Friday, May 17, 2019

Philip Wingeier-Rayo: The United Methodist Representational Problem, Part III

Today's piece is the second in a three-part series by Dr. Philip Wingeier-Rayo. Dr. Wingeier-Rayo is Dean of Wesley Theological Seminary.

The previous part of this blog series discussed whether the UMC’s polity and election formulas are consistent with the UMC’s mission statement, which emphasizes making disciples.

This leads us to another problem with the representative system that only counts current members, but does not take into account potential. What about underrepresented people groups? The voices of the potential mission opportunities are largely absent at General Conference, which gives a disproportionate power to the status quo.

The Hispanic population in the United States is about 17% of the population (52 million) but comprises less than 1% of UM members. Asians-Americans are 6% of the U.S. population (about 21 million) and comprises only 1% of UM members, and both groups are large potential mission fields in the U.S. Yet there were only a handful of Hispanic and Asian-American delegates to General Conference. The same could be said for other underrepresented groups.

Every four years annual conferences elect delegates to General Conference. Usually mindful of the desire for racial and gender diversity, some annual conferences are more successful than others at achieving this aim. In the United States, the UMC is approximately 90% Caucasian at a time when ethnic minority populations are growing. The U.S. Census predicts that the U.S. will become majority minority by 2044. Generally speaking, Caucasians in the U.S. tend to be older, while people of color are younger.

We are already seeing this shift in the U.S. where African American, Hispanic, Asian American and Native American membership is growing in the UMC, while Caucasian membership is in decline.

There are many local churches that are islands of older Caucasians in the middle of black and brown neighborhoods. This reality is reflected in the power structure, where the majority of U.S. delegates to General Conference delegates are older and white, yet their churches are located in communities that are younger and ethnically diverse.

Although the United Methodist Church prides itself on being a global church, there is very little representation at General Conference from Asia and none from Latin America.

The Philippines had 50 delegates representing 5.8% of the total delegates. Sixty percent of the world’s population lives in Asia. The three most populated countries in the world, China, India and Indonesia (who together comprise 1/3 of the world’s population--approximately 2.7 billion people) have no voting delegates at General Conference.

Mexico, Central and South America, a region that is extremely important geopolitically to the United States and has a population of 625 million people, have no voting delegates. Can we call ourselves a global church when such large sectors of the world’s population are not represented in the United Methodist Church?

Within the United States, the Western Jurisdiction only comprises 3% of membership, and thus has 3% of the delegates to General Conference. However, the jurisdiction covers one-third of U.S. territory with vast natural and economic resources. Historically, Methodism arrived in the Eastern United States and slowly moved to the West. The Western Jurisdiction began as missionary annual conferences, and Alaska is still a missionary conference today.

Although the jurisdiction has proportionally small membership, the states of California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah have some of the highest populations of unchurched people among their collective 65 million inhabitants—many of them younger and ethnically diverse. The populations in these states are growing.

Losing this growth potential and mission field would be a huge loss to the United Methodist Church, but our current formula for representative democracy takes no account of the needs and potential of this population.

Our system favors conferences that have more current members, even though they are generally older, of a dominant ethnic group and male. These voices have disproportionate power and are not representative of the potential mission and future growth of the church.

The General Conference election formula is inconsistent with the mission statement of the UMC. A balanced and healthy church polity would have proportionate representation of those who are living out the mission statement with their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.

Here are five practical recommendations that could make the process for electing delegates more representational of the reality of the UMC constituency:

1.    Move the dates of the General Conference to a time when more young people are available to attend (i.e. taking into account the academic calendar).

2.    Support the young people’s call to mentor and encourage young people to become delegates to General Conference.

3.    Require an equal number of men and women from each annual conference as delegates to General Conference.

4.    Ask each annual conference to be accountable for financial commitments of the general church proportionate to the number of its General Conference delegates.

5.    Give greater voice to those leaders from vibrant ministries making new disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Philip Wingeier-Rayo: The United Methodist Representational Problem, Part II

Today's piece is the second in a three-part series by Dr. Philip Wingeier-Rayo. Dr. Wingeier-Rayo is Dean of Wesley Theological Seminary.

The first part of this blog discussed ways that the representation to annual and general conferences is not proportionate or representational of the body of United Methodists. This second part will discuss whether the polity and election formulas are consistent with the UMC’s mission statement.

The mission of The United Methodist Church is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” The mission statement calls us to make disciples, yet representation to General Conference is awarded to those who make members. Are making a disciple and making a member the same?

In some cases, the process of making a disciple and making a member overlap, and becoming a member of a local church is a logical outcome of becoming a disciple. However, they are not always synonymous. In our churches there are disciples of Jesus Christ who are not members, and there are church members who may not be committed disciples.[1]

For example, in the church I attend there is a young man who is active, attends worship regularly, gives generously, participates in mission and outreach, yet has not joined the church. After General Conference in February he commented to me that: “it would be a hard sell to invite any of my friends to the United Methodist Church right now.” Recently there was a whole confirmation class in Omaha, Nebraska who decided to not join the church.

There are countless others in our churches who attend worship regularly, volunteer, give financially, yet are not members. I would call them disciples, but not members.

Inversely, there are other churches that focus on maintenance of current membership. Some members have been on the rolls for decades with very little involvement. Some are “Christmas and Easter Christians.” Unless there are extenuating circumstances that prevent them from attending (such as illness, physical mobility or proximity to church), I would say that they are members, but not necessarily disciples.

A church may invest in ministries that make disciples for the transformation of the world without making members. I would argue that these are actually some of our most fruitful investments. I point to the example of our denominationally-supported campus ministries that disciple college students who will be the future leaders of society. They may or may not choose to join a United Methodist Church, but will participate in a lifetime of Christian witness (whether in the UMC or not) and the transformation of the world through their professional vocations.

Other examples are our new church starts and Fresh Expressions that de-emphasize denominational connections. Studies have shown that young people today are less interested in supporting an institution, and so these ministries often do not use the cross and flame logo in their publicity. These ministries emphasize making disciples but not necessarily members.

Ministry is contextual, and each local church decides its own budget based on its own priorities. Some churches see themselves as the salt of the earth and place major emphasis on social ministries. Many have outreach programs to serve their community. Others are very missional and support international missionaries and VIM teams.

All churches would like to grow, but this depends on how one defines growth. Is numerical growth the best metric for measuring a healthy and effective church? Is it not possible to be engaged in healthy, effective ministry that transforms the world (or a least the surrounding community) and yet be a small membership church?

In his book, Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church, Reggie McNeal makes the case for using such metrics of church vitality as volunteer service hours. Conversely, there are many cases of members who do not uphold their vows to support the church with their prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.

Should the voice and vote of the member be valued more than the active seeker? Should the voice of the elderly be valued more than that of the young? An 80 year-old lifelong member has representation, but a young person in the youth group or a new disciple who is not a member cannot vote.

Inviting new people to participate in decision-making and have ownership is part of discipleship and one of the best way to retain young people and their needs and opinions should be given serious consideration.

[1] For further discussion on the United Methodist mission statement see Dana Robert and Doug Tzan’s article “Is the UMC’s mission statement really Methodist?” https://www.ministrymatters.com/all/entry/6818/is-the-united-methodist-churchs-mission-statement-really-methodist

Monday, May 13, 2019

Philip Wingeier-Rayo: The United Methodist Representational Problem, Part I

Today's piece is the first in a three-part series by Dr. Philip Wingeier-Rayo. Dr. Wingeier-Rayo is Dean of Wesley Theological Seminary.

The United Methodist Church has a representational problem.

The recent General Conference in St. Louis was comprised of 864 elected delegates, half lay and half clergy, who were elected according to a formula proportionate to the membership in their home conferences.

A representative democracy was established at the founding of the Methodist Episcopal Church at the Christmas Conference in 1784 in Baltimore. The conference system builds on the foundational system of Christian conferencing established by John Wesley in England, and moves from the local church, to the annual conference, to jurisdictional/central conference, and finally General Conference, which is the maximum authority of the church.

The question is how do we define representational?

