
Adoption is a filial term full of warmth, love, and acceptance. It denotes that by a new relationship in Christ believers have become His wanted children freed from the mastery of both sin and Satan. Believers have the witness of the Spirit that they are children of God.

Entire Sanctification
Entire Sanctification is that work of the Holy Spirit, subsequent to regeneration, by which the fully consecrated believers, upon exercise of faith in the atoning blood of Christ, are cleansed in that moment from all inward sin and empowered for service. The resulting relationship is attested by the witness of the Holy Spirit and is maintained by faith and obedience. Entire sanctification enables believers to love God with all their hearts, souls, strength, and minds, and their neighbor as themselves, and it prepares them for greater growth in grace.

Restoration
Christians may be sustained in a growing relationship with Jesus as Savior and Lord. However, they may grieve the Holy Spirit in the relationships of life without returning to the dominion of sin. When they do, they must humbly accept the correction of the Holy Spirit, trust in the advocacy of Jesus, and mend their relationships.

Christians can sin willfully and sever their relationship with Christ. Even so by repentance before God, forgiveness is granted and the relationship with Christ restored, for not every sin is the sin against the Holy Spirit and unpardonable. God’s grace is sufficient for those who truly repent and, by His enabling, amend their lives. However, forgiveness does not give believers liberty to sin and escape the consequences of sinning.

God has given responsibility and power to the church to restore penitent believers through loving reproof, counsel, and acceptance.

The church is created by God. It is the people of God. Christ Jesus is its Lord and Head. The Holy Spirit is its life and power. It is both divine and human, heavenly and earthy, ideal and imperfect. It is an organism, not an unchanging institution. It exists to fulfill the purposes of God in Christ. It redemptively ministers to persons. Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it that it should be holy and without blemish. The church is a fellowship of the redeemed and the redeeming, preaching the Word of God and administering the sacraments according to Christ’s instruction. The Free Methodist Church purposes to be representative of what the church of Jesus Christ should be on earth. It therefore requires specific commitment regarding the faith and life of its members. In its requirements it seeks to honor Christ and obey the written Word of God.

The Language of Worship
According to the Word of God and the custom of the early church, public worship and prayer and the administration of the sacraments should be in a language understood by the people. The reformation applied this principle to provide for the use of the common language of the people. It is likewise clear that the Apostle Paul places the strongest emphasis upon rational and intelligible utterance in worship. We cannot endorse practices which plainly violate these scriptural principles.

The Holy Sacraments
Water baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the sacraments of the church commanded by Christ. They are means of grace through faith, tokens of our profession of Christian faith, and signs of God’s gracious ministry toward us. By them, He works within us to quicken, strengthen and confirm our faith.

Baptism
Water baptism is a sacrament of the church, commanded by our Lord, signifying acceptance of the benefits of the atonement of Jesus Christ to be administered to believers as a declaration of their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.

Baptism is a symbol of the new covenant of grace as circumcision was the symbol of the old covenant; and, since infants are recognized as being included in the atonement, they may be baptized upon the request of parents or guardians who shall give assurance for them of necessary Christian training. They shall be required to affirm the vow for themselves before being accepted into church membership.

The Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament of our redemption by Christ’s death. To those who rightly, worthily and with faith receive it, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ; and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ. The supper is also a sign of the love and unity that Christians have among themselves.

Christ, according to His promise, is really present in the sacrament. But His body is given, taken and eaten only after a heavenly and spiritual matter. No change is effected in the element; the bread and wine are not literally the body and blood of Christ. Nor is the body and blood of Christ literally present with the elements. The elements are never to be considered objects of worship. The body of Christ is received and eaten in faith.

The Kingdom of God
The kingdom of God is a prominent Bible theme providing Christians with both their tasks and hope. Jesus announced its presence. The kingdom is realized now as God’s reign is established in the hearts and lives of believers.

But the kingdom is also future and is related to the return of Christ when judgment will fall upon the present order. The enemies of Christ will be subdued; the reign of God will be established; a total cosmic renewal which is both material and moral shall occur; and the hope of the redeemed will be fully realized.

The Return of Christ
The return of Christ is certain and may occur at any moment, although it is not given us to know the hour. At His return He will fulfill all prophecies concerning His final triumph over all evil. The believer’s response is joyous expectation, watchfulness, readiness and diligence.

