Thursday, June 13, 2024

Philip Wingeier-Rayo: The Mission of the Church in the World

Today's piece is by Dr. Philip Wingeier-Rayo. Dr. Wingeier-Rayo is Professor of Missiology, World Christianity and Methodist Studies at Wesley Theological Seminary. This piece was originally published on United Methodist Insight and is republished here with the permission of the publisher.

Every other year I have the privilege of teaching a course for aspiring United Methodist elders and deacons entitled “Mission of the Church in the World.” Along with Evangelism, Old and New Testament, Church History, Theology, United Methodist History, Doctrine and Polity, this is one of nine courses that is required for ordination in our church.

I love the title of the class—in fact I love everything about the class. I have taught this course in various settings, modalities, and institutions over the last two decades. Before Covid-19 this course was taught face-to-face both in semester-long and intensive formats. Since the pandemic, I have taught it online and hybrid (some in-person and some online). One of my favorite ways to teach the class is experiential. I have taught the class at Brooks Howell Home in Asheville, North Carolina, and students interviewed retired United Methodist missionaries and deaconesses, as part of the course requirements.

We have combined reading and writing assignments with experiential learning and field trips to ministries that prioritize those who are overlooked by society. We have invited guest speakers participating in God’s mission around the world, and used tools like “Mission Insite” to understand mission opportunities in one’s local community. During these days of reorganizing and refocusing the mission of the church considering our colonial history, it is helpful to reflect on the mission of the church in the world.

The title of the course reflects a change in the way that mission has traditionally been understood. Historically mission has been a one-way street from the center to the periphery. The western Church inherited the traditional mission model from Christendom when the Church and the State were fused together in Western Europe. Following Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the West Indies and the subsequent “Doctrine of Discovery,” the missionaries accompanied colonial expansion to newly settled territories to teach native peoples western civilization. Mission became centered within Christendom and went out to the margins. Mission was an overseas task from “us to them.” Mission started in the Church and went out to the unchurched. This was still the missiological view at the 1910 World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland with the goal to spread Christianity from Christendom to non-Christian lands.

This traditional understanding of mission started to change midway through the 20th century following World War II. Following Edinburgh a continuation committee formed and the international missionary community gathered every ten years or so to reflect on the mission of the church. There was an inherent imbalance of power between mission-sending and mission-receiving churches that gradually began to change. The self-determination movement and independence movement of formally colonized nations awakened a new understanding of mission.

Six years prior to the 1938 Tambaram (India) Conference, Karl Barth read a paper at the Brandenburgh Missionary Conference where he described missions as an activity of God. A couple years later Karl Hartenstein articulated a similar understanding and coined the term “Missio Dei” to emphasize that it is God’s mission and not the mission of the church (“missio ecclesiae”).[1] The Church also shifted its understanding of mission to be God’s mission. Karl Barth was one of the first theologians to state that mission was God’s activity.[2] About the same time frame Emil Brunner wrote: “The Church exists by mission, just as a fire exists by burning. Where there is no mission there is no Church; and where there is neither Church nor mission, there is no faith.”[3]

The next meeting of the International Missionary Council in 1952 was held in Willingen, Germany in the aftermath of World War II. The conference built on the concept prevalent at Tambaram that mission is derived from the very heart of God, especially within the Trinity. The conference findings viewed God as the source of missions. Hartenstein’s concept of the “Missio Dei” or a missionary God influenced the conversations. David Bosch summarized the image of mission developed at Willingen as “…participating in the sending of God.”[4] In other words, God is the source of mission, not the church. This theme continued the movement away from an ecclesio-centric understanding of mission to a mission-centered church.[5] Instead of the church being the one who sends, the church itself is sent.[6]

One of the unexpected twists of missions in the 20th century was that the so-called “younger” or “receiving” churches grew stronger meanwhile secularism weakened the “sending” churches in the West. After the Great Depression, two world wars, and colonial wars, the West was not in an economic or moral position to claim that they had the exclusive right to do mission. In 1961 the International Missionary Committee was dissolved, and the World Council of Churches formed with younger and established churches having equal representation. A Scottish theologian and missionary, Leslie Newbigin, was the General Secretary of the International Missionary Committee and stewarded the transition into the World Council of Churches, where he became Associate General Secretary. He returned to his home country of Scotland in 1974, after serving as a missionary in India for more than three decades and was astounded the decline of Christianity and the secularization in the United Kingdom. He had left Scotland during an era of Christendom, but upon his return found a society that was post-Christian or even anti-Christian.[7] He realized that the West is a mission field. This broke down the traditional paradigm of mission “from the West to the rest.”