Let’s take for example the basis of the United Methodist form of government, the annual conference, also composed of an equal number of lay and clergy delegates. Although seemingly fair and equitable, this model actually gives proportionately more representation to smaller membership churches than medium and larger membership churches.

Why is this? A small membership church may have 50 members or fewer, while a medium to large membership church may have considerably more—yet these churches may both have one appointed pastor, and thus be allotted one lay delegate. Larger churches may have several pastors on staff (e.g. youth pastor, children’s minister, pastor of visitation, executive pastor, etc.), but if they aren’t appointed, then they will not be delegates to annual conference. So a large church may have many more members and pay much more in apportionments, yet only be allotted one lay delegate per appointed pastor—the same as a small membership church.

And nobody knows if the lay delegate for each church will necessarily vote in a way that is representational of his or her church membership. The UM representational system has no way of holding delegates accountable for voting with their constituency. Once delegates are voted on at charge conference, each delegate is free to vote his or her conscience and does not have to vote as a representative of the wishes of his or her congregation.

There is also no way to assure fair demographic representation in the United Methodist system. If a congregation is comprised of 50% men and 50% women and elects a male delegate, then are the women represented? And if the church names someone who is retired, are the youth represented? And this doesn’t begin to address the ethnic diversity in a congregation.

The representative formula for General Conference is different from that of annual conference. While the annual conference is one lay and one clergy delegate per church, the formula for General Conference is proportionate to conference membership. Those conferences with larger church membership receive more delegates.

Similar to annual conference delegates, the formula for electing General Conference delegates has no way to guarantee that women are proportionately represented. Of the 864 elected delegates at St. Louis, 309 (36%) were women and (64%) were men. Among U.S. delegates the delegates were 56.3% men to 46.5% women. Among the Central Conference delegates, men outnumbered women 260 to 87 for a 3:1 men to women ratio. Of the jurisdictions, the Northeast was the only jurisdiction with a majority of women delegates (54.7%).

The majority of male delegates contrasts with the membership of local churches. Dana Roberts reported in her book, Gospel Bearers, Gender Barriers, that two-thirds of the membership of the global church are women.  And if we look at who are the people behind the scenes making ministry happen, women often play significant roles in churches, but are disproportionately underrepresented as delegates.

Young people are another group who were disproportionately represented In St. Louis with delegates under the age of 35 being only 7% of delegates.

Yet their voice was heard when they wrote a statement signed by 15,000 youth from around the world which encouraged delegates to: “elect a young person to your 2020 delegation. Not as a reserve, but as someone seated with a vote on the floor. Mentor a young person to run. Advocate for a young person to be elected. Show up for the young people in your life, and actually celebrate them around these tables in 2020. If we are actually part of the Body, it is time to bring our voice and vote around these tables.”  The statement went on to say: “Over and over, bishops and delegates have told us from the floor here, they don’t want us to leave, but with all due respect, you are not fighting to keep us here.”

Despite their under-representation, young people will be disproportionately financially impacted by a decline or division in the denomination through losses in support for ministerial education and impacts on ministerial pension plans.

The formula for delegates to General Conference has no way to account for equal financial responsibility and accountability. If a delegate votes for a petition that has financial implications, that delegate will not necessarily be proportionately impacted. The delegates at General Conference set the budget for the whole church. One supposes that these delegates are generous givers as members of their local church, but nobody knows how much they pledge.

So as a body the General Conference creates a budget that they personally will not cover. Some conferences may have larger membership, but their financial contribution to the general church is not proportionate to their membership. Conversely, a conference that is allotted just a few delegates may make a substantial contribution to the general church. The size of an annual conferences delegation to General Conference is not proportionate to its apportionment to the general church budget.

Yes, the United Methodist Church has a representative democracy, however there are different ways to interpret “representative.” At the annual conference level, representative is defined as one clergy and one lay delegate per church, and so large churches who contribute more are disproportionately underrepresented. At General Conference the number of delegates is proportionate to conference membership; however, there is no consideration for proportionate gender, age, ethnicity or financial contributions of the annual conference.

This formula without provisions for gender, age, ethnicity or financial representation leads to certain groups being disproportionately underrepresented and not having their voices heard. It also leads to other groups having a disproportionate power in spite of not being representative of their home church or conference.

As we strive toward perfection, I invite United Methodists to reflect on ways to improve our representative democracy to have people making decisions who are truly making ministry happen in our local churches through their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.

In the second part of this blog I will discuss the mission of The United Methodist Church and whether membership is the best metric to assess participation in the life of the church.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Recommended Viewing: Evangelism Videos

Both the Methodist Church in Britain and Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church have come out with videos recently about evangelism.

The video from the Methodist Church in Britain, entitled "Stepping Out in Evangelism and Growth" is a nice, 8-minute long introduction to the MCB's approach to evangelism and the importance of evangelism in the life of the church. It comes out of a recent MCB focus on evangelism and growth.

The video series from Discipleship Ministries is part of their See All the People campaign. While there is a series of 19 videos (and counting), the two videos "What is 'See All the People'?" and
"#SEEALLTHEPEOPLE" provide the best overview of the approach to evangelism embodied in this initiative.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

UMC Membership Growth and Decline Relative to Population

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.

In my previous post, I reviewed the sources of membership growth and decline in church bodies and asserted that they best way to determine whether a church was growing or declining through new adult members (individual or group) vs. adult disaffiliations (individual or group) was to screen out the impacts of births and deaths on membership numbers. And while religious groups may differ in their birth or death rates from surrounding societies, the easiest way to get a proxy for the impact of purely demographic forces on church membership is to compare church membership to the overall population growth or decline of the surrounding society.

This is what I have tried to do for The United Methodist Church. I have used data from GCFA from 2010, 2014, and 2018 that they collected in the process of determining General Conference delegates. The 2010 data is from a previously-published article by Dana Robert and myself, and the 2014 and 2018 data is publicly available here. I grouped the data into the smallest geographic regions that could be directly compared to secular population growth trends (in the US, jurisdictions and outside the US, countries in most cases). I then compared that data to US Census Bureau data for US state populations and data from the World Population Data Sheet (2010, 2014, and 2018) for countries.

The table is at the end of this article, but here are major findings:

1. In some countries, I concluded that UMC membership data was unreliable for conclusive comparisons to the surrounding country. Any instances in which there was repeated data (the same number submitted two quadrennia in a row) or a more than 50% membership drop in four years or more than 100% growth in four years I regarded as suspect. Ukraine and Moldova, Russia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria, and Zambia all have repeated membership figures. Nevertheless, in all these cases except Liberia (where there was significant variance) and Cote d'Ivoire (which has never submitted revised figures), those repeated figures were close to later revised figures, indicating that they make still be ballpark reliable. Switzerland/France, Serbia/Macedonia, Poland, and Zimbabwe all had extreme fluctuations in membership numbers that seem very unreliable to me. Data is incomplete for Mozambique, Malawi, and South Africa.

2. Given the above caveat, even though UMC total membership has grown in the past 8 years, that growth is about 6% behind total population growth for its host countries worldwide. While there may be reasons why the UMC has lower birth rates or higher death rates than its host countries overall, it is likely that the UMC worldwide is experiencing more disaffiliation than new membership. The United States is a significant factor in that trend, but not the only one, as elaborated below.

3. The only place where the UMC has a large membership and is growing significantly relative to overall population trends based on relatively reliable data is the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are also some countries in Europe with small membership where there is good growth relative to overall population based on reliable data (Finland, for instance), though their small membership size makes those numbers more susceptible to yielding extreme results when calculated on a percentage basis.

4. There are a number of countries in Africa where UMC membership growth is trailing, sometimes quite significantly, overall population growth. East Africa and Angola are examples with relatively good data. Assuming that the data for Nigeria and Zambia is relatively reliable despite repeated figures, membership in those countries also significantly lags overall population growth.

5. Within the United States, relative to overall population trends, there is essentially no difference among the North Central, Northeastern, South Central, and Southeastern Jurisdictions in how they’ve done membership-wise in the past decade. The slower rate of membership decline in the south relative to the north is entirely a function of greater population growth in southern states (in large part due to in-migration from the north).

