Thursday, May 30, 2013

United Methodists ahead on Imagine No Malaria campaign

The United Methodist Church has made a substantial financial commitment to support the Imagine No Malaria Campaign - $75 million over 7 years.  The church just announced that it is ahead of schedule in its efforts to raise that money.  It reached a $40 million benchmark target one month early.  For more on this international partnership, see the following two stories.

Momentum Building for Imagine No Malaria from United Methodist Communications

United Methodists Ahead of Malaria Goal from Linda Bloom, United Methodist News Service

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

World Hunger Day

I must confess I'm a day late on this issues - World Hunger Day was yesterday, May 28th.  Nonetheless, hunger is a global problem - it affects those in the U.S., Africa, Europe, Asia, and everywhere else.  It's also a problem that United Methodists from around the world are trying to tackle, often in ways that connect directly to their local contexts.  Here are two articles about United Methodists addressing the problem of hunger and some prayer resources for all you others out there doing the same.

Article on United Methodists and Bread for the World's 2013 Hunger Report: http://www.umc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=lwL4KnN1LtH&b=5259669&ct=12762505

Article on United Methodist food ministries at North United Methodist Church in Indianapolis: http://www.umc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=lwL4KnN1LtH&b=5259669&ct=11616381&utm_content=buffer7dc24&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer

Prayer resources from Bread for the World: http://www.bread.org/help/church/worship/prayers/

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

More examples of international ministry partnerships

For today's post, I'd like to share two more examples of international ministry partnerships, one between branches of the UMC and one between the UMC and a sister Methodist church.

The first story describes a multi-year ministry partnership between United Methodists in Congo and United Methodists in several parts of the United States.  This partnership recently resulted in the purchase of a Cessna aircraft to enable an aviation ministry in Congo.

The second story describes partnerships between United Methodists in the United States and Methodists in the Methodist Church of Mexico.  This partnership involves caring for migrants from many countries in the Mexican border city of Tijuana.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Lessons for a Global UMC from Macedonia

Today we feature another guest blogger, Dr. Robert A. Hunt.  Dr. Hunt is the Director of Global Theology Education and Professor of Christian Missions and Interreligious Relations at Perkins School of Theology.

 To be a global church what we really need is an ongoing global dialogue that doesn't rush toward crystallization in structures, creeds, systems, or principles. It's easier to walk together when we aren't chained together.

I spent this past week in Skopje and Sturmica, Macedonia, giving lectures on unity, diversity, and dialogue. I was reminded again of the extent to which the concept of a Global United Methodist Church represents a challenge that we haven't begun to really explore.

The United Methodist Church and its antecedents have been in Macedonia and its antecedents longer than it's been in Texas. But it is still a small church, too small to have a local superintendent much less a bishop. So its most senior clergy leader, its superintendent, and its bishop come from three distinctly different cultures and social situations.

As a church it lives in a social situation, as part of a brand new country in tension with its immediate neighbors, that is as unique as it is largely incomprehensible to most UM leaders. Within Macedonia it lives in considerable tension with the majority Macedonian Orthodoxy church because their very ways of conceptualizing "church," not to mention human nature and the gospel, are quite different. Warm personal relationships between priests and pastors are possible. But how does a Protestant church build on the concept of individual confessions of faith (a distinctly modern concept) and live with a Christian neighbor who claims the population as its own purely by accident of ethnic and linguistic heritage combined with the artificially created boundaries of a new state?

Over and over I heard that becoming Christian meant leaving Orthodoxy. And in one case (from an Orthodox priest) that becoming United Methodist meant leaving Christianity/Orthodoxy. And when in my lectures I suggested that Methodists might seek to understand Orthodox spirituality the older members of the church suggested I wasn't really a Christian. An Orthodox woman at the same lecture said it was the first time she had heard a Protestant pastor that didn't denigrate her religion.

Let's not even talk about the impact of half a century of communism on Macedonians, or before that being part of a Serbian Kingdom and before that the Ottoman Empire.

And of course in Macedonia we are talking about a largely rural church of congregations with a dozen to 20 people. A clergy that has only the most basic training – and for whom no university level seminary degree is available in their own language. Not even course of study. Half a dozen UM churches in Dallas alone have more members and clergy than the whole Macedonian UMC.

Up until now our United Methodist leadership has seen being a "global church" as a matter of perfecting certain structures and finding transnational commonalities in Christian expression. The small Macedonian Church, with its massive complexity and difference from the majority of UM churches, suggests to me that this isn't the right approach. The word "culture" as used by our church leaders doesn't begin to comprehend the differences between Macedonia and the United States.