Resurrection
There will be a bodily resurrection from the dead of both the just and the unjust, they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation. The resurrected body will be a spiritual body, but the person will be whole and identifiable. The resurrection of Christ is the guarantee of resurrection unto life to those who are in Him.

Judgment
God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness in accordance with the gospel and our deeds in this life.

Final Destiny
Our eternal destiny is determined by God’s grace and our response, not by arbitrary decrees of God. For those who trust Him and obediently follow Jesus as Savior and Lord, there is a heaven of eternal glory and the blessedness of Christ’s presence. But for the finally impenitent there is a hell of eternal suffering and of separation from God.

The doctrines of the Free Methodist Church are based upon the Holy Scriptures and are derived from their total biblical context. The references below are appropriate passages related to the given articles. They are listed in their biblical sequence and are not intended to be exhaustive.

God
The Holy Trinity: Gen. 1:1-2; Exod. 3:13-15; Deut. 6:4; Matt. 28:19; John 1:1-3; 5:19-23; 8:58; 14:9-11; 15:26; 16:13-15; 2 Cor. 13:14.
The Son – His Incarnation: Matt. 1:21; 20:28; 26:27-28; Luke 1:35; 19:10; John 1:1, 10, 14; 2 Cor. 5:18-19; Phil. 2:5-8; Heb. 2:17; 9:14-15.
The Son – His Resurrection and Exaltation: Matt. 25:31-32; Luke 24:1-7; 24:39; John 20:19; Acts 1:9-11; 2:24; Rom. 8:33-34; 2 Cor. 5:10; Phil. 2:9-11; Heb. 1:1-4.
The Holy Spirit – His Person: Matt. 28:19; John 4:24; 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:13-15.
The Holy Spirit – His Work in Salvation: John 16:7-8; Acts 15:8-9; Rom. 8:9, 14-16; I Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 3:17-18; Gal. 4:6.
The Holy Spirit – His Relation to the Church: Acts 5:3-4; Rom. 8:14; I Cor. 12:4-7; 2 Pet. 1:21.

The Scriptures
Authority: Deut. 4:2; 28:9; Ps. 19:7-11; John 14:26; 17:17; Rom. 15:4; 2 Tim. 3:14-17; Heb. 4:12; James 1:21.
Authority of the Old Testament: Matt. 5:17-18; Luke 10:25-28; John 5:39, 46-47; Acts 10:43; Gal. 5:3-4; I Pet.1:10-12.
New Testament: Matt. 24:35; Mark 8:38; John 14:24; Heb. 2:1-4; 2 Pet. 1:16-21; I John 2:2-6; Rev. 21:5; 22:19.
Humankind
Free Moral Persons: Gen. 1:27; Ps. 51:5; 130:3; Rom. 5:17-19; Eph. 2:8- 10.
Law of Life and Love: Matt. 23:35-39; John 15:17; Gal. 3:28; I John 4:19- 21.
Good Works: Matt. 5:16; 7:16-20; Rom. 3:27-28; Eph. 2:10; 2 Tim. 1:8-9; Titus 3:5.

Salvation
Christ’s Sacrifice: Luke 24:46-48; John 3:16; Acts 4:12; Rom. 5:8-11; Gal. 2:16; 3:2-3; Eph. 1:7-8; 2:13; Heb. 9:11-14, 25- 26; 10:8-14.
New Life in Christ: John 1:12-13; 3:3-8; Acts 13:38-39; Rom. 8:15-17; Eph. 2:8-9; Col. 3:9-10.
Justification: Ps. 32:1-2; Acts 10:43; Rom. 3:21-26, 28; 4:2-5; 5:8- 9; I Cor. 6:11; Phil. 3:9.
Regeneration: Ezek. 36:26-27; John 5:24; Rom. 6:4; 2 Cor. 5: 17; Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:9-10; Titus 3:4-5; I Pet. 1:23.
Adoption: Rom. 8: 15-17; Gal. 4:4-7; Eph. I :5-6; I John 3: 1-3.
Entire Sanctification: Lev. 20:7-8; John 14:16-17; 17:19; Acts 1:8; 2:4; 15:8-9; Rom. 5:3-5; 8:12-17; 12:1-2; I Cor. 6:11; 12:4-11: Gal. 5:22-25; Eph. 4:22-24; 1 Thess. 4:7; 5:23-24; 2 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 10:14.
Restoration: Matt. 12:31-32; 18:21-22; Roman. 6:1-2; Gal. 6:1; 1 John 1:9; 2:1-2; 5:16-17; Rev. 2:5;3:19-20.