6. The Western Jurisdiction has had notably more significant membership decline than the rest of US United Methodism. Given that there is no difference among other regions despite theological variations among them, I think it’s possible than non-theological factors may explain the difference between the Western Jurisdiction and the rest of the US church. The UMC has always had a weaker position in society in the West than in the rest of the country. The Western US is also the most racially and ethnically diverse region of the country, which impacts the membership numbers for an overwhelmingly white denomination like the UMC.

7. Relative to overall population trends, the UMC may actually be doing worse in the Philippines than it is in the US. While total UMC membership in the Philippines in 2018 was about where it was in 2014, the overall Filipino population has grown significantly. Thus, steady membership in the Philippines actually represents a notable loss relative to demographic factors.

Again, these numbers don't in and of themselves prove anything about theology, church polity, missional strategies, or distribution of resources. Those are all questions that need to be collectively assessed drawing on a variety of values and types of information. But good data about actual trends in membership gains and losses is undoubtedly one of those resources.


Region 2010 Church Membership 2014 Church Membership 2018 Church Membership % Change 2010-2018 2010 Population 2014 Population 2018 Population % Change 2010-2018 Membership vs. Population










North Central Jurisdiction 1,346,180 1,270,124 1,189,259 -11.66% 56,291,024 56,942,246 57,341,519 1.87% -13.52%










Northeastern Jurisdiction 1,329,181 1,257,546 1,168,609 -12.08% 64,525,181 65,418,605 65,629,255 1.71% -13.79%










South Central Jurisdiction 1,739,946 1,707,526 1,652,134 -5.05% 49,217,134 51,394,492 53,381,380 8.46% -13.51%










Southeastern Jurisdiction 2,894,485 2,815,145 2,752,106 -4.92% 69,250,709 71,787,557 74,917,045 8.18% -13.10%










Western Jurisdiction 365,793 340,350 312,230 -14.64% 70,039,037 72,870,240 75,898,235 8.37% -23.01%










Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, & Uganda 170,725 243,459 173,806 1.80% 92,700,000 103,600,000 119,500,000 28.91% -27.11%










Angola 184,981 132,722 164,634 -11.00% 19,000,000 22,400,000 30,400,000 60.00% -71.00%










Mozambique 46,038 136,707 85,249 85.17% 23,400,000 25,100,000 30,500,000 30.34% 54.83%










South Africa 0 9,102 0 #DIV/0! 49,900,000 53,700,000 57,700,000 15.63% #DIV/0!










Zimbabwe 48,942 138,547 148,892 204.22% 12,600,000 14,700,000 14,000,000 11.11% 193.11%










Malawi 0 8,389 9,968 #DIV/0! 15,400,000 16,800,000 19,100,000 24.03% #DIV/0!










Dem. Rep. of Congo and Tanzania 1,803,530 2,436,777 2,869,536 59.11% 112,800,000 122,000,000 143,400,000 27.13% 31.98%










Zambia 133,103 133,103 129,604 -2.63% 13,300,000 15,100,000 17,700,000 33.08% -35.71%










Liberia 148,382 148,382 281,007 89.38% 4,100,000 4,400,000 4,900,000 19.51% 69.87%










Sierra Leone 225,000 225,000 285,083 26.70% 5,800,000 6,300,000 7,700,000 32.76% -6.06%










Cote d'Ivoire 677,355 677,355 677,355 0.00% 22,000,000 20,800,000 24,900,000 13.18% -13.18%










Nigeria 457,959 457,959 463,957 1.31% 158,300,000 177,500,000 195,900,000 23.75% -22.44%










Austria 726 746 729 0.41% 8,400,000 8,500,000 8,800,000 4.76% -4.35%










Bulgaria 1,300 1,257 1,251 -3.77% 7,500,000 7,200,000 7,000,000 -6.67% 2.90%










Czech and Slovak Republics 855 1,087 1,126 31.70% 15,900,000 15,900,000 16,000,000 0.63% 31.07%










Hungary 375 437 449 19.73% 10,000,000 9,900,000 9,800,000 -2.00% 21.73%










Serbia-Macedonia 2,160 2,012 468 -78.33% 9,400,000 9,200,000 9,100,000 -3.19% -75.14%










Poland 7,706 2,161 2,375 -69.18% 38,200,000 38,500,000 38,400,000 0.52% -69.70%










Switzerland-France 3,040 7,652 6,763 122.47% 70,800,000 72,300,000 73,600,000 3.95% 118.51%










Germany 32,305 32,108 30,122 -6.76% 81,600,000 80,900,000 82,800,000 1.47% -8.23%










Denmark 1,252 1,242 1,233 -1.52% 5,500,000 5,600,000 5,800,000 5.45% -6.97%










Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania 2,764 2,411 1,690 -38.86% 6,800,000 6,200,000 6,000,000 -11.76% -27.09%










Finland 1,304 1,270 1,642 25.92% 5,400,000 5,500,000 5,500,000 1.85% 24.07%










Norway 4,410 4,310 4,237 -3.92% 4,900,000 5,100,000 5,300,000 8.16% -12.09%










Russia 1,699 1,699 1,363 -19.78% 141,900,000 143,700,000 147,300,000 3.81% -23.58%










Ukraine and Moldova 551 551 0 -100.00% 50,000,000 47,000,000 45,800,000 -8.40% -91.60%










The Philippines 145,642 216,326 140,235 -3.71% 94,000,000 100,100,000 107,000,000 13.83% -17.54%










Overall 11,777,689 12,413,462 12,557,112 6.62% 1,388,923,085 1,456,413,140 1,561,067,434 12.39% -5.78%

* The East Africa Episcopal Area includes South Sudan and Ethiopia, but these countries' populations are excluded from the totals due to the small amount of UMC membership in them.

* The population figures for the Switzerland-France-North Africa Annual Conference do not include populations in North Africa, given the small amount of UMC membership there.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Factors Influencing Church Growth

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.
 
Within the United Methodist Church, and within American conversations about Christianity generally, there is a frequent preoccupation with church membership growth (or decline). United Methodists frequently ask, "Is that congregation growing?" or "Where is the church growing globally?"

For United Methodists, membership growth equates with success, and growing membership is often taken as a demonstration of the validity of theology, as if popularity proved truth. It is worth noting that this is not a universal Christian assumption. An Anabaptist, for instance, might more readily agree with the notion that truth leads to unpopularity.

Yet given the importance in United Methodist minds of membership growth, it is worth examining in more detail the factors that influence church growth and decline. Membership growth happen when the number of new members exceeds the number of lost members, but there are several factors influencing both sides of that equation, both at a congregational level and for regional bodies.

When most people hear "new members," they think of adult converts. Yet adult converts are only one form of new members, and there are differences among adult converts as well.

The most significant source of new members for most religious tradition is actually not adult converts but children born into the tradition who then remain affiliated with the tradition when they become adults. Thus, the birth rate among present members is one of the largest determining factors in whether churches are growing, especially for churches as regional bodies.

Another way in which the church gains new members, both for local congregations and regional bodies, is through the addition of individual adults to existing congregations. This is the classic adult convert. Yet it is worth distinguishing between adult converts to Christianity and adults who have switched from another Christian tradition. There is value in both, but the two are different groups when it comes to evangelism. It is also worth noting that migration is a significant vector by which existing Christians may be added to a congregation or regional body.

The third way in which churches as regional bodies can add new members is by accepting new groups into the body. Entire congregations or other regional bodies may join a regional body, boosting its membership. Or, an entire group of people might decide to adopt a new religious identity en masse, as has often happened in the history of mission. Either way, growth results not from individual decision-making, but from group decision-making.

On the other side of the equation, the sources of membership loss reflect the sources of membership gain: death, children who leave the tradition upon reaching adulthood, individual adult disaffiliations, and group disaffiliations.

Just as the most common way in which people enter religious groups is through birth, the most common way they leave is through death. Youth adults who leave the tradition in which they grew up may count as membership losses, if they were counted as members as teenagers, but they certainly represent a retardant on growth.

Individual disaffiliations, either through out-migration, for the sake of joining another church, or because of a loss of faith are, of course, a form of membership loss. And whole congregations or larger groups may choose to sever their relationship with a regional body, resulting in membership loss for that regional body.

