Monday, July 15, 2019

What Options Do Central Conferences Have in the Face of Reduced American Subsidies?

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Director of Mission Theology 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.

As a previous post explained, churches, annual conferences, and other groups in the United States provide significant financial, in-kind, technical, and personnel subsidies to churches, annual conferences, and other ministries in the central conferences. However, for a variety of reasons, those subsidies are likely to decrease, perhaps quite significantly, in coming years. The question then arises of what options central conferences have for their ministries in the face of reduced American subsidies.

It is important to state up front that some, perhaps many, of the decisions about subsidized ministries and programs in the central conferences will not be made by people in the central conferences themselves but rather by the Americans who are currently sending the subsidies. For those ministries and programs completely dependent on American or general agency support, it is effectively Americans and/or general agency boards and staff who will make decisions about the fate of ministries in the central conference, not the people from central conferences conducting those ministries.

Despite the ways in which American decision-making will impact those in the central conferences, central conference church leaders also have agency in this process. Thus, there are a variety of decisions they can make or strategies they can adopt in the face of reduced American subsidies.

Before getting to those decisions and strategies, it is useful to get a sense of what a central conference perspective on the ministries subsidized by US Americans might be. One might perhaps think of four categories of subsidized ministries:

1. Ministries that are a priority for Americans, but not a priority for those in the central conferences. Any decent development literature review will reveal that it is common for charitable projects to go forward, not because the intended recipients have any interest in the project or the goods it intends to produce, but because of the desire of the donor(s) to support that project. This practice occurs in US subsidies of central conference ministries as well.

2. Ministries that are a priority for those in the central conferences, but not a high priority. Here, one might think of ministries that provide incremental improvements in quality of life but do not impact issues of life and death nor the basic function of the church. Such ministries include upgrading functional if suboptimal equipment and facilities, expanding the scope of existing ministries such as health and education to reduce difficulties in accessing them, and adding new components to existing ministries.

3. Ministries that provide vital health, educational, or other services but that do not affect the basic functioning of local congregations. These include hospitals, clinics, schools, and the like. These ministries provide important, even lifesaving, services not just to United Methodists, but also to others in their communities. They may also form important parts of United Methodist witness in their local contexts. Nonetheless, local congregations could continue to function as worshipping communities without such ministries.

4. Ministries that are essential to the operation of local congregation. These include salaries and transportation for pastors, Bibles and hymnals for congregants, church buildings, and supervision by bishops and district superintendents.

With those four types of subsidized ministries in mind, here are the range of options that central conferences have in the face of reduced US subsidies for those ministries.

First, central conferences could simply reduce the number or extent of ministries offered according to the reduction in subsidies. Simply accepting ministry cuts as a consequence of US-decided cuts in the amount of subsidies for those ministries is most likely for the first two categories of ministries: those that are not a priority or are a low priority to people in the central conferences. Such cuts might be somewhat disappointing to those in the central conferences, but not devastating.

Second, central conferences could attempt to identify other partners who could make up for the reduced amounts of the subsidies. Attempting to expand existing partnerships is the easiest way to make up for those reductions, so central conferences are likely to ask more of their annual conference and local church partners in light of reduced general church apportionments, though given the threats to such relationships, that strategy may or may not be successful. Non-governmental organizations, either religious or secular, are also likely sources for new funding to make up for reductions in US subsidies. This strategy could work for any type of ministry, though it is more likely to be effective where there are existing partnerships that can be built upon and where the priorities of new funders or funders stepping up their commitments align well with the priorities of those in the central conferences.

Third, central conferences could increase the extent to which their ministries operate on a fee-for-service model. That is, they could charge the beneficiaries of those ministries for the services provided. This approach is most likely in education and health, where fee-for-service is a common practice and may already exist in some form in these ministries as they currently operate. Additional fee-for-service revenues can come either by charging those who had previously received services for free or by increasing the cost of already paid services. The extent to which ministries can successfully collect fees for services depends in part upon the economic capacity of the populations they serve and on the perceived quality and value of the services offered.

