For several years now a selected group of seminarians seeking ordination in Indiana have met in a new venture in theological education and leadership formation. Rooted in the church’s mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ, the Wesleyan Connexion Project provides a place for those who are preparing for ministry to rediscover the rich heritage of Wesleyan doctrine and practice, as well as encourage future leaders in the life of the church. A new experiment in theological education it is in the best Wesleyan sense of the term a project in “practical divinity.”
The Wesleyan Connexion Project grows out of a response by denominational leaders in 2003 for new approaches to theological education. The document entitled “A Wesleyan Vision for Theological Education” encourages seminaries, conferences, church-related universities, and churches to engage in creative forms of leadership formation and theological study (go to www.gbhem.org for more info).
The purpose of the Wesleyan Connexion Project is to find these creative ways of building bridges between seminarians and annual conference, as well as foster excellence in ministry. It is to discover how the Annual Conference may encourage future efforts to support those who will give leadership in the Wesleyan Way.
One of the most meaningful aspects of the Wesleyan Connexion Project is the importance of dedicating one’s heart and life to God. Through the “Covenant Renewal Service,” participants share in a time of reaffirmation, praying together the Covenant Prayer that is to characterize commitment to Jesus Christ:
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou will, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low by thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasures and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
I don’t think it is too difficult to imagine that those who provide leadership in the church are to make this prayer a significant part of their devotional life. Nor do I think it is too difficult to imagine that John Wesley would want to see persons throughout the church pray this prayer with a deep sense of purpose: to live in joyful obedience in the power of the Spirit. As we contend, God’s grace not only frees us from sin and guilt, but also frees for service to others.
Recently, Bishop Coyner has challenged churches in Indiana to cultivate a “culture of call.” By focusing on God’s call, we realize again Christ’s claim upon us through baptism; we recognize again that we are not own but God’s servants. It’s a powerful witness to what the Holy Spirit can do in writing a new covenant on our hearts (Jer. 31:31-34). Doing all the good we can and doing no harm flows out of a deep and abiding relationship with God.
As we move into a New Year, I can see more and more how projects like the Wesleyan Connexion Project and how efforts like the “culture of call” can work together to assist us in fulfilling our mission to make disciples. I can also see how both clergy and laity will want to pray together the prayer that can help us all reaffirm our covenant to have “the mind of Christ” and “walk as Jesus walked.” Surely, regardless of who we are, we will want to follow in this Way, knowing always that the God who knows our hearts will give us more than we imagined.