Friday, May 11, 2018

What I've learned from 500 posts (and 11K tweets)

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.

This is the 500th post on UM & Global since its start in March of 2013. A lot has happened in the last five years, in global Methodism and on this blog. This milestone has led me to reflect back on what I have learned in the process of writing and editing this blog and running its associated Twitter, Facebook, and accounts. Here's five takeaways, one for every hundred posts:

1. It's hard to predict what will resonate.
I'm sure this conclusion is one many bloggers have reached. The internet is an unpredictable place. Sometimes you put up a post that you think is brilliant and insightful, and it goes nowhere. Sometimes you put up something that seems routine, and hundreds or thousands of people read it. I am grateful for Cynthia Astle of UM Insight and others who find what I write helpful and share it with others. I try to be faithful in putting up content, initially twice a week and recently three times a week, and not worry too much about the fate of any individual piece. Instead, I try to ensure that all of our content, week in and week out, is consistently high-quality and will make UM & Global a site worth reading and worth following.

2. I appreciate contributors to the blog.
This blog was commissioned as a project of the United Methodist Professors of Mission. Much of what appears on the blog is posts that I write (which are now identified as such, in contrast to earlier years), but at least a third has come from others - members of the United Methodist Professors of Mission, pastors, bishops, academics outside the US, and other church leaders. This style of curated blog with a diversity of voices is somewhat unique, but it's clear to me as I look through the statistics that it's often other people that viewers are coming to the blog to read, not me. Other contributors make this blog what it is. I believe one of the important functions of the blog is to give others a voice in conversations about the global nature of The United Methodist Church. I wish I could do this for a greater number of voices, especially those of Africans, but I will continue to try to provide that opportunity to the extent I can. (And if you're interested in helping identify such voices, let's talk.)

3. I appreciate the United Methodist News Service.
In order to write content for this blog, especially our "Recommended Reading" pieces, I read a lot of United Methodist news. A LOT. I sift through United Methodist Twitter on a daily basis, looking for stories about United Methodism around the world. In the five years I've been reading (and re-tweeting) United Methodist tweets, I have seen a real increase in the amount of international reporting that the United Methodist News Service has done. I think this increase is vitally important for the denomination. Professional journalism matters, especially when it touches on issues outside the daily lives of its readers. It also makes my job possible. Without UMNS stories, I'd have much less of a sense of what is going on around the world. I'd also like to extend special thanks to E. Julu Swen, Joe Ndzulo, and those running the UMC Twitter accounts in Germany, France, and Switzerland, all of whom have also helped inform my understanding of Global Methodism.

4. There's still a lot of Ameri-centric thinking and pat narratives about the rest of the world among American United Methodists.
Sifting through United Methodist Twitter means that I see not only stories about the UMC outside the US, but also a lot of the United Methodist Twitter conversations and blog posts about the UMC inside the US. There are certainly insightful writers and posts from whom/which I've learned about the American UMC and about Christianity in the US generally. I'm grateful for them. But I've also seen a lot of content that overlooks the rest of the UMC outside the US, puts it into American frameworks instead of understanding it on its own terms, and/or describes it using broad and simplistic narratives. This is not always malicious. I think often people are often just uninformed, and I know better than most how difficult it can be to get good, in-depth, nuanced information about United Methodism elsewhere. Nonetheless, there are problematic consequences to such approaches to the UMC outside the US, whatever their origins. I see this as one of the major missions of this blog and its associated social media accounts - helping American United Methodists understand the branches of our denomination outside the US in more complex, nuanced ways so that we can be in better, more informed, and more loving connection with our global sisters and brothers in Christ.

5. UM & Global represents a unique and needed voice.
The persistence of Ameri-centric thinking and overly simplistic narratives about non-American United Methodism means that UM & Global will continue to have a role to play in United Methodist conversations about being a global body. In an age of rising nationalisms, I believe it is important to promote knowledge and love for people from elsewhere. Moreover, I have come to appreciate how unique this blog's role in doing so is. Put simply, there's not a lot else out there in the United Methodist blogosphere or Twitterverse that tries to do what we do - consistently present informed reflections on United Methodist mission, in-depth analysis of United Methodism around the world, and deliberative conversation on the global nature of The United Methodist Church. This is UM & Global's 500th post. But because I believe in the importance and uniqueness of our mission, you can look forward to many more.

- David W. Scott, blogmaster

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