Fourth, central conferences could increase the amount of self-funding through apportionments and other giving collected from the churches in those central conferences. Thus, central conferences would attempt to raise more money locally to make up for reduced money (and other subsidies) from the US. Certainly, this approach, like fee-for-services, will be constrained by the economic realities of United Methodist members in those central conferences. This model is also likely to serve as the best indication of what a central conference’s priorities truly are. The operation of churches as worshipping communities and evangelism to start new churches are likely to be the highest priority on which central conferences are willing to spend their own money. Some health and educational services may also fall into this category.

In all likelihood, of course, central conferences will use a combination of these strategies to make up for reduced US subsidies. The exact mix of strategies will depend on the type of ministry, its priority within that central conference, the range of partnerships cultivated by that central conference, and the financial realities in that central conference. This component of the financial realities in the central conferences will be addressed in a future post.

Friday, July 12, 2019

A Primer on American Subsidies to Central Conferences

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Director of Mission Theology 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.
One significant feature of the financial realities of The United Methodist Church is that the American (and Western European) branches of the church provide extensive funding, in-kind gifts, technical expertise, and human resources for a variety of ministries in the central conferences. This practice can be read as a just response to global economic inequalities, a commendable practice of charity, or a form of neo-colonial control. Whether such subsidies are good, bad, or indifferent is a case-by-case personal judgment, and this post will not attempt to make such judgments.

Instead, this post will briefly cover the ways in which American (and Western European) churches subsidize ministry elsewhere and why those subsidies are currently at risk. A subsequent post will explore what options central conferences have if/when those subsidies do decrease.

While the remainder of this post will focus exclusively on American subsidies of central conferences, it should be noted that United Methodists in Norway, Germany, and Switzerland also provide funds, in-kind gifts, technical expertise, and personnel for programs in the central conferences through the work of their mission agencies and church partnerships. Such assistance is real and valuable, though since it occurs at a much smaller scale than American subsidies, this post will focus primarily on subsidies from the US to the central conferences.

First, a review of the mechanisms by which American churches subsidize ministry in the central conferences. There are five main mechanisms:

1. Apportionment funds that are explicitly directed toward the central conferences, such as bishops’ salaries paid from the episcopal fund, the Africa University Fund, the Central Conference Theological Education Fund, etc. In 2018, 99% of apportionments collected came from US churches, so while a future post will examine central conference apportionments as a part of their overall finances, practically speaking, most apportionment funds are a form of US subsidy.

2. Programs, grants, and assistance from the general boards and agencies, which subsidize a wide variety of mission, health, education, social justice, evangelism, infrastructure, and other programmatic expenses in the central conferences. Since apportionments are a significant source of funds for the general boards and agencies, as are direct contributions from Americans, most general agency funds sent to the central conferences can also be regarded as a form of American subsidy.

3. Monies and in-kind gifts given by US annual conferences through direct annual conference-to-annual conference partnerships. US annual conferences often have on-going relationships with annual conferences (or episcopal areas or non-profits) in the central conferences. These relationships typically involve financial support and in-kind gifts and services for a variety of programs and expenses.

4. Monies and in-kind gifts given by US local churches who have partnerships with local churches or entire annual conferences in the central conferences. These may be either one-time fundraising campaigns or on-going relationships that involve financial support and in-kind gifts and services.

5. Monies and in-kind gifts and services given by United Methodist-related para-church organizations. A variety of unofficial United Methodist groups, such as Good News, the Wesleyan Covenant Association, and Reconciling Ministries Network, have historically or have announced their intention to fund ministries in the central conferences or provide services, including training, to central conferences. The funding for such para-church groups is overwhelmingly if not entirely American in origin.