The Church
The Church: Matt.16:15-18; 18:17; Acts 2:41-47; 9:31; 12:5; 14:23-26; 15:22; 20:28; 1 Cor. 1:2; 11:23; 12:23; 16:1; Eph. 1:22-23; 2:19-22; 3:9-10; 5:22-23; Col. 1:18; I Tim. 3:14-15.
The Language of Worship: Neh. 8:5-6, 8; Matt. 6:7; 1 Cor. 14:12-14
The Holy Sacraments: Matt. 26:26-29; 28:19; Acts 22:16; Rom. 4:11; 1 Cor. 10:16-17; 11:23-26; Gal. 3:27.
Baptism: Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12-17; 9:18; 16:33; 18:8; 19:5 John 3:5; I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 2:27-29; Col. 2:11-12; Titus 3:5.
The Lord’s Supper: Mark 14:22-24; John 6:53-58; Acts 2:46; 1 Cor. 5:7-8; 10:16; 11:20, 23-29.

Last Things
The Kingdom of God: Matt. 6:10, 19-20; 24:14; Acts 1:8; Rom. 8:19-23; 1 Cor. 15:20-25; Phil. 2:9-10; 1 Thess. 4:15-17; 2 Thess. 1:5-12; 2 Pet. 3:3-10; Rev. 14:6, 21:3-8; 22:1-5, 17.
The Return of Christ: Matt. 24:1-51; 26:64; Mark 13:26-27; Luke 17:26-37; John 14:1-3; Acts 1:9-11; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Titus 2:11-14; Heb. 9:27-28; Rev. 1:7: 19:11-16; 22:6-7, 12, 20.
Resurrection: John 5:28-29; 1 Cor. 15:20; 51-57; 2 Cor. 4:13-14.
Judgment: Matt. 25:31-46; Luke 11:31-32; Acts 10:42; 17:31; Rom. 2:15-16; 14:10-11; 2 Cor. 5:6-10; Heb. 9:27-28; 10:26-31; 2 Pet. 3:7.
Final Destiny: Mark 9:42-48; John 14:3, Heb. 2:1-3; Rev. 20:11-15; 21:22-27.

From the 2019 Book of Discipline, Free Methodist Church – USA

These statements of belief present time proven truth in keeping with the Scriptures. They are a guide for Christians eager to grow in their understanding of historical, biblical doctrine. In a day characterized by temporary and disposable “beliefs,” these statements provide stabiliity and direction.

The Free Methodist Way

The Free Methodist Way

 

Free Methodists are first and foremost a Kingdom people. Yet throughout church history, God has raised up distinct movements like ours to enrich the larger body of Christ. Building on the legacies of John Wesley and B.T. Roberts, but always discerning where God is moving today, our identity is shaped by values that are both historical and aspirational. Of the many values we hold dear, these five lie at the heart of our movement. We view them as a whole, each one bringing necessary balance to the others. In a time of rising polarization in our nation, we resist the pull toward both fundamentalism and theological liberalism — not out of a spirit of compromise, but from a radical commitment to what Wesley called “the middle way.” It is a path that takes the whole gospel seriously and continually calls us to “both/and” convictions in an “either/or” world. We call it The Free Methodist Way.

 

Life-Giving Holiness

God’s call to holiness was never meant to be a burden, but a gift that liberates us for life that is truly life by delivering us from the destructive power of sin.

All who are born again are made right with God by the finished work of Jesus Christ and called to experience the fullness of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Forgiven and filled, we approach life with confidence that we are acceptable to God even as He continues to transform our character and behavior to become more and more like Jesus.  Life-giving holiness, then, is the fruit of full surrender to the loving reign of God over every aspect of our lives, establishing within us love that is truly love.

Leaving behind the legalism that once hindered our movement, The Free Methodist Way invites every believer to embrace the transforming work of the Holy Spirit that empowers us to love and serve God and others in joyful obedience.