In a church in which birth and death were the only ways in which people entered and exited the church, the growth or decline of that church would be a purely demographic exercise. To get a sense of whether the church is growing through evangelism (of individuals or groups, Christian or not) or declining through disaffiliation (of individuals or groups), it would be necessary to examine the additional membership variation after births and deaths are factored out.

There are reasons why the birth and death rates of a church body might vary from those of the society in which it is located - theologies of families and reproduction, better access to health care, social practices regarding family planning and elder care, etc. Yet without targeted, intensive research of specific church bodies, birth and death rates are usually only available for societies as whole.

Thus, the best way to get a sense of whether a church body is growing or declining after screening out the demographic factors of births and deaths is to compare its membership trends to the membership trends of its surrounding society. That's exactly what I will do for The United Methodist Church in my next post.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Recommended Reading: Robert Harman on EUB vs. Methodist World Mission

Several years ago, Robert Harman, retired head of the World Division of Global Ministries and occasional contributor to and regular commenter on UM & Global, wrote a piece on the differences between EUB and Methodist traditions of world mission. The piece, entitled "Reflections on World Mission in the EUB, Methodist, and United Methodist Traditions," ran as the Summer 2012 issue of the Telescope-Messenger, the newsletter for the Center for the Evangelical United Brethren Heritage.

While the piece touches on several differences between the Methodist and EUB traditions, much of it describes the differences between how the two traditions thought about the relationship between their missions and the church in the US. This set of differences has implications for how autonomy, connection, and dependence played out in the former missions of each tradition. Harman also argues it has implications for how we think about The United Methodist Church as a global body. The piece is worth reading, even several years later, as the UMC reconsiders its global nature, especially if autonomy for some parts of the church becomes a part of the answer to current questions.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

A Primer on Methodist Autonomy

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 United Methodists continue to grapple with what the church should and will look like in the fallout of General Conference 2019, one possibility is that some portions of the UMC will become autonomous, that is, separate, self-governing bodies. Thus, it is worth reviewing the history of, process for, and varieties of relationships with autonomous Methodist Churches.

When the Methodist Episcopal Church, Methodist Episcopal Church South, United Brethren in Christ, and Evangelical Association started mission work outside the United States, those churches were initial part of the founding denominations, either through control by their mission agencies and/or by organization as an annual conference within the larger denomination. Yet as they grew, some of these areas of mission work became autonomous from their founding denominations, generally for one of three reasons:

1. Desire for ecumenical merger. This was an important impetus behind most of the early autonomous churches - Japan (1907), Korea (1930), and Mexico (1930). All three of these merged the MEC and MECS before the US bodies were ready to do so. (Japan also included the Canadian Methodist Church.) Ecumenical merger with other Protestant groups was also an incentive for Belgium (1968) and Pakistan (1970).

2. Desire for local control. All of the Methodist Church annual conferences in Latin America and all Methodist Church work in Asia except the Philippines became autonomous between 1964 and 1980 because of a desire in those churches for local control. This desire was fueled by political decolonization, and thus there was a strong anti-colonial motivation in autonomy.

3. Missiological strategy. In some places, autonomy was the goal of mission work. This was true for MECS work in Brazil (1930) and for EUB mission work, all of which became autonomous upon the merger in 1968. EUB work in Sierra Leone and Nigeria later rejoined the UMC, while EUB churches in the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and the Philippines merged with other denominations.

Autonomy is not only part of United Methodism's history; it is still an option for churches outside the US, sanctioned by the Book of Discipline. Paragraphs 570-575 of the BOD govern autonomous status. To become autonomous, the process is as follows (P. 572):

1. The Central Conference in which the departing part of the church (the entire central conference or just one annual conference therein) is located must approve autonomy.

2. That decision is ratified by a 2/3 or greater majority of all votes at all annual conferences within the central conference in question.

3. The departing conference works with the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters to develop a statement on why they’re choosing autonomy and mutually agree on a statement of faith and constitution for the new church.

4. General Conference, on the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters, votes by simple majority to grant an enabling act that bestows autonomy.

Historically, General Conference passed enabling acts before all of the requirements in step 3 were completed and before the vote in step 2 took place. It is not clear to me whether the current language of the BOD now requires steps 2 and 3 to be complete first. Depending on meeting schedules of various bodies and the rate at which work is done, the whole process could take 1-5 years.

For all forms of autonomous Methodist churches, the Book of Discipline (P. 571) allows for mutual recognition of membership, mutual recognition of clergy when ordination requirements are comparable, episcopal visitation, and “cooperation,” facilitated by the Council of Bishops, OCUIR, and Global Ministries, which serves as the “agent” of the UMC on issues related to mission, finance, and personnel. Autonomy does not preclude missional cooperation!

The UMC provides for three additional “add-on” levels of relationship between the UMC and autonomous Methodist churches: affiliated, covenanting, and concordat:

1.    “Affiliated” autonomous churches are entitled to send 2-3 (depending on membership size) non-voting delegates to General Conference. (BOD P. 570, 572) Affiliation is generally selected at the time of autonomy, though there’s at least one historical example of it being awarded retroactively (the Evangelical Methodist Church of the Philippines).

2.    “Covenanting” autonomous churches, which may or may not be affiliated, are in full communion with the UMC – they recognize each other’s baptisms, ordinations, and performance of the sacraments. The covenanting process is overseen by the Council of Bishops.

3.    “Concordat” autonomous churches have entered into a specific ecumenical treaty, as it were, with the UMC. The terms of the concordat are approved by the General Conference on simple majority vote. The four current concordat churches exchange voting delegates between General Conference and their highest bodies, though the only terms of a concordat currently required by the Book of Discipline are the transfer of members and mutual episcopal visitation.

Monday, April 29, 2019

On the Uses of Law in the UMC

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.

I am trained as a historian. Since codes of law are one of the main types of historic artifacts that have survived from the remote past, historians spend a lot of time thinking about laws and specifically about the relationship between law and behavior. The consensus is that laws should be seen not as records of what people actually did but rather what those in power who wrote the laws wanted people to do. As we know from our experiences today, people break laws all the time, in a variety of ways and for a variety of purposes.

Even if laws do not represent what all humans always do, laws can still influence behavior in one of two ways. First, they can set standards for behavior that some people then willingly adhere to because they want to act in harmony with the standard out of a basic human desire for social conformance. Second, they can set penalties for misbehavior the motivate people to behave in a certain way out of fear of those penalties, whether or not they are naturally inclined to aspire to behave according to the group standard.

For this second, penalty-based type of behavioral influence to work, there must be a high enough likelihood of penalties being enforced and those penalties must be meaningful to the person experiencing them. People must also be acting in a rational, self-reflective fashion rather than committing a "crime of passion," where they are motivated by present emotion or other factors that preclude self-reflection, for this type of behavioral influence to work.

This historical reflection on the uses of law has been helpful to me in interpreting the Traditionalist Plan, especially now that we know its final form following Judicial Council review.

The UMC has had proscriptions on the ordination of queer people and on clergy performing same-sex weddings for some time. Yet it is clear that these church laws are increasingly ineffective in influencing behavior among boards of ordained ministry and clergy generally in the first way: by setting standards that people will be internally motivated to follow for the sake of conforming to group standards.

Thus, the Traditionalist Plan sought to require stricter and more mandatory enforcement of penalties and to make penalties more severe and thus more meaningful to clergy who would experience them. Traditionalist leaders determined that penalties as structured and enforced were insufficient to prohibit behaviors they opposed and thus it was necessary to revamp the penalty system.

The Traditionalist Plan also sought to set more rigid standards of action for boards of ordained ministry and for bishops (the reasoning being, I suppose, that bishops would be more motivated to follow group standards than rank-and-file clergy) and to increase enforcement of penalties against bishops, using both strategies to try to influence the behavior of the bishops.

The Judicial Council essentially allowed the more rigid standards of action for boards of ordained ministry, bishops, and those involved in hearing complaints against clergy (Petitions 90032, 90036, 90043, 90044, and 90045). It also allowed increased penalties for clergy performing gay weddings and then convicted by a trial court (Petition 90042).

