Theologically conservative leaders from United Methodist Church have formed a group within the denomination known as Wesleyan Covenant Association.

The organization is endorsed by around 50 ministerial and lay leaders, and theologians.

The WCA will convene in its first gathering in Chicago on October 7 to promote the goals of scriptural Christianity and to welcome new members.

A group of UMC pastors and laity wrote an open letter to the church in June calling for "faithful obedience to the Bible and The Discipline of The United Methodist Church on the part of all clergy and laity."

"Clergy and laity across the nation are rightly concerned about the state of The United Methodist Church in the United States," said Rev. Jim Cowart, pastor of Harvest UM Church in Byron, Georgia. "Although blessed with sound doctrine, a history of personal and social holiness, and a rich heritage, the church seems to have lost its way in the 21st century. The Wesleyan Covenant Association provides us with a wonderful opportunity to gather around the best of what we are with those who are of like commitment to work toward making disciples for the transformation of the world."

In January, a group of UMC members from 15 states met together in Atlanta, and drew a plan to form the new organization, according to a UMC press release.

"We're really working on how to live in a divided church and be productive and kingdom-minded," Rev. Maxie Dunnam, one of the group's founders, told Methodist News Service. "We're just exploring ways to encourage and equip and support people in doing that."

The members of WCA are planning to plant new churches, and to carry out the commission laid out in the Bible.

A statement from a meeting on August 1-2 said that the organization is a membership-driven initiative to connect pastors, laity, and congregations to "promote the ministry of the gospel from a Wesleyan theological perspective within The United Methodist Church and kindred bodies."

"We are excited about sharing resources among member churches and are dreaming of new ways to be in partnership in the planting of new churches and in the raising up of new leaders with a distinctly Wesleyan approach to life and ministry," said the Rev. Carolyn Moore, founder and pastor of Mosaic United Methodist Church in Evans, Georgia.

"My fervent prayer is that we will be able to share our witness in ways that will impact the Bishop's Commission on the Future of the Church positively and contribute to the advance of God's Kingdom among the people called Methodists globally," said the Rev. Keith Boyette, pastor of Wilderness Community UM Church in Spotsylvania, Virginia. "Those who choose to participate in this great endeavor will be better positioned I believe to embrace a fruitful future regardless of what ultimately occurs within The United Methodist Church."

The WCA was formed in the backdrop of continuing divisions surfacing in UMC over the issue of same-sex marriage.

"I am not sure leaders of the church know how serious what's going on is," Dunnam said. "This is what I'm committed to trying to prevent. I don't want that kind of hemorrhage."

Boyette said that WCA was not founded to break away from the UMC.

"WCA is seeking to provide a form for traditionalists to come forward and discern the best way to continue to work in UMC and global pan Methodist family to advance a historic Christianity," he was quoted as saying by Charisma News.

"Evangelicals within the 12 million member UM Church are attempting to be faithful as best they can," Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, vice president of Good News, said. "We are not seeking schism. Separation may occur one day in the future, but the WCA was formed to be a united voice to play by the denominational rules and live with faithful integrity in a very volatile situation."