 

Love-Driven Justice

Love is the way we demonstrate God’s heart for justice by valuing the image of God in all men, women, and children, acting with compassion toward the oppressed, resisting oppression, and stewarding Creation.

We devote ourselves to our founders’ deep convictions around matters of injustice as they took their stand against the evils of slavery, the oppression of the poor, the marginalization of women, and the abuse of power in the church. Our heart for justice continues and expands today, fueled by God’s holy love for the unborn, the vulnerable, oppressed, marginalized, and people of all races and ethnicities.

The Free Methodist Way is not only to realize a better society, but that all may be reconciled to God and one another in ways that reflect God’s just character.

 

Christ-Compelled Multiplication

The gospel of Jesus Christ — the message He proclaimed, the life He lived, and the ministry He modeled — set into motion a redemptive movement destined to fill the whole earth.

Jesus’ approach to discipleship was primarily a relational one in which He poured His life into a few with the full expectation that they would follow His example. His aim was not merely the transmission of information, but the transformation of lives by empowering those who followed Him to do what He had been doing. His mission is now our mission. We believe this redemptive movement of multiplication applies to every believer and should permeate our Free Methodist culture at every level: the found reaching the lost, disciples making disciples, leaders developing leaders, churches planting churches, and movements birthing movements. 

The Free Methodist Way is to see God’s kingdom expand exponentially as ordinary people are equipped by God’s power to do extraordinary things.

Cross-Cultural Collaboration

From the beginning, God’s intent was to have a people from every nation, culture and ethnicity, united in Christ and commissioned to carry out His work in the world.

Today we celebrate the beauty of a multicultural and multiethnic church both in the U.S. and in over 100 countries around the world. In the U.S., we cling to the promise that we have been made one in Christ even as we dedicate ourselves to becoming a more diverse church that looks like the kingdom of God. Globally, we continue to send missionaries to other nations even as we rejoice that the nations are increasingly coming to us. Freely sharing our own gifts and resources, we are also challenged and inspired by the faithfulness, perseverance, ceaseless prayer, theological insights, and spiritual wisdom of our international brothers and sisters. Without question, we are better together. 

The Free Methodist Way aspires to move beyond colonialism and ethnocentrism in favor of a collaborative partnership in God’s global work in anticipation of the day when a great multitude from every tongue, tribe, people and language makes up the eternal throng before the throne of God (Revelation 7:9).

God-Given Revelation 

We hold unwaveringly to our conviction that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and our final authority in all matters of faith and practice.

Drawing on our Wesleyan heritage of engaging with Scripture through the lenses of tradition, reason, and experience, we keep Scripture primary. While the church will always be tasked with authentically communicating and applying biblical truths with sensitivity to cultural dynamics, we do not subjugate the Bible’s timeless truths to cultural norms or social trends.

The Free Methodist Way is to fully align our lives and our movement on the unshakeable foundation of God’s Word.

Sharing Our Stories

What’s the story of your encounter with Jesus? Sometimes He meets us in a quiet, simple moment, and sometimes He makes His presence known more powerfully. But no matter what the encounter looks like, we’re always changed in the presence of our Resurrected Savior.

Scripture is filled with accounts of Jesus’ encounters with ordinary people, and how He’s changed their stories. But these aren’t just stories from thousands of years ago. He continues today to meet with ordinary people like us. And each time He does, He transforms our stories.

Each of us has a story to share. And now more than ever, during this time of necessary limited contact, we need to share our stories. Each story draws us closer into community and connection. Each story reveals more about who He is. Each story reminds us that God is working in us and through us, even on the darkest of days.

Our church community needed to share and hear these stories in the past few weeks, to be challenged and encouraged, so we engaged in a five-week series called, “This Is My Story.” This was an opportunity for increased community and connection, with each other and with Christ. Each Sunday, we studied biblical encounters with Jesus. And we shared video stories from those in our church who have encountered Christ. During the week, we invited others to share their written story in our digital weekly newsletter.

Here’s one story:

I’ve known sorrow, pain, and rainy, gray days. My husband Mark and I were 32 years old

“I’ve known sorrow, pain, and rainy, gray days. My husband Mark and I were 32 years old when Mark came home from the doctor with the diagnosis of malignant melanoma.