What the Judicial Council largely rejected, however, were the provisions of Traditionalist Plan that would have required a particular approach to enforcement of laws regarding homosexuality. Certifications that ordinands, boards of ordained ministry, and annual conferences will enforce LGBT exclusions were ruled unconstitutional. The ability of the Council of Bishops to impose penalties on its members without right of appeal was ruled unconstitutional.  Instructions to boards of ordained ministry and cabinets on how to carry out their enforcement of laws were ruled unconstitutional. The only element related to enforcement that was declared constitutional was allowing appeal if complainants thought the laws had not been followed.

What seems clear at this point is that Traditionalists have the legislative power within the church to set laws but not the constitutional power to require enforcement of those laws.

Thus, in annual conferences with progressive and/or centrist leaders who are uninterested in enforcing these laws, it will continue to be possible for clergy to disobey the laws regarding performing gay marriage and for boards of ordained ministry, clergy, and bishops to disobey the laws regarding the ordination of queer people, all without risk of penalties actually being imposed.

Yet here is where the first way in which laws influence behavior comes back in. In the present situation of the UMC, it is possible that laws as group standards would influence people's behavior, not by motivating them to conform to the group's standard, but by motivating them to leave the group. Portions of the UMC that are not interested in conforming to the UMC's ever more strongly worded standards regarding the place of LGBT people in the church, could choose to leave, even if they are able to continue within the UMC without fear of penalties. In essence, people could desire to leave to avoid the sense of cognitive dissonance and identity mismatch they perceive between themselves and the group, even if the group norms didn't directly impact their behavior.

Thus, remain and resist will continue to be a valid option for many within the UMC, but the desire for progressives and centrists to leave grows with each more forceful reiteration of the church's Traditionalist stance.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Recommended Reading: African Youth Ministry Manual

Young People's Ministries, a component of Discipleship Ministries, has released a training manual on youth and young adult work in Africa. The training manual, entitled "Empowering Youth for Effective Leadership: A Youth Leadership Manual for Use in the United Methodist Church in Africa," was developed in coordination with the International Ministries Committee of the General Board of Global Ministries and youth and young adult leaders in The United Methodist Church from across Africa. The manual is available in English, French, and Portuguese.

While few readers of this blog are likely to be conducting youth and young adult ministry in Africa, the manual is still worth a perusal. At a time when American and African United Methodists are struggling to understand one another, the manual provides a glimpse for American readers into the world of concerns that African youth and young adults bring to the church.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Will the Future of the UMC Look Like CIEMAL?

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.

While General Conference 2019 was a divisive experience and the legislative results hotly contested, the one thing that everyone seems to agree on in its aftermath is that The United Methodist Church cannot continue in the same form it has. Our present ecclesiological system is unable to respond adequately to the challenges of our life together, and it is necessary to find new ways of being Methodist together, or quite likely, apart from one another.

It is entirely possible that if the UMC splits, the remaining parts would have no relation to one another. Yet there are many who do not want to give up on our global connections even while there is some form of separation. How then can these connections continue?

Robert Hunt, in a recent blog post, asserts that "true unity is found only in the world-wide mission of the apostolic church," but sees such an understanding of unity as compatible with "a global Methodist Church made up of autonomous annual conferences."

What would such a global Methodist Church look like? One possibility is that it would look a good deal like CIEMAL, El Consejo de Iglesias Evangélicas Metodistas de América Latina y el Caribe (the Council of Methodist Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean).

CIEMAL is an organization that brings together fifteen autonomous Methodist churches. It "acts as a convener, guide and director of the service and the testimony of Latin American Methodism."

The member denominations of CIEMAL are entirely autonomous. They are responsible for their own doctrinal standards, worship guidance, clergy credentialing, and structures of authority and accountability. They also each have internal structures for joint mission and ministry and for shared fellowship among their members.

Yet the denominations of CIEMAL recognize that they have something to gain through the joint mission, joint ministry, and mutual fellowship provided by the wider body. CIEMAL does such things as promoting coordination between member bodies, facilitating fraternal exchange among member denominations, mutually training cross-cultural missionaries, recognizing and supporting newly-forming Methodist churches in the area (such as Columbia and Venezuela), resolving conflicts between Methodist bodies (as in Venezuela), and engaging other Methodist bodies around the world (such as the Methodist Church in Britain). All this happens through a Program Commission, a Council of Bishops, a four-person Executive Committee, and an occasional General Assembly.

CIEMAL was formed in the late 1960s when United Methodist Church annual conferences in Latin America were becoming autonomous but wanted to avoid becoming insular and instead maintain some connection to one another and The United Methodist Church, which participates in CIEMAL through Global Ministries.

If The United Methodist Church breaks up into two or more autonomous bodies, there could still be a role for some organization to play in facilitating conversations between members of these bodies, coordinating mutual mission and ministry work, training and sending missionaries, and supporting the creation of new Methodist churches in areas around the world. Such an arrangement could provide current United Methodists with enough space from each other through autonomy without surrendering the global sense of mutual compassion and fellowship that at best characterizes our international body as it is.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Recommended Readings: Nordic & Baltic UMC forms a roundtable on a way forward

The Area Group of the Nordic and Baltic Council of the Northern Europe and Eurasia Central Conference met on March 29 and 30. At that meeting, they unanimously approved the creation of a roundtable for the sake of "seeking a foundation for the future of the Nordic and Baltic episcopal area that includes as much unity and as much missional strength as possible."

If that language sounds familiar, it's because it draws on the purpose statement for the Commission on a Way Forward for the entire UMC. In essence, the Nordic and Baltic Area is attempting their own, regional rather than global Commission on a Way Forward, one aimed at building "a consensus on one proposal for the future of the Nordic and Baltic area" rather than a majority vote on the future of the UMC as a whole.

While the Nordic and Baltic Area has some advantages in this effort that the UMC as a whole lacked - close relationships, perhaps less cultural difference among participants - it is worth noting that the task will not be easy, as this episcopal area spans from Western to Eastern Europe, and thus contains both sides of that cultural divide on homosexuality. It will be interesting to see whether the assets that the Nordic and Baltic Area bring to this difficult project are able to produce a better result than the UMC as a whole experienced at General Conference 2019.

For more details, see the following:
A statement from the Area Group on their meeting in English
A paraphrase of that statement in Norwegian
A short description of the roundtables in English
A news article on the group's meeting and decision in German

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Recommended readings: New forms of missional organization in the UMC

As United Methodism struggles to discern how to structure itself to maximize mission and minimize conflict in the wake of General Conference 2019, it is worthwhile looking at two recently-formed missional organizations.

In Switzerland, The United Methodist Church formed a special district for Fresh Expressions churches at the beginning of January. Fresh Expressions is a term for new forms of church that are created to reach new people in new ways. 16 such Fresh Expressions belong to this new district. This new entity takes an existing form of United Methodist polity, the district, and re-purposes it by creating a district based not on geography, but on missional focus.

At the end of February, Filipinos in the United States, the Philippines, and around the world came together to launch the Global Filipino United Methodists Movement. The new organization cuts across existing forms of polity (congregations, agencies, annual conferences, and central conferences/jurisdictions) to unite people from a particular ethnic heritage around missional concerns related to mission in a migrant global diaspora community.

United Methodism and its antecedents have a long history of polity innovation, based mainly on missional needs. One of the hallmarks of Methodism has long been its willingness to develop new forms of structuring its communal life for the sake of advancing its communal mission. These two examples show that United Methodists continue that heritage today.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Robert Hunt: Our Globalist Fantasy

Today's post is written by Dr. Robert Hunt, Director of Global Theological Education, Professor of Christian Mission and Interreligious Relations, and Director of the Center for Evangelism at Perkins School of Theology. This post originally appeared on the author's personal blog, Culture and Christian Encounters. It appears here with permission.

Bob Dylan‘s song “you got to serve somebody“ marked his enigmatic conversion to Christianity. It became popular, and was covered by numerous other artists, because it said something we can all relate to. Schleiermacher himself couldn’t have said it better. No human can escape the web of human interdependencies. And no human can escape that sense, If only fleeting that there is something greater upon which we depend as well.

