Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Recommended readings: New forms of missional organization in the UMC

As United Methodism struggles to discern how to structure itself to maximize mission and minimize conflict in the wake of General Conference 2019, it is worthwhile looking at two recently-formed missional organizations.

In Switzerland, The United Methodist Church formed a special district for Fresh Expressions churches at the beginning of January. Fresh Expressions is a term for new forms of church that are created to reach new people in new ways. 16 such Fresh Expressions belong to this new district. This new entity takes an existing form of United Methodist polity, the district, and re-purposes it by creating a district based not on geography, but on missional focus.

At the end of February, Filipinos in the United States, the Philippines, and around the world came together to launch the Global Filipino United Methodists Movement. The new organization cuts across existing forms of polity (congregations, agencies, annual conferences, and central conferences/jurisdictions) to unite people from a particular ethnic heritage around missional concerns related to mission in a migrant global diaspora community.

United Methodism and its antecedents have a long history of polity innovation, based mainly on missional needs. One of the hallmarks of Methodism has long been its willingness to develop new forms of structuring its communal life for the sake of advancing its communal mission. These two examples show that United Methodists continue that heritage today.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Robert Hunt: Our Globalist Fantasy

Today's post is written by Dr. Robert Hunt, Director of Global Theological Education, Professor of Christian Mission and Interreligious Relations, and Director of the Center for Evangelism at Perkins School of Theology. This post originally appeared on the author's personal blog, Culture and Christian Encounters. It appears here with permission.

Bob Dylan‘s song “you got to serve somebody“ marked his enigmatic conversion to Christianity. It became popular, and was covered by numerous other artists, because it said something we can all relate to. Schleiermacher himself couldn’t have said it better. No human can escape the web of human interdependencies. And no human can escape that sense, If only fleeting that there is something greater upon which we depend as well.

The genius of the Enlightenment was to seek to make the human response to those human interdependencies, and the absolute dependency on God, entirely voluntary. Humans would no longer be in the thrall to self appointed authorities, whether civil or religious.

American Methodism was a full expression of that Enlightenment ideal. It was born in a twin movement of independence by Americans from the British civil authorities and the church of England. But ultimately American Methodism could not escape from the third grand movement of its opening era; imperialism. With inconsistent exceptions it sent missionaries into the world to create an empire of the spirit. They offered freedom from sin in Jesus Christ but almost simultaneously placed people in thrall to their own Methodist discipline and more broadly Western civilization. At least initially missionaries lacked the perspective to understand either the limitations of their own culture or its implicit diminution of human freedom that it brought.

Put in an other way, the missionaries mistook a voluntary response to the call of the gospel with actual human freedom.

You gotta serve somebody. The American Methodists offered Christ as Lord, but without much subtlety insisted that new converts to the Lord’s service also follow their orders. Initially they made no distinction between Christ and their particular culture of obedience articulated in their discipline.

Still, eventually the missionaries recognized, under the influence of growing bodies of indigenous Christians, the problematic nature of the mission. By the 20th century things were changing.

As indigenous Methodists began to claim their freedom, the more cognizant of the missionaries became partners. Methodists across the world, supported by missionaries, rightly insisted that their hard won national autonomy from western empires be matched by autonomy from American Methodism’s empire of the Spirit. The exceptions, and none went uncontested, were those Methodists who needed the shelter and support of American Methodism in situations of continued religious and political oppression and instability.

The result, by 1968, would be a United Methodist church both managed and supported entirely from the United States but with small and growing appendages in Europe, a few African countries, and the Philippines. All the other former dominions of the old Methodist empire were autonomous. It was this situation that would give birth to a new form of the old imperial fantasy. It would be called Global United Methodism. Many missionaries cringed.

This globalist fantasy came at just the right time to give comfort to American United Methodists observing their own national decline, and to American conservative/traditionalist United Methodists marginalized by the structures of the new UMC and the rapidly changing American culture. Because even in 1968 it was clear that the growing appendages of American Methodism were mostly theologically conservative in the American sense of the word.

Unfortunately exactly what was meant by “Global” wasn’t clear in 1968, nor is it clear now.

The structure of this new “Global United Methodism" was extremely American-centric. Central conferences were given some measure of cultural autonomy. The American church, despite its own cultural variations, continued to be considered the cultural norm from which the Central conferences varied. All of the major boards and agencies remained in the United States. The result is that today United Methodists are politically interdependent to the extent that political power is distributed according to membership, but remain highly dependent financially on the US churches. Participation in the Global UMC was theoretically voluntary but with all property and funding controlled at the center participants were hardly free.

