United Methodist Media Attention on the Evangelical Fellowship
Recently, United Methodist media has focused some attention on the Evangelical Fellowship. Interest has also centered on the new church start-up called ‘Mission Charlottesville’. Some have wondered if ‘Mission Charlottesville’ (MC) has been a church plant of the Evangelical Fellowship (EF). The answer is easy: absolutely not! Since our inception in the 1970’s, EF has never planted nor started any church. We are a 501 C 3 non-profit corporation whose purpose is to unite clergy and lay persons in the Virginia Annual Conference to advance biblical Christianity in the Wesleyan tradition. EF has had no part in visioning, conceiving, or structuring MC. We have offered no guidance or direction and had no leadership or operational role in MC.
Why has EF been linked to Mission Charlottesville? In May 2017, our long-time Board of Director, the Rev. David Ford, then a United Methodist elder and former president of EF, shared a calling God had given him to begin a new church start he named ‘Mission Richmond’. He would locate it in the greater Richmond area. He asked our Board if we would consider taking on his church as a mission project. Many of our local churches have other mission projects, such as the Salvation Army, the Gideons, or Society of St. Andrew – which, incidentally, are not denominationally affiliated with the United Methodist Church. We voted to help our brother David in this small way and to make ‘Mission Richmond’ our mission project. Individuals who wished to support financially ‘Mission Richmond’ could make donations to EF which we in turn forwarded on to ‘Mission Richmond’. No one from our Board had any role or involvement in ‘Mission Richmond’s’ conception, governance or operation. We view the new church start as one more partner in the great ecumenical Christian effort to reach lost, unchurched populations for Jesus Christ and to develop disciples. Some months after EF voted to make Rev. Ford’s start-up our mission project, Rev. Ford informed us the location for the new church start had shifted to somewhere in the greater Charlottesville area.
Why has the Evangelical Fellowship come to the attention of a ‘blogger’ and church media? Last fall 2018, a United Methodist pastor in Charlottesville raised concern about the Evangelical Fellowship’s involvement in MC. Without inquiring directly with EF about the nature of our ‘involvement’ with MC, he published a speculative, incendiary multi-page ‘tract’ about our association with MC. Upon learning of the pastor’s concern, we consulted with Bishop Sharma Lewis’s office and voted to no longer carry MC as our mission project out of consideration for the feelings of other United Methodist clergy. So, since December 2018, EF has ceased receiving donations for MC.
In summary, while some would like an inflammatory story, this is a rather ordinary report. The Evangelical Fellowship did not start ‘Mission Charlottesville’ and has no association with it. We neither had nor have any part in its visioning, governance, operation or supervision. Indeed, the Evangelical Fellowship affirms other denominational and non-denominational Christian churches, including ‘Mission Charlottesville’, as we agree on the essential of bringing lost, unchurched populations to repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ to develop holy, mature disciples.