The genius of the Enlightenment was to seek to make the human response to those human interdependencies, and the absolute dependency on God, entirely voluntary. Humans would no longer be in the thrall to self appointed authorities, whether civil or religious.

American Methodism was a full expression of that Enlightenment ideal. It was born in a twin movement of independence by Americans from the British civil authorities and the church of England. But ultimately American Methodism could not escape from the third grand movement of its opening era; imperialism. With inconsistent exceptions it sent missionaries into the world to create an empire of the spirit. They offered freedom from sin in Jesus Christ but almost simultaneously placed people in thrall to their own Methodist discipline and more broadly Western civilization. At least initially missionaries lacked the perspective to understand either the limitations of their own culture or its implicit diminution of human freedom that it brought.

Put in an other way, the missionaries mistook a voluntary response to the call of the gospel with actual human freedom.

You gotta serve somebody. The American Methodists offered Christ as Lord, but without much subtlety insisted that new converts to the Lord’s service also follow their orders. Initially they made no distinction between Christ and their particular culture of obedience articulated in their discipline.

Still, eventually the missionaries recognized, under the influence of growing bodies of indigenous Christians, the problematic nature of the mission. By the 20th century things were changing.

As indigenous Methodists began to claim their freedom, the more cognizant of the missionaries became partners. Methodists across the world, supported by missionaries, rightly insisted that their hard won national autonomy from western empires be matched by autonomy from American Methodism’s empire of the Spirit. The exceptions, and none went uncontested, were those Methodists who needed the shelter and support of American Methodism in situations of continued religious and political oppression and instability.

The result, by 1968, would be a United Methodist church both managed and supported entirely from the United States but with small and growing appendages in Europe, a few African countries, and the Philippines. All the other former dominions of the old Methodist empire were autonomous. It was this situation that would give birth to a new form of the old imperial fantasy. It would be called Global United Methodism. Many missionaries cringed.

This globalist fantasy came at just the right time to give comfort to American United Methodists observing their own national decline, and to American conservative/traditionalist United Methodists marginalized by the structures of the new UMC and the rapidly changing American culture. Because even in 1968 it was clear that the growing appendages of American Methodism were mostly theologically conservative in the American sense of the word.

Unfortunately exactly what was meant by “Global” wasn’t clear in 1968, nor is it clear now.

The structure of this new “Global United Methodism" was extremely American-centric. Central conferences were given some measure of cultural autonomy. The American church, despite its own cultural variations, continued to be considered the cultural norm from which the Central conferences varied. All of the major boards and agencies remained in the United States. The result is that today United Methodists are politically interdependent to the extent that political power is distributed according to membership, but remain highly dependent financially on the US churches. Participation in the Global UMC was theoretically voluntary but with all property and funding controlled at the center participants were hardly free.

So, we must ask, what does “Global” mean as a description of the United Methodist Church? Pragmatically it has meant primarily: 1. Political structures are uniform across its not-really-global reach, 2. Property and funding are controlled from the center, which is presumed to unify. 3. doctrinal and social principles are shared, if not uniformly adhered to, and 4. US boards and agencies extend their mission globally.

And what does “Global” mean theologically?

Nothing really.

Self-identified traditionalists have focused almost entirely on participation in three supposedly unifying aspects of being church: credal uniformity (including distinctly Wesleyan notes), uniform adherence to traditional western family structures, and a uniformly enforced discipline regulated by a democratically elected General Conference. Only the third of these is distinctly United Methodist in either content or tradition. In the end only thing that binds us together into a distinct Church is law.

Progressives, in so far as they offer a vision of a global church, offer vaguer ideas of being “one in the Spirit” that are no more distinctively United Methodist than the theology of the traditionalists. But instead of a uniformly enforced discipline they focus on “partnerships” as the media joining politically autonomous churches together, leaving us only egalitarian structures of shared power to hold us together.

Both traditionalist and progressive ideas of a global church are actually fruitless fantasizing because they have no theological foundation. National Methodist churches that gained their autonomy from US domination are not going to submit to a common discipline just because it is controlled from a different continent. And a global church isn’t created by pragmatic arrangements for power-sharing. You gotta serve somebody, but I'm guessing that no one wants to serve law and power.

What neither fantasy takes seriously is the inculturated nature of Christianity. The church is inculturated precisely because as the body of Christ it is and expression of the incarnation, which is non-different from the inculturation of God. Given that we now have, as God promises and demands, a diversity of cultures, the theological basis for a global church will need to be intercultural. Culture is the root of difference, and intercultural dialogue is the key to an always emerging unity. And this implies a theology of a sort we haven’t yet imagined, a theology that is inter-incarnational. More on that in another post.

You gotta serve somebody. Maybe we can find a way for it to always be Christ.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Thomas Kemper: Continuities in mission - A reflection on the bicentennial of Methodist mission

Today's piece is by Thomas Kemper, General Secretary of Global Ministries. It continues UM & Global's celebration of the bicentennial of United Methodist missions. This piece originally appeared on Global Ministries' website.

How does the current work of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries compare to the objectives of our oldest predecessor, the Methodist Episcopal Missionary Society, established in 1819? I have reflected on this question as we celebrate our mission bicentennial and I am fascinated by the continuities I see.

Nathan Bangs, the first executive of the missionary society and a historian of early American Methodism, cites six motivations for starting the organization. Two concerned financial considerations and one is sociological—keeping up with what other denominations were doing. The other three, focusing on mission outreach, are the ones I find most interesting. These are: 1) reaching people on the remote western frontier of the young United States; 2) ministry with Native Americans; and 3) extension of mission “to more distant fields” [abroad]. In short, the Missionary Society was intended to enlarge the reach of the gospel to persons and groups not already or well-served by the church, to offer them Christ and accompany them on their faith journeys. This mission outreach is what we still do.

Ministry with indigenous peoples
I am a little amazed that a self-conscious motive for the society’s founding was the possibility of including Native Americans in the Methodist family. This came about primarily through the ministry of a lay pastor named John Stewart, of mixed African-American and white heritage. He preached among the Wyandot people in Ohio beginning around 1815 with the support of the then Ohio Annual Conference and the benevolence of Bishop William McKendree, the third U.S. episcopal leader after Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury. Stories of the work of Stewart enlivened enthusiasm for a missionary society back East.

While Methodists may not have an altogether continuous, or admirable, history of relations with indigenous peoples, such ministry is in our DNA and has been pulled to the forefront in recent years by the UMC Act of Repentance Movement. We must never again let it fall by the wayside.

In the early 1830s, the Missionary Society wet its sights on “distant fields” abroad, first Liberia, Brazil, and then Argentina. This has grown remarkably over the decades, so that today we have missionaries in some 60 countries and mission personnel, projects, and partners in a total of more than 125 countries. And we keep adding new locales. Recent mission initiatives have introduced Methodism to 15 places where it did not formerly exist, and since 2009, these initiatives have started more than 1,000 new worshipping communities.

Ministry with Immigrants
The initial mission society operational plan provided circuit-riding missionary-pastors on the frontier. Bishops serving mission districts called upon the society for funds for such clergy. Immigrants counted in this expansion and our denomination’s contemporary concern for migrants emerges from our mission roots.

The several missionary societies that would emerge in our American Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren history were acutely aware of the influx of immigrants in the mid-to-late 19th century. The M.E. Church Missionary Society organized specific mission outreach to ethnic or nationality groups—such as Norwegians, Germans, Swedes and Italians—who had their own cultures but were on the fringes of life in the New World on arrival.

Ministry with 19th century immigrants by our EUB mission ancestors has personal meaning for me. Immigrants from Germany who settled in the United States joined a predecessor movement that became part of our Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) heritage. Some of these new Wesleyans returned as missionaries to Germany, where they formed the community out of which my family would eventually become United Methodist. So, I have a keen appreciation for the ministry with migrants and those on the edges, giving substance to the realization that migration can be a blessing.