Our daughter Erin was three years old. I remember not being able to go to sleep that night because of the nagging worry, ‘What if Mark dies? Who will take care of me and Erin?’ Then God spoke this answer to my spirit, ‘If Mark dies, I will take care of you and Erin.’ That gave me great comfort, and I was finally able to sleep.

“Mark died two years later.

“The first year after Mark’s death was very hard for me. There was a lot of stress from having to make important decisions, suddenly being a single parent, and the many daily responsibilities of life. What was hardest was experiencing the intense emotions of grief. Mark was a wonderful husband and father, and he was my best friend. That person who loved me, made me feel special, who I could talk to and touch, who encouraged me, who was part of my daily life and knew me so well, was no longer here. There was nothing I could do to change that!

“I’d say to myself and to God, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to make it through this.’ Sometimes I’d feel drained of energy, have no desire to do anything, and feel so dead inside. God seemed so far away, as if He was nonexistent. That first year was like a natural disaster had taken place in my life. The second year felt like a desolate time of trying to deal with the great destruction. I don’t know how many years it took for me to grieve, but it was a long time. I had to walk by faith, not by feeling. I had to believe what the Bible says, just because the Bible says it.

“The Bible says that God is; my believing it or not, will not change the fact. (Exodus 3:14)

I chose to believe.

The Bible says that God will never leave me nor forsake me. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

I chose to believe it.

The Bible says that God cares for me. (1 Peter 5:7)

I chose to believe it.

The Bible says that God loves me. (John 3:16, 1 John 4:9-10, Romans 8:37-39)

I chose to believe it.

The Bible says that ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ (Romans 8:28)

I chose to believe it.

“I’m no longer in that painful and desolate time of my life, but the Bible still says those same things.

And I still choose to believe.”

 

Just like the biblical encounters with Jesus, our stories served as encouragement to each other and insight into who He is. And as we recognized the transformational power of these encounters, we closed our series singing:

This is my story,

This is my song,

Praising my Savior all the day long

 

Click here to listen to Cynthia’s story.

          Click here to listen to Temitayo’s story.

Click here to listen to John and Shirley’s story.

Stronger Together

Raging fires throughout Northern California have taken many homes, creating smoke-filled air that chokes out oxygen, making every breath a labored chore, obscuring the sun, and has made life dangerous and miserable for months. One Free Methodist church, the Foothill Community Church, was evacuated and hundreds of Free Methodists spanning a 300-mile range of burning landscape have been evacuated or under warnings to do so. We know Christ is our rock, and through faith we can be encouraged and undaunted. Yet, how does being in a connectional church help during times of crisis?

Simply put, we are stronger together. Pastors Chris and Kaydi Hemberry and their daughters were evacuated from their home in Oroville, California, and along with dozens of others fleeing harm’s way, were warmly received by the Table Mountain Free Methodist Church in nearby Thermalito. Two years earlier, when the Table Mountain Church community was reeling from evacuations and homes lost to the fire that destroyed neighboring Paradise, California, it was the Foothill Community Church that operated as the support network. Both churches rose to undeniably bless their communities. Further, the national Free Methodist Church, through the Bishops’ Crisis Response Fund, provided significant aid to help rebuild perishing lives through the FM presence in charred Butte County.

Early in the 2020 fire season, the Corralitos Community Church housed and supported fire refugees fleeing the ravages of the CZU Lightning Fire Complex, burning through large portions of Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties. The churches of the Sierra Pacific Conferences provided financial aid and support for not only Free Methodists in the region but all suffering and seeking aid.

Congregations closely networked together in a local community, throughout a region, and nationally provide deep spiritual bonds that are an extraordinary benefit of being a connectional church. Add to this the practical muscle that makes it simple to quickly transfer and provide aid, communicate with one another, and execute relief and guidance on a large scale, and we have a network of churches truly stronger together.

Many today do not trust “denominations” or institutions in general. In some ways, however, we see denominations in the same way that Winston Churchill viewed democracy, when he said, “Many forms of government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Free Methodists do not believe the denomination is perfect, all wise, or nearly as fruitful or beneficial as it could be. We do believe, with all our collective hearts, that despite imperfections, we are yet much stronger and wiser together. Our connectionalism remains, as John Wesley referred to it, a “means of grace.”