In 1983 Newbigin published "The Other Side of 1984: Questions for the Churches" in which he built upon the theological consensus of the “missio Dei.” Newbigin’s work that emerged in the late 20th century with a focus on moving beyond Christendom, seeing the West as a mission field, and the Missio Dei. This is the historical background of the shift to seeing the Church as an instrument of God’s mission in the world.

As we reflect on the mission of The United Methodist Church in the aftermath of schism and division, it is important to go back to our mission “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” I treasure the opportunity to reflect with aspiring United Methodist clergy about the mission of the church in the world.

[1] Hartenstein, Karl (1934). "Wozu nötigt die Finanzlage der Mission". Evangelisches Missions-Magazin. 79: 217–229.

[2] David Bosch, Transforming Mission, Orbis Press, 1991, 389.

[3] Emil Brunner, The Word and the World, 1931.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Bosch, 370.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Darrell Guder, ed., Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998, 3.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Darryl W. Stephens: United Methodists in the Ivory Coast: One Vote, One Million Departures, Many Questions

Today's post is by Rev. Dr. Darryl W. Stephens. Rev. Dr. Stephens is Director of United Methodist Studies at Lancaster Theological Seminary and is author of many books, articles, and chapters on Methodism, including Methodist Morals: Social Principles in the Public Church’s Witness(2016) and Reckoning Methodism: Mission and Division in the Public Church (2024).

The United Methodist Church (UMC) potentially lost one million members on May 28, 2024, complicating its ambition to become a “worldwide” denomination. In a special session held in Abidjan, the annual conference of the United Methodist Church of Ivory Coast (EMUCI, Eglise Méthodiste Unie Côte d’Ivoire) voted “For reasons of conscience before God and His word, the supreme authority in matters of faith and life . . . to leave the United Methodist Church denomination.” (Reported by La Croix International. See also UM News.) The departure is not yet finalized.

The vote followed an eventful General Conference in Charlotte, NC, in which the denomination’s longstanding prohibitions against LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriage were lifted. The UMC Discipline (book of law and doctrine) now takes a permissive stance, allowing discernment on these issues at the local and regional levels of the UMC, which has conferences in Africa, Europe, North America, and the Philippines.

Contextually flexible ministry to and with LGBTQ persons precipitated the vote by United Methodists in Côte d’Ivoire to leave the UMC. The EMUCI president, Bishop Benjamin Boni, explained: “the United Methodist Church now rests on socio-cultural values that have consumed its doctrinal and disciplinary integrity” (La Croix International). Did the Ivorians join the UMC under the false assumption that its policies on homosexuality would never change?

None of the denomination’s prior prohibitions against same-sex marriage or ordination of a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” were matters of doctrine. Like long-standing prohibitions against alcohol, tobacco, and divorce in generations past, these policies on sexual morality rested on social statements (for discussion, see Methodist Morals, pp. 31–41). Unlike the UMC’s “standards of doctrine” (Book of Discipline 2016, ¶ 17), the Social Principles—and any policies built on them—can be changed with a simple majority vote at General Conference.

Although their “marriage” was never very intimate, the failing merger of the UMC and the Methodist Protestant Church of Côte d’Ivoire raises significant questions regarding the “worldwide nature” of the UMC and its global ambitions.