So, we must ask, what does “Global” mean as a description of the United Methodist Church? Pragmatically it has meant primarily: 1. Political structures are uniform across its not-really-global reach, 2. Property and funding are controlled from the center, which is presumed to unify. 3. doctrinal and social principles are shared, if not uniformly adhered to, and 4. US boards and agencies extend their mission globally.

And what does “Global” mean theologically?

Nothing really.

Self-identified traditionalists have focused almost entirely on participation in three supposedly unifying aspects of being church: credal uniformity (including distinctly Wesleyan notes), uniform adherence to traditional western family structures, and a uniformly enforced discipline regulated by a democratically elected General Conference. Only the third of these is distinctly United Methodist in either content or tradition. In the end only thing that binds us together into a distinct Church is law.

Progressives, in so far as they offer a vision of a global church, offer vaguer ideas of being “one in the Spirit” that are no more distinctively United Methodist than the theology of the traditionalists. But instead of a uniformly enforced discipline they focus on “partnerships” as the media joining politically autonomous churches together, leaving us only egalitarian structures of shared power to hold us together.

Both traditionalist and progressive ideas of a global church are actually fruitless fantasizing because they have no theological foundation. National Methodist churches that gained their autonomy from US domination are not going to submit to a common discipline just because it is controlled from a different continent. And a global church isn’t created by pragmatic arrangements for power-sharing. You gotta serve somebody, but I'm guessing that no one wants to serve law and power.

What neither fantasy takes seriously is the inculturated nature of Christianity. The church is inculturated precisely because as the body of Christ it is and expression of the incarnation, which is non-different from the inculturation of God. Given that we now have, as God promises and demands, a diversity of cultures, the theological basis for a global church will need to be intercultural. Culture is the root of difference, and intercultural dialogue is the key to an always emerging unity. And this implies a theology of a sort we haven’t yet imagined, a theology that is inter-incarnational. More on that in another post.

You gotta serve somebody. Maybe we can find a way for it to always be Christ.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Thomas Kemper: Continuities in mission - A reflection on the bicentennial of Methodist mission

Today's piece is by Thomas Kemper, General Secretary of Global Ministries. It continues UM & Global's celebration of the bicentennial of United Methodist missions. This piece originally appeared on Global Ministries' website.

How does the current work of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries compare to the objectives of our oldest predecessor, the Methodist Episcopal Missionary Society, established in 1819? I have reflected on this question as we celebrate our mission bicentennial and I am fascinated by the continuities I see.

Nathan Bangs, the first executive of the missionary society and a historian of early American Methodism, cites six motivations for starting the organization. Two concerned financial considerations and one is sociological—keeping up with what other denominations were doing. The other three, focusing on mission outreach, are the ones I find most interesting. These are: 1) reaching people on the remote western frontier of the young United States; 2) ministry with Native Americans; and 3) extension of mission “to more distant fields” [abroad]. In short, the Missionary Society was intended to enlarge the reach of the gospel to persons and groups not already or well-served by the church, to offer them Christ and accompany them on their faith journeys. This mission outreach is what we still do.

Ministry with indigenous peoples
I am a little amazed that a self-conscious motive for the society’s founding was the possibility of including Native Americans in the Methodist family. This came about primarily through the ministry of a lay pastor named John Stewart, of mixed African-American and white heritage. He preached among the Wyandot people in Ohio beginning around 1815 with the support of the then Ohio Annual Conference and the benevolence of Bishop William McKendree, the third U.S. episcopal leader after Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury. Stories of the work of Stewart enlivened enthusiasm for a missionary society back East.

While Methodists may not have an altogether continuous, or admirable, history of relations with indigenous peoples, such ministry is in our DNA and has been pulled to the forefront in recent years by the UMC Act of Repentance Movement. We must never again let it fall by the wayside.

In the early 1830s, the Missionary Society wet its sights on “distant fields” abroad, first Liberia, Brazil, and then Argentina. This has grown remarkably over the decades, so that today we have missionaries in some 60 countries and mission personnel, projects, and partners in a total of more than 125 countries. And we keep adding new locales. Recent mission initiatives have introduced Methodism to 15 places where it did not formerly exist, and since 2009, these initiatives have started more than 1,000 new worshipping communities.

Ministry with Immigrants
The initial mission society operational plan provided circuit-riding missionary-pastors on the frontier. Bishops serving mission districts called upon the society for funds for such clergy. Immigrants counted in this expansion and our denomination’s contemporary concern for migrants emerges from our mission roots.

The several missionary societies that would emerge in our American Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren history were acutely aware of the influx of immigrants in the mid-to-late 19th century. The M.E. Church Missionary Society organized specific mission outreach to ethnic or nationality groups—such as Norwegians, Germans, Swedes and Italians—who had their own cultures but were on the fringes of life in the New World on arrival.

