This year the Christian world and especially the Protestant church remembers and celebrates the 500 year anniversary of the Diet of Worms when Martin Luther said these famous words in defense of his writings and theses: “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and by plain reason and not by Popes and councils who have so often contradicted themselves, my conscience is captive to the word of God. To go against conscience is neither right nor safe. I cannot and I will not recant. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.“
Luther was unwilling to compromise the Word of God in the name of peace and unity in the empire and he spoke these words in his last speech on 17 April 1521. What happened afterwards changed church and world history to this day.
Many pastors and preachers throughout this half of the millennium have been inspired by Luther’s words and his bold stance. Most assuredly, John Wesley and George Whitefield faced severe persecution in their time from already established churches and I would surmise they did so in rememberance of this great reformer. Our spiritual fathers in Southeastern Europe also faced threats from atheistic communism in the last century and continued to boldy stand in defendence of our faith preserving it for us as we live in much better times.
Circumstances, however, are rapidly changing even today. In the last year in our cultures and even more sadly in our churches, the traditional teaching of the Bible and Christian tradition is being abandoned and brought into question even by those who are bishops and pastors.
Just as the Pope and councils in the days of Luther tried to establish unbiblical “ways and teachings“, today we are facing new suggestions and even ordinances that seek to undermine the Biblical teachings and definitions of marriage and the family, which are even older then the church itself.
The dramatic events that have occured in the United Methodist Church following the February 2019 General Conference bear witness to the harmful consequences that such teachings can have for the church on the general and local level.
For these reasons and encouraged by such courageous examples from church history, Methodist pastors, theologians and laymen from Southern and Eastern Europe decided after long and prayerful consideration to align themselves with an association in defense of our faith, tradition and with a vision for the future creation of a organized and secure Methodist church. The same processes experienced by our brothers and sisters in the USA, Africa and Asia are also being felt in our context and so, we decided to create a regional chapter of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, which is also concerned that the teachings and ordinances we believe to be true will be not be deluted or abolished.
Being held captive by our own consciences, the authority of the Word of God and examples from church history we are emboldened to face the opposition of our times and to continue to follow a way that will bear good fruit in the future.
The stand, which Luther took 500 years ago, is a call to every member of the church community today to boldly resist false teachings and to continue to stand on the foundation of Holy Scripture.