While historically, significant amounts of funds and assistance have gone from the United States to the central conferences via these mechanisms, most of these mechanisms are currently under threat for a variety of reasons.

A primary threat to US subsidies for the central conferences is the threat of reduced apportionments. Some US churches are withholding apportionments to the general church because of their objection to some aspect of the current debate over gay marriage and gay ordination in the church. These withholdings have already made an impact in the amount of apportionments collected since General Conference 2019. In addition, the GCFA board has proposed a steep cut in the amount of apportionments collected from American churches in the next quadrennium. A potential church split would further reduce total collected apportionments. These reductions affect both apportionment funds that go directly to central conferences and funds from general boards and agencies.

The other primary threat is the discontinuation of direct relationships between US annual conferences and local churches on the one hand and annual conferences and local churches in the central conferences on the other. Anecdotal stories have already circulated about both progressive and traditionalist churches cutting existing funding relationships with overseas partners because of their objections to how General Conference 2019 unfolded. More such discontinuations of relationships are possible, and were there to be a church split, it would likely result in further ruptured relationships.

It is difficult to establish a dollar figure for the current amount of ministry subsidies sent by the US to the central conferences. Moreover, the size, scope, and focus of possible reductions in US subsidies of central conference ministries remain to be seen. Nevertheless, it is almost assured that US subsidies as a whole will decline, though the various proposed plans for the future of The United Methodist Church that will be mooted over the next several months will affect these subsidies in different ways.

Given such impending reductions, the question naturally arises, “What will the central conferences do?” A subsequent post will attempt to answer just that question.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Mariama Seray B. Bockari – African Women and Mission, Part I

Today’s post contains the first of two parts of remarks prepared by Rev. Mariama Seray B. Bockari for the panel “African Women and Mission” at the Methodist Mission Bicentennial Conference. Rev. Bockari is a District Superintendent in the Sierra Leone Annual Conference.

The Almighty God and creator of humankind has engaged men and women in the past for the execution of His great programme of redemption. As He did in the past, so He is working through men and women today to show His great love to the lost. At creation, He made them male and female to compliment the effort of each other in the task He gave to them.

Having a purpose to accomplish on earth and having more work to do, God called men and women to be co-labourers with Him in the building of His church here on earth.

What is mission?
Mission means sending or to be sent. Christ came to seek and to save the lost, and He called His church to join Him in this. This is mission.

To be called to mission work is one of the highest callings one can receive. It is a sacred responsibility and should be considered a privilege to become partners with God.

The call to mission is not a preference among alternatives. It is a militant command that requires immediate action. It is usually clear and distinct. And those who are called have some knowledge about or are captured by something beyond human comprehension, e.g., Moses in the burning bush (Ex. 3: 4-6), Elijah in the cave (1 Kings 19: 9-15), or Saul’s encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9: 1-8).

Friends, the God who called in biblical times is still calling people today. From nothing, God made those called to be something, and those who were called were empowered for mission work. Their focus and emphasis in ministry remain unchangeable.

The role of women in the plan of redemption
Although the first sin came through a woman, yet to fulfill God’s plan for redemption, the Saviour came through a woman.

In the Old Testament, women were not relegated to the background of the home and domestic work. They held prominent positions in the church and society.

Deborah was a judge and prophetess in Israel (Judges 4:4). Hulda was a prophetess and spiritual leader (2 Kings 22:14). Esther was queen in Susa (Esther 4: 15-17). Abigail was a woman with brain and beauty (1 Sam. 25:3). All these and Anna (Luke 2: 36-38) are examples of women who influenced their generation positively.

In the New Testament, women also influenced prominent places and situations. In the gospel, we read of several women messengers who proclaimed the Good News (Matt. 2: 1-10; Luke 24: 9-12; John 4:28-30 and 20: 16-18).

