More than 200 delegates from 50+ countries gathered in Bridgetown, Barbados this past week for the quadrennial International Conference of The Wesleyan Church. The Wesleyan Church, unlike some denominations, has intentionally decentralized and distributed authority to the global church. Full General Conferences now exist in the Philippines (more than 50,000 members in 3000+ churches), The Caribbean, and now Ibero-America (the Spanish-language countries of Central and South America).
The African church is rapidly developing and could qualify for General Conference status in 2023. Canada is a National Conference with a trajectory for full General Conference in the next decade. Australia/New Zealand/Solomon Islands form the Pacific Regional Conference. Each conference shares the same constitution and doctrinal essentials, although great flexibility is provided for governance and methodology that is faithfully contextualized. Each General Conference is represented on the International Board by one General Superintendent, and additional delegates are elected at large.
Fellowship and worship with these Wesleyan brothers and sisters from around the globe is inspiring and challenging. We have so much to learn from the effective disciple-making, church planting and leadership development that they are undertaking in some of the most difficult circumstances. We heard testimonies of the persecuted church from leaders in India, China, and from Muslim countries. We heard stories of accelerated church planting in Bangladesh and Columbia. Unfortunately, the rapidly-growing Wesleyan church of Mozambique was not represented due to the devastating storms they’ve endured.
One example is in the city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay). The Wesleyan Church has been envisioning a transforming presence in every zip code. but what does that look like in Mumbai? For them, it is having a church near every local train station. Millions of people pass through the 107 Mumbai metro stations every day. In just a few years, Wesleyan church planters have already established regular meetings at eight stations and believing God to help them multiply churches near the remaining 99.
The conference ended on Tuesday evening with a wonderful celebration of praise and challenging vision message from Dr. Wayne Schmidt. The theme of the ICWC is “Everywhere to Everywhere” and being together in mission with these Wesleyan brothers and sisters is truly inspiring as we consider the task unfinished here in Indiana.
Wednesday was a day of collaborative planning for key regions of the world. I was able to join Dr. Rich Schenck and Joshe Bose, National Director for Bangladesh, to explore Asia-Pacific partnerships. While there is still a need for missionaries in many parts of the world, it is encouraging to see the leadership of these nations strategizing together to take the Gospel to unreached nations and people groups in their region of the world.
Thursday was a day of extended travel, leaving our hotel at 3:30 am, flying to Miami, Philadelphia and on to Fort Wayne, only to have weather divert us to Indianapolis before returning to FWA. I arrived home at 2:00 am on Friday morning, safe and thankful!
Friday morning, I met with Assistant DS Chris Williams to review year-end reporting and preparations for upcoming meetings. Rev. Matthew Trexler joined us at 10 in preparation for their StratOp consultation. Rev. Mark Atkinson, Rev. Trexler and I met over lunch in Gas City for an update on Eastview Wesleyan’s church planting initiative with Rev. Aldean Pablo and a prospective launch team in Roanoke. You’ll be hearing more about this exciting development at District Conference!
Friday afternoon, I met with a young couple who are early in their ministry and exploring next steps before heading to Noblesville to be part of the StratOp planning retreat that Chris and Matthew led for Circle of Hope Church and Network. Circle of Hope is on a steep learning curve and this was a key opportunity to develop clear strategy and action plans for the exciting opportunities in front of them.
Saturday morning, I hosted another Bivocational Pastors Fellowship at the Branch in Fairmount. Approximately 50% of our Crossroads District ministers have additional full-time or part-time employment beyond their pastoral employment to support their families. It was encouraging to hear the Easter reports and stories of life change. Thank you to Velvet Haisley and her team for their gracious hospitality and delicious lunch.
Saturday evening, I met with Rev. Barry and Vickie Taylor for a delightful conversation and then dropped in on Sunday morning as Rev. Taylor candidated for the senior pastor position at Hartford City Wesleyan Church this weekend. Barry is an Asbury Seminary grad with experience in church planting, revitalization and consulting. They currently serve with the Evangelical Methodist Church and live in Wheeling, West Virginia. The congregation voted 72-0 to call Rev. Taylor and he has accepted the initial 2-year call.
I also received word from Beaver Creek Wesleyan that they voted 93% in favor of calling Ben Jones as their next pastor. Ben called to let me know that he is accepting their invitation. Ben is a licensed minister who has been serving as an assistant pastor on staff with Rev. Greg Holmes at South Bend Sonlight. Pray for Pastor Ben as he takes this step forward in answering God’s call.
Chris Williams and I are in La Plata, Maryland on Monday and Tuesday this week to work with Pastor Mike Hilson and the leadership team at New Life Wesleyan Church. Our District Board of Administration meets on Thursday. Our Retired Pastors and Spouses Fellowship meets on Friday for lunch at College Wesleyan Church. Sherry and I will be hosting a Zone Fellowship on Friday night at Thornapple and then, on Saturday, our Hispanic Pastors Fellowship is coming to the house for lunch.
Thank you for all you do to advance the Kingdom by making disciples and multiplying churches here in the Crossroads District!
Your servant in Christ,
P.S. Please plan to join us on June 4, 7 p.m., at Wesley Seminary for a presentation from Dan LeRoy, author of Rediscovering Our Holiness Heritage.