A Surprise Wedding

The Methodist Protestant Church of Côte d’Ivoire and the UMC initiated their merger in 2004. Was this joining of denominational bodies a merger, a partnership, a marriage, or something else? The initial commitment to unite the UMC and the Methodist Protestant Church of Côte d’Ivoire came as a surprise to all parties—the ecclesial equivalent to an elopement.

The Ivorians had operated as an independent ecclesial body for less than twenty years. Established as a church in 1924, Methodists in Côte d’Ivoire became autonomous from the British Methodist Church in 1985 (for a history, see https://www.umnews.org/en/news/a-brief-history-of-methodism-in-cote-divoire). This church subsequently requested mission status from the UMC’s General Board of Global Ministries circa 2001 in anticipation of joining the UMC in 2008.

Through a petition to the General Conference of 2004, the Commission on Central Conference Affairs recommended referring the matter to its executive committee for further study. However, during the General Conference plenary, a delegate made a substitute motion to add Côte d’Ivoire without delay. It passed. The United Methodist News Service reported a one-million-member increase for the UMC, documenting surprise and delight among the respective leaders involved.

After the initial euphoria and a more precise census, the Judicial Council ruled that the appropriate Disciplinary procedures had not been followed, delaying a merger of the two churches until 2008. Lack of sufficient premarital counseling and a hurried wedding did not bode well for a successful marriage between the UMC and the Methodist Protestant Church of Côte d’Ivoire. Many issues of how to be church together remained unaddressed.

An Unconsummated Marriage

At the time of merger, Côte d’Ivoire became the UMC’s largest annual conference, and it was clear who held the power and controlled the finances. I do not know what motivated the Ivorian leaders to seek to become part of the UMC. However, the results included consecration of a bishop, access to US-funded agencies, and other denominational resources. Despite the perception of mutual benefits, the 2008 merger maintained the inequalities and disparities of the central conference structure in the UMC. The institutional integration of the two churches was never fully consummated.

From the outset, the former Methodist Protestant Church of Côte d’Ivoire showed ambivalence about participating in the business of the UMC. Côte d’Ivoire was the only annual conference not in crisis to fail to submit vote totals on the five constitutional amendments approved by General Conference 2016. It was also the only annual conference to fail to revise its membership numbers for the 2020 General Conference delegation calculation. The annual conference has not submitted a journal to the General Council of Finance and Administration since 2016.

The UMC, for its part, did not prioritize this new international partnership. While various shared ministry partnerships arose, the efforts did not endeavor to address fundamental issues. Differences in language, culture, geography, institutional history, and socio-political context on a denominational level were not addressed. Despite a merger of institutions on a similar scale to the 1968 merger that created the UMC, little attention was given to the details of being church together (for discussion, see Reckoning Methodism, pp. 38–44)

Twelve years after the initial vote to acquire the Côte d’Ivoire church, significant aspects of the work of denominational union remained unresolved. General Conference 2016 postponed and referred eight major pieces of legislation to various agencies and commissions, including a Global Book of Discipline, revised Social Principles, and an ongoing study of the “worldwide nature” of the UMC. Meanwhile, United Methodists in the United States perceived few changes, and most were unaware that a merger had occurred.

A Failing Merger and Global Ambitions

Many aspects of this failing merger were specific to the way the UMC and United Methodists in Côte d’Ivoire related to each other. Both sides neglected the relationships and structural changes necessary to forge a shared life together. This union was treated as an acquisition, and these institutions did not view each other as equals. When General Conference finally approved two major pieces of global polity—the Revised Social Principles and a regionalization plan—Boni and other leaders in Côte d’Ivoire decided that the changes were not compatible with their understanding of Methodism. Their planned exit from the UMC could be accomplished as quickly as their entry since there are no strong structural ties. Could an equally swift exit vote happen among United Methodist annual conferences elsewhere in Africa?

It is possible that conferences in Nigeria, Zimbabwe, South Congo, and others could also vote to depart the UMC—though this is unlikely. The Africa Forum supported the recent regionalization legislation, and connectional relationships appear much stronger beyond the denominational newcomers in Côte d’Ivoire. Whether the UMC mirrors the cross-cultural antagonism found within other church bodies, such as the Anglican Communion, or finds a different path for international cooperation remains to be seen.