Jesus spoke of a yoke, a device that binds animals together, as liberating. Indeed, two horses can pull 9,000 pounds together, but yoke a team of four and they can pull 30,000 pounds. If horses that are yoked together, are stronger together, then imagine the great power that exists when the churches of Jesus are yoked together under the Lordship of Christ? Our burden, says Jesus, becomes light, and our yoke, rather than being a restrictive hinderance, is easy (Matthew 11:29–30).

Connectional church is nothing other than being yoked together under Christ’s direction. It does limit some freedom, and it does require that one church may sacrifice today for the benefit of another, which may sacrifice tomorrow for the blessing of yet another. But is that not what family has always done? Is that not the best scenario for a local congregation? Is that not then also the greatest hope for a national or global network of Christ-followers?

We have seen how this works during a fire. During the pandemic, which has significantly altered how churches operate, leaders and members have been stressed and pulled from so many different angles in their communities that reactivity or despair could have resulted. But as a result of national guidance for best practice, offers of financial support, translating into regional (conference) guidance, training, equipping, spiritual and emotional support along with funding to offset significant losses — our churches are surviving, and in some cases, thriving during what would otherwise be a devastating national tsunami of loss. We are, during a historic pandemic, stronger together.

But even in terms of “normal” church life, being yoked together has significant impact. Connections between churches in Redwood City, San Francisco, Modesto, Oroville and Ripon, California, along with financial backing from the conference, created the needed funds and volunteers to launch Iglesia Misionera Gracia y Amor. This church launched two years ago in a garage, grew to several living rooms, and is meeting now in a warehouse, reaching Stockton, California, for Jesus and could only have been birthed through connectional support. Sixteen new Free Methodist churches have been planted in Northern California and Nevada over the past four years alone, relying upon the mutual, connectional support of churches and church leaders working together. Leadership development and mentoring takes place between gifted church leaders, igniting emerging leaders and new calls, particularly among women and minorities.  This is only possible through connectional collaboration and impossible to accomplish well for a disconnected church that is not a mega-church.

Cities are nourished through connectional ministry. The “Ghost Ship” burned to the ground in Oakland, California. This conflagration made national news as many homeless people and artists lived and worked in this large, abandoned, but densely populated building, and many died horrible deaths. It was the Bay Community Fellowship (FMC) of Oakland, strengthened and supported by representatives from several churches in the conference, that gathered around the ruins and provided pastoral care and opportunities for community lament and a way toward hope. We are stronger and more impactful in our communities when we act together.

Perhaps the most delightful yoked-together outcome is global impact. While bashed by many across America as antiquated, denominations remain the world’s largest source of leaders and funds to bring the good of Jesus to every nation. The network of Free Methodist churches requires that each one actively participate as able in the Great Commission through prayer, giving and even going. Every local Free Methodist church, consequently, becomes a global church with global influence.

In the Sierra Pacific Conference, for example, we share a sister relationship with the Free Methodist churches of Myanmar. Burmese Christians pray at every church service for churches in California and Nevada, and the networked churches in the USA pray every week for the beleaguered but undaunted brothers and sisters in Myanmar. A percentage of every offering any worshiper contributes to a church in our network is allocated to support churches and church planting in the 12th most dangerous place to be a Christian — Myanmar.  Our leaders swap stories and grow from one another’s perspective in theology, evangelism, spiritual life and church growth. We are yoked together across oceans. There are many other Free Methodist missionaries and global leaders that local churches choose to support. It is no stretch of credulity for a member of a church plant of 12 or a worshiping group of 1,200 in the Free Methodist connection to claim the status of global Christian.

Whether across town, networked over hundreds of miles in a “conference,” united by national ties or connected across oceans by intentional faith and commitment as Free Methodists yoked together with Jesus, there is an undeniable truth. Whether struggling through crises, engaging ministry opportunities or supporting one another as individuals, it is clear. We are stronger together.

 

About the Author

Mark Adams superintends the Sierra Pacific Conference (Network of Undeniable Blessing), superintended the North Central Conference, and church planted and pastored at several Chicagoland locations. Mark has also worked as a mental health counselor, child welfare worker, social work supervisor and was on faculty at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. He is married to Kerrie, and they have four sons and eight grandchildren.