Also, as early as 1850, German Methodists in Bremerhaven, the port city of Bremen, started an Auswanderer Kirche, or “Emigration Church,” to prepare people leaving Germany to link up with Methodists (rather than Lutherans or Catholics) in the new land. They distributed a 24-page pamphlet, “friendly hints (advice) for emigrants,” and they “have done much more than us,” wrote one Lutheran critic at the time.

Ministry with impoverished communities
Christian mission is always at its best when it focuses on those ignored or pushed aside by dominant cultural norms and economic force. We learn this from Jesus and John Wesley, and my own experience as a missionary in Brazil bears it out. I went to Brazil in 1986, where I worked for eight years teaching in a theological seminary. The interaction with students was deeply meaningful and valuable to my growth as a Christian. But the most gripping part of my experience was through an ecumenical ministry with people who were homeless, many living under the freeways of São Paulo.

The street ministry focused on food and worship. Weekly, people living on the streets and our group of volunteers contributed to a common soup pot—vegetables about to be discarded by vendors or bits of fish from shop owners. Everyone contributed to “The Soup” and shared the savory results. Everyone was equal around the common dish. After eating, we sang hymns, praised God, and prayed together. Sometimes we joined marches and protests seeking justice. It was powerful mission.

Two hundred years ago, April 5, 1819, a group of Methodists met at the Forsyth Street Church in New York City to organize a missionary society. They did so, issuing an “address,” very much in the language of its day but with a breadth of vision worth recalling:

"Our views are not restricted to our own nation or colour; we hope the aborigines of our country, the Spaniards of South America, the French of Louisiana and Canada, and every other people who are destitute of the invaluable blessings of the Gospel, as far as our means may admit, will be comprehended in the field of the labours of our zealous missionaries."

Amen.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

"Answering the Call": The Methodist Mission Bicentennial Conference

For the past three days, approximately 250 mission practitioners, mission scholars, denominational leaders, missionaries, and mission agency staff and board members have been meeting in Atlanta to commemorate the bicentennial of Methodist mission. Below is an extract of the schedule to give a sense of the range of topics discussed at this conference, entitled "Answering the Call: Hearing God’s Voice in Methodist Mission Past, Present and Future." The conference is co-sponsored by Global Ministries and Candler School of Theology.

Keynote Address #1
•    “The Virtues of Mission,” The Rev. Dr. Arun Jones, Dan and Lillian Hankey Associate Professor of World Evangelism, Candler School of Theology, Emory University, and Bicentennial Steering Committee Member

Keynote Address #2
•    “Overcoming Wars, Violence, Political, Social and Economic Challenges through Mission: Mission as Peacemaking and Peacebuilding in the North Katanga Area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” Bishop Mande Muyombo, North Katanga Episcopal Area, The United Methodist Church

Keynote Address #3
•    "Trauma Informed Evangelism," The Rev. Elaine A. Heath, Ph.D., Abbess, the Community at Spring Forest, and Former Dean, Duke Divinity School

Youth Address
•    “Turn ______ Upside Down,” Joy Eva Bohol, Program Executive for Youth Engagement, World Council of Churches (WCC), and Global Missionary, Global Ministries

Breakout Session #1: Milestones in Methodist Mission History
Chair: The Rev. Dr. J. Kabamba Kiboko, Lead Pastor, Forest Chapel UMC, President of the African Clergywomen Association, and Bicentennial Steering Committee Member
•    “Precursors to Methodist Mission,” the Rev. Dr. Benjamin L. Hartley, Associate Professor of Christian Mission, George Fox University
•    “The First Women of Theology: Wives, Missionaries, Deaconesses, and the Beginnings of Boston University,” Dr. Dana L. Robert, Truman Collins Professor of World Christianity and History of Mission and Director of the Center for Global Christianity and Mission, Boston University
•    “A Methodist World’s Fair: The 1919 Centenary Celebration of American Methodist Missions,” Dr. Christopher J. Anderson, Special Collections Librarian and Curator of the Day Missions Collection, Divinity Library, Yale University

Breakout Session #2: Native Americans and Methodist Mission
Chair: Thomas Kemper, General Secretary, Global Ministries
•    “John Stewart, the Wyandotte, and the Origins of the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church,” the Rev. Alfred T. Day III, General Secretary, General Commission on Archives and History, and Bicentennial Steering Committee Member
•    “Native American Theology and Methodist Mission,” the Rev. Glen Chebon Kernell Jr., Executive Secretary of Native American and Indigenous Ministries, Global Ministries

Breakout Session #3: Mission and Migration
Chair: Dr. Jehu Hanciles, D.W. and Ruth Brooks Associate Professor of World Christianity, Candler School of Theology, Emory University
•    “Methodist Mission to the Anglophone Caribbean and the Role of their Emancipatory Theology in Mission through their Migration to the USA,” the Rev. Sheryl Marks-Williams, Doctoral Student, Asbury Theological Seminary
•    “Methodist Mission and Migration in Germany,” the Rev. Walther Seiler, Pastor, Evangelisch-methodistische Kirche-Gemeinde Albstadt
•    “Standing in Spiritual and Material Solidarity with Migrants,” Bishop Felipe Ruiz Aguilar, Northeast Annual Conference and President of the General Cabinet, Methodist Church of Mexico

Breakout Session #4: Mission, Peace and Reconciliation
Chair: The Rev. Dr. Anne Burkholder, Associate Dean of Methodist Studies and Professor in the Practice of Ecclesiology and Church Leadership, Candler School of Theology, Emory University
•    “Towards Just Reconciliation: The Mission of the Church in Response to Ethnopolitical Violence in Kenya,” Dr. Kaberia Isaac Kubai, Lecturer, University of Embu
•    “Theology of Reconciliation – American Methodist Missionaries in Okinawa in 1950s,” Dr. Mikio Miyagi, Visiting Research Scholar, Center for Global Christianity and Mission, Boston University School of Theology
•    “Ubuntu, Wesleyan Social Holiness and the Quest for Human Dignity in Contexts of Political Violence,” the Rev. Dr. Fulgence Nyengele, Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling in the Chryst Chair in Pastoral Theology, Methodist Theological School in Ohio
•    "That We May Live Together," Bev Abma, Board Director, American Friends of Asian Rural Institute

Breakout Session #5: Race, Class and Culture in Mission
Chair: Dr. Jason Morgan Ward, Acting Professor, Department of History, Emory University
•    “White Privilege at Work in the Early Methodist Mission to Liberia: The Story of the Rev. George S. Brown, Early African American Missionary,” the Rev. Patricia J. Thompson, Historian, New England Annual Conference
•    “Marketing Mountain Missions,” the Rev. Mike Feely, Director of Mission Advancement, Henderson Settlement
•    “The Mission of Korean Methodist Women in the 1960s: The Pioneers of Cross-cultural Mission,” Younghwa Kim, Doctoral Student, Emory University

Breakout Session #6: New Mission Work in Contemporary Methodism
Chair: The Rev. Dr. Luther J. Oconer, Associate Professor of United Methodist Studies and Director of the Center for Evangelical United Brethren Heritage, United Theological Seminary, and Bicentennial Steering Committee Member
•    The Rev. Andrew Lee, Global Missionary, Global Ministries, serving as Country Coordinator in the Methodist Mission in Cambodia
•    Kristi Painter, US-2 Missionary, Global Ministries, serving at the Arch Street United Methodist Church in Philadelphia
•    Katherine Parker, Global Missionary, Global Ministries, serving as Health and Community Transformation Advisor with the United Mission to Nepal (UMN)

Breakout Session #7: John Wesley and Mission
Chair: The Rev. Alfred T. Day III, General Secretary, General Commission on Archives and History, and Bicentennial Steering Committee Member
•    “John Wesley’s Doctrine of Prevenient Grace and Its Import for Christian Mission in the Chinese World,” the Rev. Chris Payk, Doctoral Student, National Chengchi University
•    “Missio Dei and the Means of Grace: A Theology of Participation,” the Rev. Dr. David Whitworth, Bishop Cornelius and Dorothye Henderson E. Stanley Jones Assistant Professor of Evangelism and United Methodist Strategic Initiatives Liaison, Gammon Theological Seminary