In Romans 16, we have records of a number of women who served the Lord in various churches: Phoebe (Romans 16: 1-2), Priscilla (v3-5), Mary and Tryphena. Priscilla was specifically used of God to touch lives of people in Rome, Greece and Asia Minor. She housed Paul, led a home cell group and was assigned by Paul to disciple Apollos (Acts 18:21). Priscilla’s role in cross-cultural service was perceived by Paul as unique.

In contemporary times, women like Martin Luther King’s wife Coretta Scott King, Florence Booth and Mary Slessor have made remarkable positive influences on their husbands, their children and the entire world.

What is the role of United Methodist Church women in relation to this?
Since the merger of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church in 1968, which led to the development of The United Methodist Church, women have been active in mission work. Many people agree that the more difficult and dangerous the work, the more women volunteer to do it, and The United Methodist Church and United Methodist Church women are no exception to this. They have demonstrated a holistic approach with emphasis on both evangelism and meeting human needs.

They have shown a deep commitment and concern to other women and children. Medical work and economic structures were commonly the focus of their work.

Today, some of the ministries of the women in The United Methodist Church include:
  1. Teaching, counseling and leading of other women (Titus 2:25)
  2. Women’s prayer meeting (Acts 16: 12-15)
  3. Ministry of visitation (Matt. 25:36; James 1:27)
  4. Ministry of hospitality (2 Kings 4: 8-10; Hebrews 13:2; Timothy 5:10)
  5. Ministry of singing (Ex. 15: 20-21)
  6. Ministry of soul winning (Matt. 28: 18-20; Mark 16:15; Joshua 4: 28-30)
How can the women of today emulate others in mission?
For the purpose of reaching others for Christ, today’s women can emulate the women in both the Old and New Testament by using their:
  1. Meals: Friends and neighbours could be invited to our homes, during which we share our testimonies (Acts 2: 46-47).
  2. Homes: Women can offer their homes for meeting places.
  3. Talents: We can use our talents to help the poor and needy in the church by teaching them to do petty trading and craft to learn their living. Women can organize lessons for school children and illiterates as a minimal cost with the hope of winning them to the Lord.
  4. Substances: Women can use their money and materials to help pastors, believers and unbelievers.
Women in evangelism in Africa
The role of women in mission and the evangelization of Africa specifically is becoming more and more important as we approach the end of the age. These include:
  1. Ministry to children and youths. Many of the children and youths are wayward, drug addicts and prostitutes. Women of the church can volunteer to care for and teach others the way of salvation that will qualify them for leadership roles in the future.
  2. Ministry of hospitality, comfort and visitation. Women should provide care and comfort to the bereaved, orphans, widows, aged, poor and needy, sick and handicapped.
  3. Prison ministry. The women who are confined to the prison need our love and the gospel to set them free.
  4. Ministry to rural people. The primitive and illiterate who live in villages are more open to women than men. The woman can learn their languages and reach out to them.
  5. Ministry to social misfits. Singles, mothers and prostitutes get discouraged and frustrated because of the hardship and harshness they are exposed to. Church women are more suited for ministering to this category of persons.
In circles where there have been controversies concerning the ministry of women, new openings can be observed. Most churches are giving more opportunities for women to become involved in evangelism, seminary training, missions work, children’s welfare, radio and TV ministries, correspondence and counseling testimonies. All of these are abounding in abiding fruits of women’s ministry. The need for women’s ministry in the church is supported by several reasons, including:
  1. The population of women is about half or more of the population of the world. Multitudes of these women have peculiar needs that attract special attention, which can best be handled by women.
  2. Women by nature have caring, compassionate qualities and experience, which better provide them the opportunities to counsel on sensitive areas in the lives of women.
  3. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh shows that God will not waste His gift on women if it is not needed (Joel 2: 28-29).
  4. Women are better equipped with love, gentleness, tenderness and knowledge needed to reach millions of children in the world and lead them in the right direction of Christ.
There is a diversity of ministries yet undiscovered which women of the African church can be fully involved in. We are to depend on God to open our eyes to these areas and rise up to the great task committed to our hands by Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Recommended Reading: World Methodist Council statement on mission with migrants

Last month, the World Methodist Council brought together representatives from many of its constituent denominations in London to discuss issues related to migration. These included issues of joint ministry and polity that have arisen from situations where migrants from one Methodist tradition have formed churches in a geographic area in which another Methodist tradition predominates.