Ministry with 19th century immigrants by our EUB mission ancestors has personal meaning for me. Immigrants from Germany who settled in the United States joined a predecessor movement that became part of our Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) heritage. Some of these new Wesleyans returned as missionaries to Germany, where they formed the community out of which my family would eventually become United Methodist. So, I have a keen appreciation for the ministry with migrants and those on the edges, giving substance to the realization that migration can be a blessing.

Also, as early as 1850, German Methodists in Bremerhaven, the port city of Bremen, started an Auswanderer Kirche, or “Emigration Church,” to prepare people leaving Germany to link up with Methodists (rather than Lutherans or Catholics) in the new land. They distributed a 24-page pamphlet, “friendly hints (advice) for emigrants,” and they “have done much more than us,” wrote one Lutheran critic at the time.

Ministry with impoverished communities
Christian mission is always at its best when it focuses on those ignored or pushed aside by dominant cultural norms and economic force. We learn this from Jesus and John Wesley, and my own experience as a missionary in Brazil bears it out. I went to Brazil in 1986, where I worked for eight years teaching in a theological seminary. The interaction with students was deeply meaningful and valuable to my growth as a Christian. But the most gripping part of my experience was through an ecumenical ministry with people who were homeless, many living under the freeways of São Paulo.

The street ministry focused on food and worship. Weekly, people living on the streets and our group of volunteers contributed to a common soup pot—vegetables about to be discarded by vendors or bits of fish from shop owners. Everyone contributed to “The Soup” and shared the savory results. Everyone was equal around the common dish. After eating, we sang hymns, praised God, and prayed together. Sometimes we joined marches and protests seeking justice. It was powerful mission.

Two hundred years ago, April 5, 1819, a group of Methodists met at the Forsyth Street Church in New York City to organize a missionary society. They did so, issuing an “address,” very much in the language of its day but with a breadth of vision worth recalling:

"Our views are not restricted to our own nation or colour; we hope the aborigines of our country, the Spaniards of South America, the French of Louisiana and Canada, and every other people who are destitute of the invaluable blessings of the Gospel, as far as our means may admit, will be comprehended in the field of the labours of our zealous missionaries."

Amen.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

"Answering the Call": The Methodist Mission Bicentennial Conference

For the past three days, approximately 250 mission practitioners, mission scholars, denominational leaders, missionaries, and mission agency staff and board members have been meeting in Atlanta to commemorate the bicentennial of Methodist mission. Below is an extract of the schedule to give a sense of the range of topics discussed at this conference, entitled "Answering the Call: Hearing God’s Voice in Methodist Mission Past, Present and Future." The conference is co-sponsored by Global Ministries and Candler School of Theology.

Keynote Address #1
•    “The Virtues of Mission,” The Rev. Dr. Arun Jones, Dan and Lillian Hankey Associate Professor of World Evangelism, Candler School of Theology, Emory University, and Bicentennial Steering Committee Member

Keynote Address #2
•    “Overcoming Wars, Violence, Political, Social and Economic Challenges through Mission: Mission as Peacemaking and Peacebuilding in the North Katanga Area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” Bishop Mande Muyombo, North Katanga Episcopal Area, The United Methodist Church

Keynote Address #3
•    "Trauma Informed Evangelism," The Rev. Elaine A. Heath, Ph.D., Abbess, the Community at Spring Forest, and Former Dean, Duke Divinity School

Youth Address
•    “Turn ______ Upside Down,” Joy Eva Bohol, Program Executive for Youth Engagement, World Council of Churches (WCC), and Global Missionary, Global Ministries

Breakout Session #1: Milestones in Methodist Mission History
Chair: The Rev. Dr. J. Kabamba Kiboko, Lead Pastor, Forest Chapel UMC, President of the African Clergywomen Association, and Bicentennial Steering Committee Member
•    “Precursors to Methodist Mission,” the Rev. Dr. Benjamin L. Hartley, Associate Professor of Christian Mission, George Fox University
•    “The First Women of Theology: Wives, Missionaries, Deaconesses, and the Beginnings of Boston University,” Dr. Dana L. Robert, Truman Collins Professor of World Christianity and History of Mission and Director of the Center for Global Christianity and Mission, Boston University
•    “A Methodist World’s Fair: The 1919 Centenary Celebration of American Methodist Missions,” Dr. Christopher J. Anderson, Special Collections Librarian and Curator of the Day Missions Collection, Divinity Library, Yale University

Breakout Session #2: Native Americans and Methodist Mission
Chair: Thomas Kemper, General Secretary, Global Ministries
•    “John Stewart, the Wyandotte, and the Origins of the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church,” the Rev. Alfred T. Day III, General Secretary, General Commission on Archives and History, and Bicentennial Steering Committee Member
•    “Native American Theology and Methodist Mission,” the Rev. Glen Chebon Kernell Jr., Executive Secretary of Native American and Indigenous Ministries, Global Ministries

