Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Assistant Professor of Religion and Pieper Chair of Servant Leadership at Ripon College.
The Methodist Church in Britain held its annual conference over the last week. One important decision to come out of that conference was to fully integrate the Methodist Missionary Society into the rest of the denomination. In its announcement about the move, the church stated, "We have a unique opportunity to assert the understanding that the
mission of the Church is one in which work at home and overseas is
essentially the same mission." David Friswell, Leader of World Church Relationships, added that "God's mission [is] one mission
for all people wherever they call home." This move shows a dramatic move away from a colonial, metropole-missions or center-periphery understanding of the Methodist Church in Britain. In this decision, the Methodist Conference asserts the equality (and similarity) of all areas of mission and ministry for the church.
The United Methodist Church still draws distinctions between its work in the United States and elsewhere around the globe in several ways. Perhaps most obvious are the differences between the Central Conferences and the U.S.-based Jurisdictions. Like the Methodist Church in Britain up until this point, the structure of the denomination's agencies also reflects a colonial privileging of the home body. Most denominational agencies, while not operating entirely in the U.S., are nonetheless heavily U.S.-focused. The UMC maintains a General Board of Global Ministries, tasked with furthering the church's work around the world.
What would it mean for the UMC to affirm along with the Methodist Church in Britain that "God's mission is one mission for all people wherever they call home?" How would such an affirmation not only change our structures but change the ways in which we think about the relationships between the various branches of the UMC? How would it change our understanding of mission and ministry?
These are all questions worth asking, and the Methodist Church in Britain's decision should be taken as an occasion for United Methodists to ask themselves those questions.