One result of that consultation is the statement "God Is On The Move: A Call to Be the Church in a New Way."

The statement speaks very positively about migration and migrants and affirms the importance of ministry with migrants and ministry by migrants. It also lays forth a set of principles for ministry collaboration between migrant and host Christian communities. The document and the principles are well worth a read.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Jacqueline Ngoy Mwayuma - African Women and Mission, Part III

Today’s post contains remarks prepared by Rev. Jacqueline Ngoy Mwayuma for the panel “African Women and Mission” at the Methodist Mission Bicentennial Conference. Rev. Mwayuma is administrative assistant to Bishop Mande Muyombo of the North Katanga Episcopal Area. Rev. Mwayuma’s remarks are translated from French.

The Role of African Women in Mission, Today and Tomorrow
Women are the strength and vitality of the churches of Africa by their great number, their drive and their constant availability. They are the bold energy of God, indispensable today as they have never been, capable of provoking a change. They are everywhere and interconnected.

They keep the flame of faith awake, especially in the most remote areas. They transmit the faith to children, who are the face of the future generation of the church of tomorrow.

Despite the zeal of the male missionaries, their efforts do not produce sufficient fruit if they are not helped by women.

For example, consider M. Louis and Madame Deschact and Marc Nelis and his wife, missionaries among the teachers at the United Methodist station of Mulungwishi. They cannot fulfill this ministry themselves. Only women can freely approach pagan women, maintain with them loving relationships, heal their evils, touch their hearts.

It is thus that the doors open wide before women, not only those of preaching but also those of female education, pastoral coordination, the ministry of evangelization, medical work, as well as the exercise of the hospitality.

Africa is a continent characterized by wars, violence, discrimination and poverty. Several African women have decided to lead a fight for a better life through an evangelistic and pastoral ministry. Consider these cases:

- Reverend Joaquina F. Nhanala, first woman United Methodist Bishop on the African continent, serving in Mozambique;

- Reverend Kabamba Kiboko, first woman pastor in the South Congo Annual Conference. Currently head pastor of Forest Chapel United Methodist Church in the city of Cincinnati, OH;

- Reverend Jacqueline Ngoy Mwayuma, first woman Assistant to the Bishop in the North Katanga Episcopal Area in the Democratic Republic of Congo;

- The Reverend Mutombo Kimba, first female Methodist pastor in the North Katanga Episcopal Area, subsequently working in the South Congo region and Zambia;

- Ms. Leymah Gbowee, a Methodist woman from Liberia who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her role in the management of a women's peace movement;

- Mother Odette Kalangwa and Ngoie Mutwale, missionary women from northern Katanga and Tanzania.

Nowadays women have a strong influence, especially in social work, education, technical training, etc.

The future of the mission of The United Methodist Church in Africa is to increase evangelization in difficult to reach areas. We must use all the means available to achieve our objectives, with a single goal of strengthening and extending the trust of the mission. This is based on the church's main mission, which is to put faith into action by making all nations disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the whole world.

With God's help, I wish that all mission activities continue, for Jesus said in the Gospel according to John (10:10b) that he came to give a life in abundance. It would be better that the people who will be brought to Jesus enjoy this life in the church of God. The church must open its buildings and systems to persons with disabilities, orphans, widows and widowers, must welcome those who have mental and psychological difficulties and work in a way that integrates each person.

And then the church is called to reflect the love of one’s neighbor by reassuring them of their basic needs such as food, clothing, housing, education, health care etc.