Breakout Session #3: Mission and Migration
Chair: Dr. Jehu Hanciles, D.W. and Ruth Brooks Associate Professor of World Christianity, Candler School of Theology, Emory University
•    “Methodist Mission to the Anglophone Caribbean and the Role of their Emancipatory Theology in Mission through their Migration to the USA,” the Rev. Sheryl Marks-Williams, Doctoral Student, Asbury Theological Seminary
•    “Methodist Mission and Migration in Germany,” the Rev. Walther Seiler, Pastor, Evangelisch-methodistische Kirche-Gemeinde Albstadt
•    “Standing in Spiritual and Material Solidarity with Migrants,” Bishop Felipe Ruiz Aguilar, Northeast Annual Conference and President of the General Cabinet, Methodist Church of Mexico

Breakout Session #4: Mission, Peace and Reconciliation
Chair: The Rev. Dr. Anne Burkholder, Associate Dean of Methodist Studies and Professor in the Practice of Ecclesiology and Church Leadership, Candler School of Theology, Emory University
•    “Towards Just Reconciliation: The Mission of the Church in Response to Ethnopolitical Violence in Kenya,” Dr. Kaberia Isaac Kubai, Lecturer, University of Embu
•    “Theology of Reconciliation – American Methodist Missionaries in Okinawa in 1950s,” Dr. Mikio Miyagi, Visiting Research Scholar, Center for Global Christianity and Mission, Boston University School of Theology
•    “Ubuntu, Wesleyan Social Holiness and the Quest for Human Dignity in Contexts of Political Violence,” the Rev. Dr. Fulgence Nyengele, Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling in the Chryst Chair in Pastoral Theology, Methodist Theological School in Ohio
•    "That We May Live Together," Bev Abma, Board Director, American Friends of Asian Rural Institute

Breakout Session #5: Race, Class and Culture in Mission
Chair: Dr. Jason Morgan Ward, Acting Professor, Department of History, Emory University
•    “White Privilege at Work in the Early Methodist Mission to Liberia: The Story of the Rev. George S. Brown, Early African American Missionary,” the Rev. Patricia J. Thompson, Historian, New England Annual Conference
•    “Marketing Mountain Missions,” the Rev. Mike Feely, Director of Mission Advancement, Henderson Settlement
•    “The Mission of Korean Methodist Women in the 1960s: The Pioneers of Cross-cultural Mission,” Younghwa Kim, Doctoral Student, Emory University

Breakout Session #6: New Mission Work in Contemporary Methodism
Chair: The Rev. Dr. Luther J. Oconer, Associate Professor of United Methodist Studies and Director of the Center for Evangelical United Brethren Heritage, United Theological Seminary, and Bicentennial Steering Committee Member
•    The Rev. Andrew Lee, Global Missionary, Global Ministries, serving as Country Coordinator in the Methodist Mission in Cambodia
•    Kristi Painter, US-2 Missionary, Global Ministries, serving at the Arch Street United Methodist Church in Philadelphia
•    Katherine Parker, Global Missionary, Global Ministries, serving as Health and Community Transformation Advisor with the United Mission to Nepal (UMN)

Breakout Session #7: John Wesley and Mission
Chair: The Rev. Alfred T. Day III, General Secretary, General Commission on Archives and History, and Bicentennial Steering Committee Member
•    “John Wesley’s Doctrine of Prevenient Grace and Its Import for Christian Mission in the Chinese World,” the Rev. Chris Payk, Doctoral Student, National Chengchi University
•    “Missio Dei and the Means of Grace: A Theology of Participation,” the Rev. Dr. David Whitworth, Bishop Cornelius and Dorothye Henderson E. Stanley Jones Assistant Professor of Evangelism and United Methodist Strategic Initiatives Liaison, Gammon Theological Seminary

Breakout Session #8: Women Organized for Mission
Chair: Harriett Olson, General Secretary, United Methodist Women
•    “Early Methodist Women Missionaries: Contributions and Legacy,” the Rev. Dr. Philip Wingeier-Rayo, Dean, Wesley Theological Seminary
•    “Women in Mission, United for Change,” the Rev. Dr. Ellen J. Blue, Mouzon Biggs Jr. Professor of the History of Christianity and United Methodist Studies, Phillips Seminary
•    “United Methodist Women and the General Board of Global Ministries: A Symbiotic and Gendered Story of Continuity and Contingency,” Dr. Glory Dharmaraj, Retired Director of Mission Theology, United Methodist Women
•    “The Interiority of Methodist Mission: The Case of Women Missionaries and Korean Women,” the Rev. Dr. K. Kale Yu, Lead Pastor of Mount Zion UMC, and Adjunct Professor of Christianity, High Point University

