Pastor and layman speak at Wesleyan Leadership Conference

photo of Mark and David with the title slide from their presentationRev. David Palmer and Mark Deshon were among the 50 attendees nationwide at the Wesleyan Leadership Conference in Nashville, Tenn., on Nov. 1-3, 2012.  Rev. Stephen Manskar, Director of Wesleyan Leadership for the UMC’s General Board of Discipleship, had invited them to come and speak about Covenant Discipleship at Newark UMC.  You may recall that Rev. Manskar visited Newark UMC in 2007 and again in 2011 to help lead Covenant Discipleship events.

The keynote speaker was Rev. David Lowes Watson, who created Covenant Discipleship (CD) a few decades ago as a means to help churches grow in discipleship through a method based on the roots of Methodism and teachings of John Wesley.  Watson talked about Christian discipleship in general and presented a great deal of practical theology—something for which Wesley was known—during the two mornings he spoke.

Watson repeatedly referred to discipleship as a craft that must be practiced—not alone but in relationship with one another.  He insisted that there are no pre-conditions for becoming a Christian, but a lot of post-conditions.  In order to maintain (or work out) our salvation, as suggested in Philippians 2:12-13, we must continually exercise our faith with action. “Wesley’s concept of grace was dynamic; it involves growth or it will wither,” he stated.

Another of the featured speakers was David Worthington, an Anglican Briton who is the curator of The New Room, the historic building that John Wesley used as his base for worship and ministry in the early Methodist movement in Bristol, England. He presented an overview of Wesleyan history coupled with that of The New Room.

Rev. Palmer and Mark Deshon shared the history of and clergy support for CD within our church family.  Another group, representing Fairview Street UMC in St. Paul, Minn., followed David and Mark with a similar presentation about their church’s experience.  On the closing morning, both groups joined the other conference leaders on a panel and fielded questions from attendees about CD.

“The highlight of the conference for me was hearing David Lowes Watson,” Deshon said. “He inspired and re-energized me for my role as coordinator of CD at our church. I was also happy that David [Palmer] and I got to have continual discussions about what we were hearing and how our church might better foster the formation of disciples.”

The state of Delaware was well represented; Pastor Amy Yarnall of Wesley UMC in Dover led morning and evening prayers each day and gave the sermon at the conference’s closing communion service.