Jesus himself was the example. Wherever he went proclaiming the word of God, he was not indifferent to the sick, nor to the hungry (Luke 7:21), nor to the suffering. In the Gospel according to Matthew (15:31), the crowd was in awe to see that the mute spoke, that the crippled were healed, that the lame walked, that the blind saw. All glorified the God of Israel.
As a church, all these activities should not be separated. They must evolve simultaneously.

Since it is the primary activity, evangelism must be the main purpose of a church for the transformation of the world, bringing lost souls to Christ (Matthew 28:19).

The Church must support all activities without regarding one as more important than the other.

The Church must ensure active participation in all activities, according to the organization, in order to contribute to its development.

The Church must expand the ministry of compassion to needy people, because faith and social work go together hand in hand. This leads us to say that the relationship between these activities must be regarded as an equal one.

To do so, it is appropriate to give the woman all the necessary training so that she is able to regain her dignity and improve her condition of life in the church. Education is necessary because it allows her to play her full part and ensures greater integration into the structure of the Church in the decision-making process.

We affirm that men and women are created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27). All human beings are endowed with an equal degree of the same dignity. In the Lord, the woman is no different than the man, and the man is no different than the woman.

For just as the woman was taken out of the man, so is the man born by the woman, and all come from God (1 Corinthians 11:11-12). What is important is to encourage African women to bring their stone to the building of the church, that they are not only necessary in the field of the family, that they have ecclesial positions like men because of the educational and transformative power of this equality for a church of tomorrow.

Women’s potential must be taken into account by entrusting them with responsibilities in the ministry of evangelism because they are very present and very engaged in the daily life of the communities. Without the contribution of women, the Africa of tomorrow will not succeed in its evangelizing mission.

Monday, July 1, 2019

The World Methodist Council and World-Wide Methodism

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Director of Mission Theology 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.

One of the reasons why the COSMOS proposals for an International Methodist Church or a World Methodist Council of Churches never really got off the ground was the existence of the World Methodist Council (WMC) as an alternative avenue for relationship. At the same time, some United Methodists now have suggested that the WMC could be a means for maintaining relationships in the likely event of a breakup of The United Methodist Church. Thus, it is worth describing what the WMC is, how it is structured, and what is does.

The World Methodist Council is made up of over 70 participating Methodist, Wesleyan, and United denominations. Some of these are autonomous Methodist churches in the British Methodist tradition. Some are autonomous Methodist churches in the American Methodist tradition. Some are world-wide churches in the African-American Methodist tradition. Some are world-wide churches in the American Wesleyan/holiness tradition. Some are nationally-based united churches that were formed from the merger of Methodist and other Protestant churches.

One very important member denomination of the WMC is The United Methodist Church. The UMC is the largest participating denomination in terms of membership, and it provides a lot of the personnel, organizational structure, and drive that enable the work of the WMC.

The UMC also contributes the largest amount of funding to the WMC. The UMC contributes about two-thirds of the total dues from participating denominations, which collectively make up 83% of the WMC's operating budget. Put another way, the UMC is responsible for over half (57%) of the WMC's total budget. This doesn't include indirect subsidies, such as the UMC covering the expenses for representatives from autonomous churches to attend the World Methodist Conference. Any future in which there is less UMC money to support shared ministry is quite likely a future in which the WMC takes a substantial financial hit and is less able to facilitate shared ministry.

There are several means by which the WMC promotes intra-Methodist relationships and shared ministry. Perhaps the most visible is the World Methodist Conference, which happens every five years. The origins of the WMC as an organization lie in the World Methodist Conferences, which have been meeting periodically since 1881. The next Conference will be in 2021 in Sweden. This group has no legislative power over participating denominations. It focuses on fellowship, worship, electing officers for the WMC, and overseeing the WMC's committee structure.