Breakout Session #9: Mission and Education
Chair: Dr. Amos Nascimento, Associate General Secretary for Global Education and New Initiatives, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, and Bicentennial Steering Committee Member
•    “To Transform the Midnight Empire of Heathendom: John Dempster and the Missional Origins of Methodist Theological Education,” the Rev. Dr. Douglas D. Tzan, Director of the Doctor of Ministry and Course of Study Programs and Assistant Professor of Church History and Mission, Wesley Theological Seminary
•    “Protestantism and Education: Interiorization of the International Methodist Mission in Brazilian Southeast in the Late 19th Century,” Vitor Queiroz Santos, Instructor, Methodist College in Ribeirão Preto
•    “Public Health, Education, and its Impact on Mission in South Africa,” Rev. Dr. Stephen Hendricks, Education Desk Coordinator, Methodist Church of Southern Africa & Dean of Faculty of Dentistry & Professor of Public Health, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, South Africa, South Africa & Executive Director: UMC GBHEM LEaD Regional Hub, South Africa

Breakout Session #10: Mission as Evangelism, Sponsored by the Foundation for Evangelism
Chair: Jane Boatwright Wood, President, Foundation for Evangelism
•    “Healing a Fractured Salvation,” the Rev. Dr. Mark Teasdale, E. Stanley Jones Associate Professor of Evangelism, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
•    “Why Do People Become Methodist Christians in Russia/Eurasia?” the Rev. Dr. Sergei Nikolaev, E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism and President, Moscow Theological Seminary
•    “Missional Formation in Theological Learning and Curricula,” the Rev. Dr. Luis Wesley de Souza, Arthur J. Moore Associate Professor in the Practice of Evangelism, Candler School of Theology, and Director, World Methodist Evangelism Institute (WMEI)

Breakout Session #11: Colonialism and Empire in Mission
Chair: Dr. Joseph Crespino, Jimmy Carter Professor and Department Chair, Department of History, Emory University
•    “Decolonizing Mission Partnerships,” the Rev. Taylor Denyer, President, Friendly Planet Missiology
•    “Re-clothing the Church: A View to Decolonizing Mission in Fiji,” Akanisi Tarabe, Methodist Church in Fiji
•    “Paradigm Shift in 21st century Mission in Post-Colonial Africa: Rethinking the Future of The United Methodist Church in Light of Emerging Challenges,” the Rev. Dr. Nelson K. Ngoy, Pastor, Wesley UMC, New York Annual Conference

Breakout Session #12: United Methodist Volunteers in Mission
Chair: Maclane Heward, Doctoral Student, Claremont Graduate University
•    Ronda Cordill, UMVIM Coordinator, Western Jurisdiction
•    Tammy Kuntz, UMVIM Coordinator, North Central Jurisdiction
•    Matt Lacey, UMVIM Coordinator, Southeastern Jurisdiction
•    Tom Lank, UMVIM Coordinator, Northeastern Jurisdiction

Breakout Session #13: Theological Understandings of Mission
Chair: The Rev. Dr. Luther J. Oconer, Associate Professor of United Methodist Studies and Director of the Center for Evangelical United Brethren Heritage, United Theological Seminary, and Bicentennial Steering Committee Member
•    “UMC Teaching Documents for Mission,” the Rev. Dr. Darryl W. Stephens, Director of United Methodist Studies, Lancaster Theological Seminary
•    “Missional Formation: Theological Education for Methodist Ecclesial Innovation,” the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Conklin-Miller, E. Stanley Jones Assistant Professor of the Practice of Evangelism and Christian Formation, Duke Divinity School
•    “Call of Moana: Oceanic View of Methodist Mission,” the Rev. Dr. Carmen C. Manalac-Scheuerman, Global Missionary, Global Ministries, serving as Professor of Practical Theology, Davuilevu Theological College

Breakout Session #14: African Women and Mission
Chair: Dr. Dana L. Robert, Truman Collins Professor of World Christianity and History of Mission and Director of the Center for Global Christianity and Mission, Boston University School of Theology, and Bicentennial Steering Committee Member
•    The Rev. Dr. Patience Kisakye, Pastor, Port Gibson, Lyons, and Palmyra UMC, Upper New York Annual Conference
•    The Rev. Mariami Bockari, Makeni District Superintendent, Sierra Leone Annual Conference
•    Betty Spiwe Katiyo, Lay Member, West Zimbabwe Annual Conference
•    The Rev. Jacqueline Ngoy Mwayuma, Administrative Assistant to North Katanga Area Bishop Mande Muyombo