Breakout Session #8: Women Organized for Mission
Chair: Harriett Olson, General Secretary, United Methodist Women
•    “Early Methodist Women Missionaries: Contributions and Legacy,” the Rev. Dr. Philip Wingeier-Rayo, Dean, Wesley Theological Seminary
•    “Women in Mission, United for Change,” the Rev. Dr. Ellen J. Blue, Mouzon Biggs Jr. Professor of the History of Christianity and United Methodist Studies, Phillips Seminary
•    “United Methodist Women and the General Board of Global Ministries: A Symbiotic and Gendered Story of Continuity and Contingency,” Dr. Glory Dharmaraj, Retired Director of Mission Theology, United Methodist Women
•    “The Interiority of Methodist Mission: The Case of Women Missionaries and Korean Women,” the Rev. Dr. K. Kale Yu, Lead Pastor of Mount Zion UMC, and Adjunct Professor of Christianity, High Point University

Breakout Session #9: Mission and Education
Chair: Dr. Amos Nascimento, Associate General Secretary for Global Education and New Initiatives, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, and Bicentennial Steering Committee Member
•    “To Transform the Midnight Empire of Heathendom: John Dempster and the Missional Origins of Methodist Theological Education,” the Rev. Dr. Douglas D. Tzan, Director of the Doctor of Ministry and Course of Study Programs and Assistant Professor of Church History and Mission, Wesley Theological Seminary
•    “Protestantism and Education: Interiorization of the International Methodist Mission in Brazilian Southeast in the Late 19th Century,” Vitor Queiroz Santos, Instructor, Methodist College in Ribeirão Preto
•    “Public Health, Education, and its Impact on Mission in South Africa,” Rev. Dr. Stephen Hendricks, Education Desk Coordinator, Methodist Church of Southern Africa & Dean of Faculty of Dentistry & Professor of Public Health, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, South Africa, South Africa & Executive Director: UMC GBHEM LEaD Regional Hub, South Africa

Breakout Session #10: Mission as Evangelism, Sponsored by the Foundation for Evangelism
Chair: Jane Boatwright Wood, President, Foundation for Evangelism
•    “Healing a Fractured Salvation,” the Rev. Dr. Mark Teasdale, E. Stanley Jones Associate Professor of Evangelism, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
•    “Why Do People Become Methodist Christians in Russia/Eurasia?” the Rev. Dr. Sergei Nikolaev, E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism and President, Moscow Theological Seminary
•    “Missional Formation in Theological Learning and Curricula,” the Rev. Dr. Luis Wesley de Souza, Arthur J. Moore Associate Professor in the Practice of Evangelism, Candler School of Theology, and Director, World Methodist Evangelism Institute (WMEI)

Breakout Session #11: Colonialism and Empire in Mission
Chair: Dr. Joseph Crespino, Jimmy Carter Professor and Department Chair, Department of History, Emory University
•    “Decolonizing Mission Partnerships,” the Rev. Taylor Denyer, President, Friendly Planet Missiology
•    “Re-clothing the Church: A View to Decolonizing Mission in Fiji,” Akanisi Tarabe, Methodist Church in Fiji
•    “Paradigm Shift in 21st century Mission in Post-Colonial Africa: Rethinking the Future of The United Methodist Church in Light of Emerging Challenges,” the Rev. Dr. Nelson K. Ngoy, Pastor, Wesley UMC, New York Annual Conference

Breakout Session #12: United Methodist Volunteers in Mission
Chair: Maclane Heward, Doctoral Student, Claremont Graduate University
•    Ronda Cordill, UMVIM Coordinator, Western Jurisdiction
•    Tammy Kuntz, UMVIM Coordinator, North Central Jurisdiction
•    Matt Lacey, UMVIM Coordinator, Southeastern Jurisdiction
•    Tom Lank, UMVIM Coordinator, Northeastern Jurisdiction

Breakout Session #13: Theological Understandings of Mission
Chair: The Rev. Dr. Luther J. Oconer, Associate Professor of United Methodist Studies and Director of the Center for Evangelical United Brethren Heritage, United Theological Seminary, and Bicentennial Steering Committee Member
•    “UMC Teaching Documents for Mission,” the Rev. Dr. Darryl W. Stephens, Director of United Methodist Studies, Lancaster Theological Seminary
•    “Missional Formation: Theological Education for Methodist Ecclesial Innovation,” the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Conklin-Miller, E. Stanley Jones Assistant Professor of the Practice of Evangelism and Christian Formation, Duke Divinity School
•    “Call of Moana: Oceanic View of Methodist Mission,” the Rev. Dr. Carmen C. Manalac-Scheuerman, Global Missionary, Global Ministries, serving as Professor of Practical Theology, Davuilevu Theological College

Breakout Session #14: African Women and Mission
Chair: Dr. Dana L. Robert, Truman Collins Professor of World Christianity and History of Mission and Director of the Center for Global Christianity and Mission, Boston University School of Theology, and Bicentennial Steering Committee Member
•    The Rev. Dr. Patience Kisakye, Pastor, Port Gibson, Lyons, and Palmyra UMC, Upper New York Annual Conference
•    The Rev. Mariami Bockari, Makeni District Superintendent, Sierra Leone Annual Conference
•    Betty Spiwe Katiyo, Lay Member, West Zimbabwe Annual Conference
•    The Rev. Jacqueline Ngoy Mwayuma, Administrative Assistant to North Katanga Area Bishop Mande Muyombo

Breakout Session #15: Mission, Health, and Healing
Chair: Dr. John Blevins, Associate Research Professor, Hubert Department of Global Health, Emory University
•    “Health, Suffering And Healing: A Systematic-Theological Reflection With Special Reference to Ameru Cultural Context,” the Rev. Dr. Dorcas Kanana Muketha, Lecturer, Chuka University, Kenya
•    “Medicine and the Methodist Mission in Korea,” the Rev. Dr. Gunshik Shim, Retired, New York Annual Conference
•    “Good Religion and Good Agriculture Go Together: The Case of George Roberts,” the Rev. Dr. Rich Darr, Pastor, United Methodist Church of Geneva, Northern Illinois Annual Conference

Breakout Session #16: Ecumenical Dimensions of Mission
Chair: Glenn Kellum, Special Assistant to the General Secretary, Global Ministries, and Bicentennial Steering Committee Member
•    “Methodist Mission in France,” Dr. Michèle Sigg, Associate Director, Dictionary of African Christian Biography, and Managing Editor, Journal of African Christian Biography
•    “Camping to Promote Holiness and Missions,” Bishop Robert Kipkemoi Lang’at, Africa Gospel Church-Kenya
•    “Mission Roundtables in South America: Sharing a Common Mission,” Lic. Humberto Shikiya, Founder and Member of Board of CREAS, Former Director General of CREAS

Breakout Session #17: Methodist Mission and Muslims
Chair: The Rev. Dr. Deanna Ferree Womack, Assistant Professor of History of Religions and Multifaith Relations, Candler School of Theology
•    “Early Encounters with Islam: Methodist Episcopal Missionaries and Muslims in North India in the 19th century,” Dr. Alan M. Guenther, Assistant Professor of History, Briercrest College and Seminary
•    “The Wesleyan Spirit of Mission among Muslims in the Middle East: Its History and Implications,” the Rev. Dr. Sam Kim, Assistant Professor of the E. Stanley Jones School of Mission, Asbury Theological Seminary
•    “The 20th Century Methodist Mission to the Malays: Faithful Mission at the Complex Boundary of Religious Diversity, Ethnic Rivalry and Political Aspirations,” the Rev. Dr. Robert A. Hunt, Director of Global Theological Education and Director of the Center for Evangelism, Perkins School of Theology

Breakout Session #18: Visions of World Methodism
Chair: Dr. David W. Scott, Director of Mission Theology, Global Ministries, and Bicentennial Conference Coordinator
•    “The World Our Parish: Interrogating the Wesleyan Heritage, North American Methodism and Mission in 21st Century Africa,” the Rev. Dr. J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, Ordained Minister of the Methodist Church, Ghana, and President, Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon, Ghana
•    “Finding the Future of British Methodist World Mission,” the Rev. Dr. Stephen Skuce, Director of Global Relationships, The Methodist Church in Britain