The failing merger of the UMC and the Methodist Protestant Church of Côte d’Ivoire exposes the difficulties of realizing United Methodism’s global ambitions. The ambition for global expansion appears to be motivated by a US, imperialistic mindset. The project of building a “worldwide” church is funded through US apportionments and is emblematic of cultural power and prestige. In a winner-obsessed culture, nothing is more indicative of success than increasing numbers, whether through baptisms or acquisition. Despite a century of perpetual studies of “Methodism overseas” and the “worldwide nature” of this denomination, the UMC has yet to adequately address its replication of the structures of empire.

For the project of a “worldwide” church to be shared among United Methodists outside of the United States, international partnerships must be mutually transforming. For a lasting marriage, US United Methodists will have to do church differently—or suffer yet another departure from the US “mother church.”

Further Reading

Maia, Filipe, and David W. Scott, eds. Methodism and American Empire: Reflections on Decolonizing the Church. Nashville: Abingdon, 2023.

Scott, David W. “Is Being a World-Wide Denomination an American Aspiration?” UM & Global, June 14, 2019. http://www.umglobal.org/2019/06/is-being-world-wide-denomination.html.

Stephens, Darryl W. Methodist Morals: Social Principles in the Public Church’s Witness. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2016.

———. Reckoning Methodism: Mission and Division in the Public Church. Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2024.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Recommended Reading: Bishop Nhiwatiwa's Autobiography

Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa, the soon-to-retire bishop of Zimbabwe, has recently published an autobiography with Abingdon: By the Grace of God: My Life as an African Bishop. The book is well worth a read, especially for US United Methodists. Here are six reasons why:

1. Bishop Nhiwatiwa's loyalty to The United Methodist Church and his leadership in the African Colleges of Bishops were an important factor in preparing African delegates to General Conference to support regionalization. You get a sense of this in his sermon at General Conference. His autobiography explains how he grew up in The United Methodist Church and where his loyalty to that church comes from. His story is an important window for US United Methodists into understanding similar African perspectives as we work together for the ratification of regionalization.

2. As African United Methodists come to compose more of the denomination's members and much of its areas of growth, it's important for United Methodists in the US to understand the variety of perspectives and experiences among African United Methodists so that together we can work for the good of the denomination and the kin(g)dom of God. Bishop Nhiwatiwa's autobiography represents a significant opportunity to do that in English in a format that's readily available in the US.

3. In his autobiography, Bishop Nhiwatiwa is reflective on how cultural practices in Zimbabwe shaped his life and his faith. Thus, his autobiography is an opportunity to learn not just generally about African perspectives but also more specifically about the relationship between culture and faith in Zimbabwe and in a broader sense, Africa generally.

4. Bishop Nhiwatiwa studied in the United States in college. Thus, the book also contains his reflections on his experiences in the US and on US culture. This opportunity to learn how some of our fellow denominational members see us is an important opportunity for US United Methodists to better understand ourselves and how we come off to those with whom we are in partnership.

5. In his work as bishop, Bishop Nhiwatiwa is famous for promoting the concept of "chabadza" mission partnerships. This is a significant contribution to mission thinking by a practical United Methodist mission leader. Bishop Nhiwatiwa's concept of chabadza partnership deserves more attention and study, especially as the church ponders what a decolonial mission future looks like.

6. Bishop Nhiwatiwa is also a student of leadership, and he reflects throughout the book on his understanding of leadership. Leadership is both a universal human experience and a culturally-conditioned practice. For both of those reasons, Bishop Nhiwatiwa's insights into leadership are worth exploring.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

UM & Global Resources on Regionalization

One of the significant decisions taken by the recent General Conference was the passage of the Worldwide Regionalization legislation. The legislation, some of which still needs to be ratified by annual conferences over the next year, would restructure the church to convert existing central conferences into regional conferences, create a regional conference for the United States, and give regional conferences greater local control in adapting structures, ministries, and policies for maximal missional effectiveness in their contexts.