Breakout Session #15: Mission, Health, and Healing
Chair: Dr. John Blevins, Associate Research Professor, Hubert Department of Global Health, Emory University
•    “Health, Suffering And Healing: A Systematic-Theological Reflection With Special Reference to Ameru Cultural Context,” the Rev. Dr. Dorcas Kanana Muketha, Lecturer, Chuka University, Kenya
•    “Medicine and the Methodist Mission in Korea,” the Rev. Dr. Gunshik Shim, Retired, New York Annual Conference
•    “Good Religion and Good Agriculture Go Together: The Case of George Roberts,” the Rev. Dr. Rich Darr, Pastor, United Methodist Church of Geneva, Northern Illinois Annual Conference

Breakout Session #16: Ecumenical Dimensions of Mission
Chair: Glenn Kellum, Special Assistant to the General Secretary, Global Ministries, and Bicentennial Steering Committee Member
•    “Methodist Mission in France,” Dr. Michèle Sigg, Associate Director, Dictionary of African Christian Biography, and Managing Editor, Journal of African Christian Biography
•    “Camping to Promote Holiness and Missions,” Bishop Robert Kipkemoi Lang’at, Africa Gospel Church-Kenya
•    “Mission Roundtables in South America: Sharing a Common Mission,” Lic. Humberto Shikiya, Founder and Member of Board of CREAS, Former Director General of CREAS

Breakout Session #17: Methodist Mission and Muslims
Chair: The Rev. Dr. Deanna Ferree Womack, Assistant Professor of History of Religions and Multifaith Relations, Candler School of Theology
•    “Early Encounters with Islam: Methodist Episcopal Missionaries and Muslims in North India in the 19th century,” Dr. Alan M. Guenther, Assistant Professor of History, Briercrest College and Seminary
•    “The Wesleyan Spirit of Mission among Muslims in the Middle East: Its History and Implications,” the Rev. Dr. Sam Kim, Assistant Professor of the E. Stanley Jones School of Mission, Asbury Theological Seminary
•    “The 20th Century Methodist Mission to the Malays: Faithful Mission at the Complex Boundary of Religious Diversity, Ethnic Rivalry and Political Aspirations,” the Rev. Dr. Robert A. Hunt, Director of Global Theological Education and Director of the Center for Evangelism, Perkins School of Theology

Breakout Session #18: Visions of World Methodism
Chair: Dr. David W. Scott, Director of Mission Theology, Global Ministries, and Bicentennial Conference Coordinator
•    “The World Our Parish: Interrogating the Wesleyan Heritage, North American Methodism and Mission in 21st Century Africa,” the Rev. Dr. J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, Ordained Minister of the Methodist Church, Ghana, and President, Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon, Ghana
•    “Finding the Future of British Methodist World Mission,” the Rev. Dr. Stephen Skuce, Director of Global Relationships, The Methodist Church in Britain

Monday, April 8, 2019

United Methodist Mission Bicentennial Stories

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Director of Mission Theology at the General Board of Global Ministries. This post originally appeared in altered form in the Fall 2018 version of New World Outlook.

As a component of the United Methodist mission bicentennial celebration, I have been collecting and sharing stories of Methodists in mission on the bicentennial website. I encourage you to visit the website, read some of these stories, and submit a story of your own.

Reading the 250+ stories on the website has given me a real appreciation of the breadth of Methodist mission over the last two hundred years. Methodists have engaged in evangelism, social justice, health and healing, and education as forms of mission, among others. The wide variety of ways in which Methodists have participated in God’s mission is truly amazing!

Yet it is not surprising. We serve a God whose mercy is wide, whose power is great, and whose creativity is unbounded. Since mission starts with our God who is beyond all our abilities to describe and transcends all limits we may seek to place on God, it is a natural thing that mission should also be multifaceted, complex, and expansive.

I have been struck, too, by the breadth of those Methodists engaged in mission as well as the breadth of the types of mission in which they were engaged. Nowadays, Global Ministries speaks of missionaries going “from everywhere to everywhere.” Certainly, our corps of missionaries is increasingly international compared to previous decades.

Yet, if one looks in the right places, one discovers that mission has always been “from everywhere to everywhere.” Examples abound of people like Kanichi Miyama, a Japanese immigrant to the US in the 19th century, who converted to Methodism in San Francisco, founded Japanese-American Methodism in both California and Hawaii, and eventually returned to Japan as a missionary.

In mission history, as in other types of history, we are too often tempted by the “great man” version of the past, in which the past is a series of heroic exploits by leading individuals, usually men, and usually white Western men at that. Yet when we focus solely on such figures, we overlook the fact that mission has primarily been a women’s movement, both in terms of those who engage in mission and those who have supported mission. We also overlook the critical role that native leaders, usually unnamed and unnoted, have played in making disciples and in mobilizing the church to reach out to its surroundings.