Carrying forward the work of the WMC in between conferences are a council president (currently J. C. Park of South Korea), a very small staff led by the General Secretary (currently Ivan Abrahams of South Africa), a steering committee, and a system of program committees.

Because of the extremely limited personnel resources in the WMC itself, much of the work that the organization does, it does through its program committees. Yet the committees vary greatly in the extent to which they function effectively and facilitate significant shared ministry among participating denominations. More effective committees are often dominated by a few strong individuals with clear ideas about what they want to accomplish and an understanding of the WMC as a salutary way to accomplish it.

In addition to the committee structure, the WMC serves as an umbrella for "affiliate" programs, which are operated mostly independently, but which have at least a nominal connection to the WMC. That connection can help draw in a wider variety of Methodist/Wesleyan/United participants to these programs and can also serve as evidence for or a justification of the "world-wide" nature of such programs. In reality, much of this programming originates in, is led by, and is funded by (mostly United Methodist) Americans or British Methodists.

The work that the WMC carries out generally falls into a few categories: education, evangelism, ecumenism, history, and peace-making. In education, the WMC is the origins of the International Association of Methodist School, Colleges, and Universities, which is mostly supported by GBHEM of the UMC, and other affiliate scholarly programs. In evangelism, the WMC serves as an umbrella for World Methodist Evangelism and the World Methodist Evangelism Institute, both American organizations with origins in the work of Eddie Fox and Maxie Dunnam. In ecumenism, the WMC operates the Methodist Ecumenical Office in Rome and the Methodist Liaison Office in Jerusalem (funded and staff mostly by Americans and Brits) and represents Methodists in discussions with other world faith communions. In history, the WMC maintains the World Methodist Museum in Lake Junaluska, NC, and has connections to some other affiliate programs. In peace-making, the WMC awards the annual World Methodist Peace Award.

As one can see, the WMC is often dominated financially and programmatically by The United Methodist Church and its American members, but in ways that often depend upon the current structures of apportionments and boards and agencies. Moreover, this domination by American United Methodists causes tensions with other participating denominations, who may resent this dominance or may have a different sense of what world-wide Methodist priorities should be.

Thus, there are three main challenges to the WMC serving as a means of continuing currently internal UMC international relationships in a post-UMC world. First, without the UMC as it currently exists, the WMC is likely to be a less robust organization that is less able to facilitate relationships and shared ministry. Second, if (post-)United Methodists try to remake the WMC for their own purposes, this could encounter strong resistance from other Methodist/Wesleyan/United denominations who already to some extent resent UMC domination of the WMC. Third, the priorities that the UMC might have for the WMC in serving as a means of continuing relationships may clash with priorities other denominations (some of whom already have internal international collaboration) may identify for the organization.

Friday, June 28, 2019

D.T. Niles: World Methodism

The following are excerpts from a piece written by Methodist theologian and missiologist D.T. Niles entitled "World Methodism: A Memorandum." That piece was written on April 4, 1965. These excerpts provide some of the theological convictions behind Niles' proposal for a World Methodist Conference of Churches, considered by the Commission on the Structure of Methodism Overseas (COSMOS) of the Methodist Church, predecessor to The United Methodist Church. The original document is held by the Commission on Archives and History in Madison, NJ.
1. The Church throughout the world is one family and is under compulsion to seek to live a common family life. Jesus Christ is enough to maintain this unity, as well as to support the diversity that must exist within the family.

In terms of structure this will mean an autonomous church in the “locality” which is open at both ends: towards Church Union in the locality and towards participation in an international community. Indeed, no structure must be created, and no posture adopted which will make more difficult the quest for Church Union going on in different parts of the world than it is already. Particularly, financially strong churches must remember that they can unwittingly create a situation in which it is felt that gratitude for financial aid must be expressed by accepting policies which will please the donor churches.

2. A Church has no meaning apart from its task in Mission. In some countries the weakness in secular terms of the Church there is its main missionary asset. An international church structure must never be intended or used to destroy this asset.

