Nashville, May 4 Forty-seven United Methodists from the five jurisdictions in the United States and 21 annual conferences gathered in Nashville this week to identify ways to encourage a strong centering voice for United Methodists to bear witness to a graceful and mutually respectful way of living in the Wesleyan tradition. More than half of the ethnically diverse […]
Bishop Oliveto and Queer Clergy are retained but the future is murky.
Council of Bishops The United Methodist Church FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 24, 2017 Washington, D.C.: The Council of Bishops (COB) has called a Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church (UMC) to be held February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. In announcing the call, COB President Bishop […]
The Sierra Leone Annual Conference held its annual meeting a month ago. At the meeting, Bishop John Yambasu declared he wants churches in Sierra Leone to pay their apportionments so that the annual conference is less dependent on American (and German) money. You can read three slightly different versions of this story, all from Phileas Jusu, from the West African Writers blog, from UMNS, and from the Annual Conference report.
Annual conferences which are part of the Central Conferences, like Sierra Leone, are being asked to contribute to global apportionments for the first time this quadrennium. Bishop Yambasu mentioned this new factor in the church’s finances, but the majority of apportionment dollars will stay in the Sierra Leone Annual Conference and support its work. Yambasu stressed the importance of this money for the annual conference as well as its global obligations.
This story is significant for several reasons:
1. Yambasu explicitly tied his instructions to a possible split in the UMC.
As the first line of the UMNS story reads, “The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone needs to reduce its reliance on overseas support in case the global denomination splits over the issue of homosexuality, Bishop John K. Yambasu told members of the conference at their annual meeting.”
First, it’s significant to see a bishop being this blunt about the possible future of the denomination in an annual conference meeting.
Second, while it’s easy to read the debate over homosexuality as a US-centric issue and identify the ways in which Americans are strategizing for a possible post-split future, it is important to remember that Americans are not the only ones doing so. Planning by those outside the US means that Americans will not control all of the outcomes, should a split occur.
2. Yambasu means business about collecting apportionments.
Current annual conference policy stipulates “only pastors who pay their apportionments in full shall receive salaries at the end of the month. Further, only congregations who pay their apportionments in full will have their pastors and members considered for election as delegates to Central, General and other international conferences … Bishop’s cabinet has also agreed that district superintendents who fail to pay full apportionments for the year will be moved and replaced” (from the West African Writers piece). Yambasu intends to start enforcing this policy and has already withheld salaries from November and December of last year for pastors who did not collect and turn over apportionments.
While not paying pastors and firing district superintendents might seem severe penalties to United Methodists used to their regular incomes, these consequences are clear signs that Yambasu is very serious about collecting apportionments and will use whatever leverage he has to do so. This shift is not about beginning to think about starting to collect apportionments. This shift is about producing immediate results.
3. Sierra Leone isn’t the only annual conference outside the US moving away from dependency.
As this blog has previously noted, the Liberia Annual Conference is also taking steps to achieve financial independence, and that was before General Conference 2016. The savvy leaders of the UMC in West Africa know that greater financial self-sufficiency increases their leverage in negotiations regarding the future of the UMC. Furthermore, whatever comes with regard to the future of the UMC, it will increase their self-determination and further their ministry.
Are we playing dirty or abiding in prayer in this interim time?
This recent UMNS article outlines ways in which Wespath, The United Methodist Church’s pension and benefits organization, in making efforts to encourage and invest in initiatives to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is seen by scientists …
This blog post is the second in a series containing responses to the denomination’s proposed ecclesiology document, “Wonder, Love and Praise.” These responses are written by United Methodist scholars and practitioners around the world. Today’s post is by Rev. Knut Refsdal. Rev. Refsdal is the General Secretary of the Christian Council of Norway (Norges Kristne Rad) and a pastor in the Norway Annual Conference of the UMC.
Thanks for inviting me to comment on “Wonder, Love, and Praise” and thus have the opportunity to get familiar with the document. I believe this document is much needed in The United Methodist Church today.
The document has numerous strengths that I will just briefly mention:
- That the document is written in close dialogue with ecumenical documents, especially “The Church: Towards a Common Vision”, is a strength. This fact places The United Methodist Church very clearly under the ecumenical umbrella and gives us important insights from wider dialogues.
- I also appreciate the reflections that the document gives on our relationship to people of other religions. This is an important topic given the situation in the world today, and from a European perspective, I would like to stress the importance of also including people of no religions in these reflections.