At the bicentennial conference, we are still highlighting some of the great leaders of Methodist mission, but in a way that demonstrates the diversity of Methodists in mission by featuring the following stories (in approximate chronological order) on poster boards at the conference:

John Stewart
Nathan Bangs
Ann Wilkins
Wilhelm Nast
William and Clementina Butler
Mary McClellan Lambuth, Walter Russell Lambuth, and Nora Kate Lambuth Park
William Taylor
Amanda Berry Smith
James and Isabella Thoburn
Frances Willard and Katharine (Kate) Bushnell
Gertrude Howe, Ida Kahn, and Mary Stone
Francisco Penzotti
Lochie Rankin
Belle Harris Bennett
William Oldham
Teikichi Sunamoto
Henry and Ella Appenzeller
Dr. Marietta Hatfield, Dr. Mabel Silver, and Rotifunk Hospital
Andres Martinez, Kicking Bird, and J. J. Methvin
Herbert Welch
John R. Mott
Alma Mathews and Kathryn Maurer
Anna Eklund
Susan Collins, Anna Hall, and Martha Drummer
William Springer, Helen Rasmussen Springer, and Tshangand Kayeke
E. Stanley Jones
Justina Showers
Helen Kim and Prudencia Fabro
Vivienne and U.S. Gray
J. Harry Haines
Mai Gray
Theressa Hoover

Of course, by focusing only on the greats of whatever background, we miss the faithful, dedicated service of everyday people, ordained and lay, in mission. We miss stories such as Billie Rench of Michigan, who faithfully promoted mission among Methodists of the Detroit Conference for decades, or Rhodes Chimonyo, who served for a long time as the treasurer of Methodism in Zimbabwe as a Person in Mission, or Ed Ririe, who volunteered for 27 UMVIM trips in his life and died while on his last trip.

It is everyday people like this that have made up the bulk of Methodists involved in mission over the last 200 years; it is everyday people that make up the bulk of Methodists involved in mission today; and it will surely be everyday people that will make up the bulk of Methodists involved in mission in the future. We are all missionaries, and whether or not our deeds are written in the human annals of the history of mission, they will surely be recorded in the heavenly book.

Friday, April 5, 2019

The Bicentennial of United Methodist Mission

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Director of Mission Theology at the General Board of Global Ministries. This post originally appeared in altered form in the Fall 2018 version of New World Outlook.

Today is the bicentennial of United Methodist mission, commemorating the April 5, 1819, founding of the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the first denomination-wide mission society in the American tradition of Methodism. The Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church is also the earliest forerunner of today’s General Board of Global Ministries. The bicentennial is thus both a chance to celebrate mission broadly in The United Methodist Church, its predecessors, and related traditions, and a chance to wish Global Ministries a special “Happy Birthday!”

By observing this milestone anniversary, I hope that reflecting on Methodist mission in the past will inspire and encourage us in the present to lay the groundwork for continued mission by Methodists in the future. In that way, this bicentennial is not just about what God has already done through the people called Methodists as part of God’s mission (missio Dei). It is about what God is doing now and what God will continue to do in years to come.

The Missionary Society was founded by white Methodist leaders in New York City, who were inspired by the work of John Stewart, a lay Methodist of mixed African-American, Native-American, and white heritage, who undertook on his own initiative to conduct evangelistic mission among the Wyandotte (or Wyandot) Native Americans of Ohio. Stewart, working with African-American translator Jonathan Pointer and native converts such as Chief Between-the-Logs, produced a significant movement of Wyandotte who converted to Methodism. It was the first time any native group had chosen to become Methodist in significant numbers, and it gave Methodist leaders hope that Methodism might have something to offer other groups beyond the borders of the developing American nation state.

Forever Beginning
While the founding of the Missionary Society makes a convenient point from which to measure Methodist mission history, designating a precise beginning to Methodist mission is difficult to do. Methodism has in been a missionary movement since its very beginning. The first Methodist mission work outside of the British Isles began in 1759 in Antigua. The first preachers appointed by Wesley to the American colonies were Richard Boardman and Joseph Pillmore, sent in 1769, 50 years prior to the Missionary Society. John Stewart himself started his work in 1816, three years before the Missionary Society.

Even when it comes to mission societies, Methodist origins are complicated. The first denomination-wide mission society in Methodism is the British Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society (WMMS), approved by the British conference in 1818, the year before its American counterpart was founded (and two years before the 1820 General Conference affirmed that founding for the entire denomination). Yet British Methodists mark their mission history from the WMMS’s creation at the district level in 1813. In the United States, too, there were local and regional mission organizations before the creation of the Missionary Society.