Since regionalization will now go to the annual conferences for ratification, and since, if ratified, the church will need to go through a process of living into regionalization, there is more discussion of regionalization that needs to happen, even with General Conference approval. Therefore, UM & Global offers the following resources to assist in conversations about regionalization and what it means to strive to be a church that structures itself in internationally equitable ways:

A brief description of David Scott & Filipe Maia's recent book, Methodism and American Empire

All UM & Global articles tagged with the term "regionalization"

A collection of UM & Global articles on "The UMC as a Global Church," with study questions

A collection of UM & Global articles on "Culture, Context, and the Global Church," with study questions

A collection of UM & Global articles on "The Global UMC in Ecumenical Perspective," with study questions. Some of these articles served as early drafts for David Scott's chapter in Methodism and American Empire.

A collection of UM & Global articles on "Church Autonomy and the Commission on the Structure of Methodism Overseas (COSMOS)," with study questions. These articles provide additional background information on the COSMOS process described by Joon-Sik Park and Phil Wingeier-Rayo in their chapters of Methodism and American Empire.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

It Was a Good General Conference for Europeans

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Mission Theologian at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries.

The recently concluded General Conference was an historic one, marking a dramatic shift in tone from previous General Conferences and a clear (if not universal) consensus on the direction for the church in the future. Among the General Conference's many accomplishments were passage of the "3 R's": regionalization, revised Social Principles, and removal of the restrictive language on ministry with and by LGBTQ+ persons in the denomination.

As the wide vote margins on most issues showed, this work of turning from conflict toward a renewed focus on future ministry was carried forward by delegates from all over the world.

In particular, the Africa Forum showed its significance as an organizing body. Heading into the conference, many observers in the United States were uncertain how African delegates would vote on key issues. But the hard work by leaders in the Africa Forum was key in African support for regionalization and the revised Social Principles. Also key was the Africa Forum's grace-filled decision to allow US United Methodists to embrace inclusive ministry in the US context while maintaining a traditional religious and cultural understanding of marriage in the African context.

Regionalization also owes so much to Filipina/o leaders in the denomination. Many of the early leaders of the Christmas Covenant were Filipinos and Filipinas, and it was an annual conference from the Philippines that sent the Christmas Covenant legislation to General Conference, legislation which became the basis for the Worldwide Regionalization proposal that was passed. Drawing on a history of thinking deeply about autonomy and connectionalism, Filipina/o writers have also had some of the most eloquent reflections on and arguments for regionalization.

But I found myself thinking at General Conference how European United Methodists have had a special role in much of what happened at this General Conference. European United Methodists also contributed to the Christmas Covenant and advocating for regionalization. We saw Bishop Rückert's leadership repeatedly in making presentations to General Conference on regionalization and other topics, and Bishop Streiff and others were leading that work before him.

The revised Social Principles arose because of a request from European delegates to a previous General Conference for more globally-relevant statements of the denomination's social teachings.

Removing the restrictive language both is an important step for Western Europeans and validates the general European approach of seeking local control over marriage and ministry, with the understanding that Eastern and Western Europeans will have different approaches.

Even the departure of the Eurasia Episcopal Area, bittersweet though it may have been, was a validation of local decision making about future connectional arrangements by European leaders.

I say this not to lionize European United Methodists or to suggest that they deserve more credit than others. Certainly, there is credit enough to go around for all that was accomplished in Charlotte.

But I think the contributions that European United Methodists made to this General Conference show something important, as do Filipino contributions to the Christmas Covenant. European United Methodists are a very small group spread out over many countries in languages. In many ways, they are functionally marginal to a denomination that is overwhelmingly African and North American.

Yet, it is often from the margins that the most important ideas and innovations come. Without the contributions of European United Methodists to a vision of global equity and a structure that works for all around the world, and without Filipino/a leadership in advancing the project of regionalization, we would not have the church we are now celebrating. Good ideas and insights come from the margins.