- The document also aims to present The United Methodist Church as a global church and let this global reality inform the ecclesiological reflections given in the document. I share this aim, but believe this fact could have been even clearer. In this regard, “Together Towards Life” has important lessons to learn when stressing “missions from the margins”.
- By linking the understanding of the Church to the conviction that grace is “transformative”, I believe we make connections to widespread values in modern society. This is a core conviction of the Church that needs to be communicated better.
I have four main comments to the document:
First, the document rightly stresses the importance of the Annual Conference as the basic unit within The United Methodist Church. At the same time, discussions regarding the relationship between the Annual Conference and the local church within the connectional system are at the forefront in many settings. This needs to be dealt more with in the document. When we say that the local church is the primary base for ministry and mission and the foundation of everything that happens in the church – what does this mean? There are complex and maybe even contradictory formulations in The Book of Discipline when these issues are raised. How do we balance local autonomy and connectional uniformity? In what way do we allow local churches to adapt to the local situation?
This discussion can be linked to the term “mutual accountability” as general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Olav Fykse Tveit, in his doctoral thesis claimed to be the most prominent gift from Methodism to the ecumenical movement. How do we allow one another freedom and at the same time be accountable to one another within the connectional system? These are questions that need to be addressed.
Second, to some Methodists, the lack of eschatological perspectives in the document is challenging. This is also the situation with “The Church: Towards a Common Vision”. The church as a symbol of the future, the kingdom of God, eternal life, with all that is included in that term, is not as present in the document as it should have been. The church as a community of hope could be explored further. The document is written for the present Church and not for the eternal Church, which makes eschatological aspects vague and almost absent.
Methodists have different views on how important this perspective is, but because it is of great importance to some, it should have been included within such a large work on ecclesiology. Some of us emphasize the church as a community of God’s children that awaits an eternity with him. Others emphasize the church as a community in struggle for a better and more just world, and that when the church and God together achieve their aims, the new creation will include a just world for all. In other words, eschatological aspects involve the church as both called out of and into the world. There are other perspectives as well that connect ecclesiology and eschatology, and in the further dialogue these connections should be expressed for further exploration.
Third, under the headline “Marks of Methodism” I miss a clearer underlining of The United Methodist Church as a “missional church”. “Mission” is touched upon at various places in the document, but to mark this even clearer would be important both in an historical and an actual perspective.
Fourth, the document states that The United Methodist Church is marked by both diversity and dialogue. I appreciate the reflections on how to deal with the conflicts within the church. Like so many others I am worried for the future of the church.
One of the things I have always liked best about The United Methodist Church has been its ability to embrace so many of us. The United Methodist Church has been a church that has always managed to keep various streams within the church together. Therefore, for a long time conservatives, progressives, pietists and charismatics lived together well, even though the church had standpoints in moral and theological questions that not everyone always agreed with. That this was the situation had many reasons, but one reason is that the church was formed at the height of the ecumenical movement.
In recent years this has changed. The various streams no longer live together so well. This was clearly expressed at the General Conference 2016 when dealing with the Church’s attitude towards LGBT people. This created a lot of frustration, and showed, in my opinion, a church that has serious challenges ahead. The first three days passed with endless discussions about procedures. Delegates from both sides used everything imaginable and unimaginable of parliamentary tricks to gain support.
These are symptoms of serious problems the church must address.
The question I ask myself is therefore this: Is this just a postponement of a split that must come or will the church manage to rediscover its DNA as a kind of umbrella that allows many to live well together, despite differences in many areas? I hope the latter is true, but in order to be able to do that, we need to clearly express what kind of church we want to be.
In this regard we need more than the vision of the church. We need formulations and expressions that manage to bind together the different streams. I hope the theological convictions that are fundamental in the document have the ability to play such a role.
Mental health: post-bullying syndrome http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2016/06/the_lasting_effects_of_childhood_bullying_are_surprisingly_not_all_detrimental.html Music therapy http://www.nami.org/Blogs…
NASHVILLE, Tenn. Dec. 15, 2016 / Discipleship Ministries United Methodists are being asked to name their favorite and least favorite hymns as part of the initial research conducted by Discipleship Ministries and a diverse committee to revise The United Methodist Hymnal after almost three decades. The first of several online surveys is under way to support the […]
The truth about the future of the United Methodist Church? There is no future. It is as simple as that. There is no future. I have been putting off writing this post for six months now, but it is time. I attended the 2016 General Conference as part of the United Methodist Reporter journalistic team. I [Read More…]
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