Ultimately what we have in common as United Methodist churches is nothing more than a idiosyncratic and sometimes awkward history that often quite arbitrarily and artificially traces its origins to the Wesley brothers. To be a global church what we really need is an ongoing global dialogue that doesn't rush toward crystallization in structures, creeds, systems, or principles. Its easier to walk together when we aren't chained together.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Global Social Change? Rethink Church's Change the World Event

Yesterday, I posted about a move to make the Social Principles more global.  This weekend, there's a series of UMC events to make the church's social witness felt around the world.  Rethink Church's Change the World event is this weekend, May 18-19.  Visit the website to find ways you can get involved in your community to make a difference in the world as an act of discipleship of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Global Social Principles?

The United Methodist Church is in the process of revising its Social Principles to make them "more global" - "globally relevant" that is.  (UMNS news story here.)  The process comes out of resolutions put forward at General Conference 2012 by the European Central Conferences.  The idea is that many of the Social Principles currently speak primarily (or even solely) to a U.S. context.  Thus, the Social Principles become another way in which The UMC remains a primarily U.S.-focused denomination rather than a truly global church.  Yet, thanks to action on the part of General Conference and a recent plan put forward by the Connectional Table, work is underway to reduce or eliminate the American bias in the Social Principles.  The plan will begin with a series of symposia around the world with possible suggestions for General Conference 2016 growing out of these.

In addition to the opportunity to make the Social Principles more globally relevant to all national branches of The UMC, this re-examination process seems to be the perfect time for the church to consider its transnational Social Principles.  As more and more social problems are no longer confined within national borders, it is necessary for churches to speak out on global social issues.  The opportunity to do so in an informed and credible way may be one of the true forms of service that The UMC can render to the global community because of its nature as a global church.

What do you think?  What in the Social Principles should be changed to be more globally relevant?  What should be added to address new transnational, global social issues?  Comment below.

Friday, May 10, 2013

"To Reconcile Us to His Father"

A recent article by Helmut Renders in the Methodist Review raises questions about how language and translation can have unexpected results, both in The United Methodist Church and our sister churches, the autonomous Methodist Churches.  Follow the link below to read the article!

"To Reconcile Us to His Father”: A Unique Translation of the Second Article of Religion of the Methodist Church in Brazil and Three Other Lusophone Countries by Helmut Renders: https://www.methodistreview.org/index.php/mr/issue/view/12 

The Methodist Review requires a free sign-up.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Is Cambodia the future of the global UMC?

In a recent online post, United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) highlighted their work in Cambodia.  Methodist missions in Cambodia are a joint, cooperative effort by The United Methodist Church, the French-Swiss United Methodist Church, the Korean Methodist Church, the Singapore Methodist Church, and the World Federation of Chinese Methodists.  The goal of mission work there is to develop an autonomous Methodist Church by 2016.  In addition to the variety of Methodist Churches involved, there is substantial national variety within the United Methodist missionaries in Cambodia.  The group includes a Kenyan, a Filipino-American, and a Bangladeshi.  Cambodia may be seen as a model of missions cooperation where United Methodists are active globally in partnership with other autonomous Methodist Churches and without a long-term goal of formally extending the denomination.  Yet, Cambodia may also be seen as a challenging mix of identities and organizations that might complicate the articulate and achievement of mission goals.  What do you think - Is Cambodia the future of global UMC mission efforts?  Should it be?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

United Methodists on immigration reform

With immigration reform legislation submitted to the United States Congress, United Methodists have been speaking out from their faith perspectives on the issue of immigration to the United States.  Initially, this issue may seem like solely one that concerns Americans.  It is, after all, a political discussion within the United States about immigration to the United States.  Yet immigration is a global issue as well, determining in part the relationship between the United States and the rest of the world.  It is an issue important not only to United Methodists in the U.S., but also United Methodists around the world, many of whom have friends or relatives who have immigrated to the United States or who may harbor hopes of immigrating themselves.  Immigrant congregants and pastors continue to make important contributions to United Methodism in the United States (as they have for centuries - Francis Asbury was an immigrant, to cite just one important example) and help forge important ties between United Methodism in the US and United Methodism throughout the rest of the world.  Check out the links below for more on how United Methodists are addressing the issue of immigration reform.

UMNS article on Methodists and immigration reform: http://www.umc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=lwL4KnN1LtH&b=5259669&ct=13116021
Statement by bishops and others on immigration reform: http://umc-gbcs.org/press-releases/statement-on-border-security-economic-opportunity-immigration-modernization
Blog post from Jim Winkler, General Secretary, GBCS: http://umc-gbcs.org/faith-in-action/word-from-winkler-at-long-last-hope-of-progress
Blog by Mistead Sai, US-2 missionary: http://mfsaweb.org/?p=7101