The bulk of United Methodists live in the United States and in various African countries, especially the DRC. The relationship between United Methodists in the US and those in Africa will continue to be a critical focus for the denomination, especially as the drive for ratification and implementation of regionalization proceeds.

But as Africa and the United States rightfully receive a lot of attention going forward, the contributions of European and Filipina/o United Methodists remind us that we depend as a connection on the generous offering of gifts, ideas, and insights from our entire connection. Who knows where the next big ideas that will shape the future of the denomination will come from? If the past is any guide, we should continue to look to the wisdom and insight of small groups with unique perspectives.

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Filipe Maia: Decolonizing Wesleyan Theology: Theological Engagements from the Underside of Methodism

The following is a preview excerpt from the Introduction to the recently published Decolonizing Wesleyan Theology: Theological Engagements from the Underside of Methodism, edited by Filipe Maia: https://wipfandstock.com/9781666793482/decolonizing-wesleyan-theology/. This excerpt is used by permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers, www.wipfandstock.com.

In August 2018, a group of scholars, pastors, and ecclesial leaders met at Wesley House in Cambridge, UK, to imagine and plot the decolonization of Methodist and Wesleyan traditions. Standing on British territory and under the shadow of the prestigious Cambridge University, the gathering embodied the ambivalent legacy of the Wesleyan tradition, birthed in the midst of British imperialism while cherished by Methodist communities in the postcolonial world. We were Methodist scholars and leaders from the Global South, immigrants in the diasporas of the Global North, all coming to Wesleyan theology via the complex entanglement between missionary movements and western colonialism.

While steeped in Wesleyan traditions, the group gathered in Cambridge embodied a Methodism that could not have been envisioned by John Wesley nor the missionaries who set out to spread “scriptural holiness” to all corners of the planet. In those corners of the world, Methodism gained new edges. Those of us meeting in British territory had returned to the birthplace of our theological and spiritual tradition with a difference. We noticed that claiming our Methodist roots demanded a reinterpretation of the tradition. The gathering showed that the Wesleyan theological tradition has been pluralized in the context of colonial and neocolonial expansion.

One of the ideas suggested by the group in Cambridge was the organization of an edited volume under the working title, Decolonizing Wesleyan Theology. This was more than a title: it was a task.

This volume is one response to that task. It gives testimony to the Methodist roots that grow in territories and bodies that uproot longstanding colonial forces. It has been envisioned, nurtured, and curated as a work of decolonial love. Authors in this volume write from multiple locations in the Global South where our Wesleyan heritage is giving new contours to the tradition.

Readers will most likely notice that the language of decline, so common in Methodist circles in North America, is rarely, if ever, mentioned. This is no indication that Methodism flourishes without difficulties in the Global South, but rather a statement about how contributors are less interested in thinking about the numerical decline of Christendom and more committed to a renewed Wesleyan theology that meets the harsh realities of a world still embedded in the structures of colonialism.

The decolonial approaches to Wesleyan theology offered in this volume give witness to a tradition that gains strength and vitality in decolonial struggles and in the engagement with traditions and ways of knowing that have been suppressed by western modernity.

The essays in this volume offer perspectives into a Methodism that lives and flourishes on the underside of colonial powers. From all corners of the planet, communities of faith in the Wesleyan tradition experiment with theological imaginaries and ecclesial practices that are transforming the face of global Methodism. Decolonizing Wesleyan Theology gives voice to these experiments while seeking to deepen the reflection in decolonial theologies and spiritualities.

As authors revisit the history of the Methodist movement, they witness to the different shapes Methodism gained in the colonies—old and new. As they revisit Wesley’s own writings and other important themes in Wesleyan theology and practice, they inhabit the cracks of our founder’s theology and turn it in unforeseeable directions.

It is worth mentioning that the volume that you are now engaging is but one element of the ongoing task of decolonizing Wesleyan theology and traditions. In fact, it is appropriate to approach this volume as a snapshot of an ongoing conversation. This book is the fruit of a larger project that involves monthly conversations among a global network of Methodist theologians and leaders.

