Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Discussion: Sharing church buildings as cooperative ministry?

As a recent guest blog post by Hendrik Pieterse and associated comment by Robert Hunt suggest, one of the ways in which The United Methodist Church can be a global denomination is by engaging in ministry to the global diversity of people present in the United States.  This recent article from Grand Island, NE, represents a common model for collaboration between Anglo and immigrant churches: sharing a church building, as First UMC and Ministerio de Fe have begun to do.  Yet does sharing a building really count as engaging in shared ministry?  Is co-location a path to greater cooperation?  Or does it preserve unnecessary barriers in what should be a multicultural church?  Post your thoughts in the comment box below.

Monday, April 29, 2013

United Methodists in China

United Methodist bishops and agency executives of the General Board of Global Ministries just concluded an eight-day tour of China, meeting with Christians there.  While some of China's Christian communities have Methodist roots, Christianity there has become, for the most part, "post-denominational," as Thomas Kemper called it.  What does it mean therefore for The UMC to be in ministry in China?  Is China a possible place for United Methodists to be in ministry around the world without extending our church structure around the world?  Or will United Methodist work inevitably lead to United Methodist affiliation, at least among some?  Comment below to share your ideas.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Henk Pieterse: Should The United Methodist Church be a global church?

Today is the first of our guest blogs by United Methodist Professors of Mission.  Today's guest blogger is Hendrik R. Pieterse.  Dr. Pieterse teaches global Christianity and world religions at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois.  He is also author of the recent article "A Worldwide United Methodist Church? Soundings toward a Connectional Theological Imagination," which appears in this year's Methodist Review.

Should The United Methodist Church be a global church? 

This question takes us beyond our usual preoccupation with geography and statistics (“Are we a global church?”) to the matter of core identity: “Should it be our mission as a denomination to be a global church?” These two questions, related but quite different, often get muddled in our churchly conversations, as in the popular slogan “the worldwide nature of the UMC.” The first question is empirical and, depending on the measures used, can be affirmed or contested. The second is theological, and brings us closer to what is (or should be) at stake. And here, depending on how we interpret the theological issues at stake, our answer might be yes or no, or both. Let me suggest two such issues for comment.

The first issue, raised anew by a number of United Methodists in recent years, tags the impact of our globalizing efforts on relations with our Methodist family around the world. Should United Methodists really initiate mission efforts in places where a Methodist presence already exists? Or should we rather put our (substantial) resources toward shared mission there? A perceived United Methodist go-it-alone-because-we-can attitude has caused considerable resentment in various places. To be sure, United Methodist unilateralism is by no means unique among the world’s churches, regardless of tradition or hemisphere, as ecumenism’s current woes attest. So, perhaps a different sort of question might help us test our global aspirations: Is it our belief that United Methodism is so valuable, perhaps even indispensable, that it warrants our competing with our Methodist kin? Put differently: Is there something so inadequate or missing in other Methodist expressions that they need our contribution to supplement, correct, or complete them? If yes, in what does such United Methodist uniqueness consist? If not, then exactly what ultimately drives our desire to expand? I for one am quite unsure that we’ve done the work yet to answer such questions with theological integrity.

Yet, and moving on to the second issue, United Methodists’ desire to be a “global” church holds great transformative promise. At present, our “diversity” remains safely separated by oceans, engaged primarily through mission trips and contentious General Conference debates. What if we took seriously that “the globe” is now in our backyards? How might such recognition inspire a U.S. United Methodist Church that is still 93 percent white to resemble right here the “great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages . . .” (Rev. 7:9)? How might such questions challenge current assumptions about what “vital congregations” should look like? Or about why, where, and among whom we should start new churches? How might such an expanded global imagination offer fresh perspectives on our ecumenical commitments?

To the serious pursuit of such theological questions in the interest of our “worldwide nature” I say a resounding yes.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Recommended Reading: World Malaria Day

Today is World Malaria Day.  The UMC has made the global fight against malaria an important part of its global ministry.  It's tied to one of the church's "Four Areas of Focus": "Combating the diseases of poverty by improving health globally."  Through the church's Imagine No Malaria campaign, local churches, annual conferences, and denominational agencies have contributed toward the eradication of the disease, working in cooperation with the UN's Nothing But Nets campaign, a movement that has brought together a wide variety of partners to address this important issue.  As part of World Malaria Day, the church is working to "Cover Africa" with mosquito nets.  Check out the story and the YouTube video below for more information:

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Discussion: The global in the local

Tackling global issues and issues related to the global nature of the church is not just something that must happen at the denominational or annual conference level.  Local churches can do their part.  Wesley UMC in La Crosse, WI, is hosting GBGM executive secretary for human rights & racial justice David Wildman for a series of talks today on global matters:
http://lacrossetribune.com/lifestyles/faith-and-values/article_58728256-a942-11e2-a923-0019bb2963f4.html#.UXU7eqXBhLg.twitter   What can your local church do to engage in ministry with global impact?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Western Pennsylvania/East Africa dispute

A recent ruling by the Judicial Council raises questions about relations between US, African Annual Conferences.  See the following story about the JC's ruling on an ongoing dispute between the Western Pennsylvania and East Africa ACs:http://umcconnections.org/2013/04/21/in-split-decision-churchs-top-court-rules-on-western-pennsylvaniaeast-africa-dispute-2/

The JC suggests the connectional system as a solution to such problems.  What do you think?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day

Today is Earth Day.  Earth Day started in the United States, coming out of the work of Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson (who was not religious as an adult, but attended a Methodist church growing up).  It has since spread internationally.  The Earth Day Network does work in 192 countries.

United Methodists have been among those continuing on the tradition of concern for the earth, enacting biblical principles of stewardship.  This video shows some of the good work that UMC churches are doing around the United States on behalf of the environment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=D1Mfad2ldG0  Another important Methodist to watch in this regard is Bill McKibben, noted environmental activist and Methodist Sunday school teacher.

The environment is a global concern, though, and The UMC is a global church.  How is The United Methodist Church working to present a global witness to our responsibility to be good stewards of God's creation?