If the Missionary Society was not quite the first mission organization, nor would it be the last started by Methodists. The Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC), Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS), Methodist Protestant Church, Evangelical Association, and United Brethren in Christ, all predecessors of today’s United Methodist Church, would found a variety of mission agencies over the course of the 19th century, which conducted a variety of domestic and foreign work. Of particular note were women’s mission societies. The first denomination-wide women’s mission society in Methodism was the MEC Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society (WFMS), founded on March 23, 1869, 50 years after the Missionary Society. Thus, today’s United Methodist Women, heirs of the WFMS, are celebrating their 150th anniversary this year.

These many beginnings yield a conclusion and a corollary about mission. The conclusion is that mission is first and foremost an activity and only secondarily an organization. Mission begins with the activity of God, which churches and individual Christians join in. Yet even for humans, mission activity at least initially precedes mission organization. Thus, many of the great missionaries of Methodism, from John Stewart to William Wadé Harris to William Taylor, boldly went beyond the organizations of their time. Migrants in particular have consistently pushed the church into new forms of mission and therefore mission organization.

The primacy of mission as activity over organization also highlights a corollary: the organizations tasked with mission are always changing and growing. Global Ministries is now 200 years old, and I pray that it may continue to endure as a means of God’s mission for many years to come. But I also expect that Global Ministries will look different in 20, 50, 100, or 200 years than it does now. Such change is natural and a sign that Methodists are being faithful in following God to engage in mission with the world around us as it is currently, and not just as it was in the past.

Moving Forward
When Methodists in the Methodist Episcopal Church and Methodist Episcopal Church, South, came together to celebrate the Centenary of mission a century ago, the tone was different. American Methodists, riding the high of victory in World War I, took a decidedly triumphalist and nationalist approach to celebrating Methodism’s role in God’s mission in the world. Mission was more or less equated with the spread of American democracy. The language used to describe Methodism’s extensive mission work reflected a white, American sense of superiority over other groups, mingled with concern for their well-being.

Yet even in this high point of mission tied to the powers of the world, there were hints of how God was moving in mission among the margins. The first church to reach its financial pledge for the Centenary fundraising drive was not a big-steeple American church. It was a church in Buenos Aires. The group that gave most generously to that fundraising drive was an annual conference of German immigrants in the Pacific Northwest of the US. While the leaders of the Centenary were focused on endorsements from US President Woodrow Wilson, everyday Methodists around the world – in Korea, China, the Philippines, Norway, Denmark, Liberia, and more – used the opportunity to mobilize, to pray, to give generously, and to renew their commitment to follow Jesus in mission. Their work may have been of more enduring value than that of the leading lights of the day.

The world has changed a great deal in the last hundred years, and the church has changed much as well. It is perhaps easier now to recognize that the Holy Spirit is at work in places that were overlooked a century ago. The great growth of Methodism in Africa over the past century is perhaps the most striking example. Looking back over the past 200 years of Methodist mission shows us how God has led Methodists to do great things in mission before and the ways in which God is leading us on to perfection as we seek to do mission in ever better and more faithful ways. Thus, looking back inspires us, informs us, and impels us forward into the next centuries of Methodist mission.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Other global Methodist bodies

In the wake of General Conference 2019, there has been many musings about what the outcome of that event has meant, and especially what it has meant for The United Methodist Church as a "global" or "worldwide" body. Some of these writings have stressed the UMC's unique nature as a worldwide yet connectional body. Certainly, the UMC is unique relative to Lutherans, Baptists, Catholics, and many others with regard to how it combines connectionalism and geographic extent.

Yet is is worthwhile remembering in discussions that the UMC is not unique in its attempt to be a global yet connectional body. In varying ways, several of its sibling denominations seek to do the same thing: the Church of the Nazarene, the Free Methodist Church, The Wesleyan Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church Zion, and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church all could lay claim to being worldwide and connectional. In fact, it is arguably the Church of the Nazarene, not the UMC, that is the most global Methodist body.

For those seeking a quick review on the worldwide polity of several of these bodies, some comparisons to the UMC, and what overall lessons can be drawn, here are some previous UM & Global posts on the topic:

Comparative Wesleyan Global Polity - The African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and The United Methodist Church

Comparative Wesleyan Global Polity - The Wesleyan Church and The United Methodist Church

Comparative Global Wesleyan Polity - The Free Methodist Church and The United Methodist Church

Comparative Global Wesleyan Polity: The Church of the Nazarene and The United Methodist Church

Comparative Global Wesleyan Polity - Concluding Thoughts, Part I: Variety and Windows of Opportunity

Comparative Global Wesleyan Polity - Concluding Thoughts, Part II: Size and Focus