The “World Parish Webinar” has been a platform where we have been shaping conversations in the direction of a decolonial Methodism. Since January 2020, we have been gathering monthly and our group has grown into a global parish, a “people on the move,” to borrow the expression from J. C. Park, developed in his essay later in this volume. This group has been called out as an assembly—an ekklesia—to retrain our theological ways of knowing and to conjure up a decolonial Wesleyan theology.

We have been put on the move through these webinars: we have become a migrant church, pilgriming through many locations as we pursue the task of decolonizing the Wesleyan tradition. The World Parish Webinar became a Pentecost of sorts, a place where we share good news with the accents of a multitude of locations, where we do not pursuit the homogeneity of Empire, but relish on the difference that resists the colonial dream of sameness, of a single voice, of one Wesley, of one homogenous church body. The webinar is ongoing and is convened through Wesley House in Cambridge. If you would like to join the conversation you are welcome to do so. Information can be found at Wesley House’s website.

Decolonizing Wesleyan theology entails the appreciation of difference and alternative forms of knowledge production, different modes of theological imagination, the recognition and negotiation of alternative inheritances. The essays included in the volume embody these principles as they construct a decolonial Wesleyan theology. Combining Wesleyan theology and decolonial theories, this volume offers a unique contribution to Methodist studies, global Methodism, and decolonial theologies.

Decolonizing Wesleyan Theology presents eight reflections that lead readers into deeper engagements with Methodism. They are as follows:

Filipe Maia: "The Wesleyan Quartet: Wesleyan Theology in the Decolonial Turn"

Pablo Guillermo Oviedo: "Grace that Liberates and Unites in the Mission of God: Liberation Theology and Wesleyan Theology in Latin America"

Pablo Manuel Ferrer: "A Decolonial Physic: Medical Science, Healing, and the Ecology of Knowledge in Methodism"

Elvira Moisés Cazombo: "Wesleyan Methodism and the Interruption of Ancestral Bodies in Angolan Liturgical Practices"

Virgínia Inácio dos Santos: "Ministering While Single: An Angolan Perspective on Methodism and Marriage"

Lilian Cheelo Siwila: "Trapped between the Pew and the Altar: Wesleyan Traditions and Decoloniality; An African Feminist Perspective"

J. C. Park: "Decolonizing the Church of Empire: The Church on the Move for Justice, Peace, and Life"

Amelia Koh-Butler: "Water and Sand: Illuminating Native Theologies with a Wesleyan Lens of Spiritual Experience"

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Jefferson Knight: Embracing a New Future for the UMC through Regionalization

Today's post is by Jefferson Knight. Knight is Program Director of the United Methodist Human Rights Monitor in Liberia and a delegate of the Liberia Annual Conference to the 2020 General Conference in 2024 of the United Methodist Church.

The passage of the regionalization petition signals a shift towards a more inclusive and diverse church that recognizes and values the unique needs and contexts of different regions around the world.

This decision allows for greater regional autonomy, enabling churches to address specific challenges and opportunities based on their local context. It promotes a more equitable distribution of power and resources within the church, ensuring that all regions have a voice and influence in decision-making processes.

Furthermore, the passage of the petition aligns with the principles of justice and love that the UMC holds dear. It acknowledges that different regions have different social, cultural, and theological perspectives, and allows for a more inclusive dialogue that respects and values these differences.

I believe that this decision will foster greater unity and collaboration within the UMC, as it encourages a more participatory and globally minded approach to church governance. It is an important step towards creating a church that truly reflects the diversity and richness of its membership, and I applaud us delegates for this overwhelming support of the regionalization petition.

For too long, the UMC has been US-centric, with dominance by the churches in the USA at General Conference. Regionalization will usher in equality everywhere and provide the opportunity to serve God in diverse contexts based on unique theological understandings. This move ensures that churches in different regions can practice their faith authentically without imposing their beliefs on others.

The future of the UMC shines brightly with this decision, signaling a new chapter in our journey. It is time to embrace change, move forward, and rebrand our church for the proclamation of the gospel in a more inclusive and globally conscious manner.