A further factor is that a church engaged in mission has to be mindful of how it looks to those to whom it is seeking to commend the gospel. It is important, for instance, whether the Buddhists in Ceylon [Sri Lanka] think of the Church in Ceylon as belonging to Ceylon or as part of what to them looks like a religious empire. (The Roman Catholic Church is increasingly facing this problem. The Doctrine of Collegiality of Bishops is an attempt to meet this problem within the context of the Doctrine of the Primacy of Peter. There is no reason why Churches in the Reformed tradition cannot find a more satisfactory solution.)

3. The problem of autonomy is misconceived when the issue is raised, either in the form “we must be autonomous in our several countries”, or in the form “autonomy is a dangerous state into which you can trust only certain churches”.

The question always is a double one.

(a)    What kind of autonomy must a church have in order that it may most effectively discharge its task and mission, maintain its image in the eyes of those among whom it is set and be conscious of its own selfhood?

(b)    To what extent can a church in one region be a governing authority over a church in another region without distorting its own life? The necessity to govern raises as many problems as the necessity to be governed.

4. The truest safeguard against the dangers of nationalism in church life lies in strengthening the missionary movement. Churches live and work in countries. Countries have their own political and social dynamism. Churches must therefore be free to make their witness where they are. Otherwise they are deprived of an essential condition for obedience. But, at the same time, the church in the region must itself be an international community. This is one of the results achieved by the missionary movement.

It should not be forgotten that internationalism as such is also of various kinds. A colonial structure is also an international structure. In other words, true internationalism in a church structure cannot be achieved by side-stepping the autonomy issue.

5. There is an essential part which confessional groupings of churches can play and have to play in the search for Church Union, in the quest for contemporary re-statements of the Faith, in pressing forward the Christian Mission, and in helping their related churches in their various regions to maintain living contact with their particular spiritual heritage. Distortion arises only when confessional loyalties are so structured as to make the quest for local Church Union seem like a deviation or to make the attainment of autonomy seem like a lapse into isolation.

6. Also, the structure that is agreed upon, whether for the region or for the world, must be such as to be open to the future. It must be realized especially in the contemporary scene that not only are the present structures of church life under theological criticism, but that they are also being seriously corroded by the pressures of social change.

7. Whatever structure is agreed upon, provision has to be made for the Methodist Churches in the several countries themselves to become members of the World Council of Churches.


The fact must remain that there is serious questioning of the theological validity of creating a world-church which is at the same time a denomination. In the COSMOS plan [for an international Methodist church], the contrast is made between the de-centralized nature of this church and the nature of the Roman Catholic Church. The whole point is that no Roman Catholic will accept that his Church is a denomination. The issue is not as between centralization and de-centralization. The issue lies at a much deeper level. If the church is in the world and for the world, then the question must be squarely faced as to what secular realities should be taken into account in determining the churches’ structure. This is not the place to argue this question. The point has simply to be made that, however satisfactory the constitutional adjustments may be, there are those who cannot conscientiously belong to a world-church which is also a denomination.

The COSMOS plan, it is suggested, is to give to churches “overseas” a choice between two alternatives – autonomy and participation in a truly International Methodist Church. Here again the problem is that the matter is thought of in constitutional terms. What is needed is not a choice between two alternatives but a “both and”. Autonomy for a church is not a choice. It belongs to its very nature. It is simply one of the quirks of history that the modern discussion of autonomy for churches is following the same lines as independence for countries which once belonged to a colonial set-up. Both autonomy and internationalism must go together. It seems much more prudent, therefore, to try to achieve what is intended and what is agreed to generally is needed, i.e. churches effective in their regions which are at the same time safe-guarded against the dangers of nationalism and isolation by the creation of a structure which is theologically plural. This will have the advantage of drawing together the two main streamsof Methodism, British and American, from the very beginning, without having resolved what must remain an on-going theological debate.