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The Mission Society (formerly The Mission Society for United Methodists) is celebrating its 28th birthday today. Society president Dick McClain recounts the founding:

A small gathering of people met together in an airport hotel in St. Louis. Like any other meeting, this one had potential — potential to be hardly remembered just a few months later even by those in attendance, or the potential of birthing something new in the world that would effect lives far beyond imagining.

mission-society-logoThe people in the room that day sensed deeply that they had been called by God. So…this group of United Methodists launched out in faith.

They would establish a missionary-sending agency that would offer Christ to the world’s under-evangelized and unreached people, while also providing increased opportunities for God’s people to respond to His call to cross-cultural missions.

This new organization would not be funded by the United Methodist Church or by any denomination; it would instead be funded by individuals and local churches. In other words, it would rise or fall according to the wishes of the people who partnered with it.

It was a gutsy, sacrificial move. Some of those present pledged thousands of dollars they did not then have.

Six weeks later, on Jan. 6, 1984, The Mission Society was incorporated.

Today, The Mission Society has more than 200 missionaries serving in 37 nations around the world. Most serve outside the U.S., although several are on staff at campus ministries in the U.S.

The Society also has more than 30 volunteer mission representatives available to “introduce” The Mission Society to local churches and to “help pastors, mission committees, and individuals implement the vision the Lord is giving them to reach the world with the gospel.”

You can learn more about The Mission Society here.

The Mission Society also publishes an excellent quarterly magazine, Unfinished.

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(The above post is adapted from a post first published in 2009.)


Related posts
The Mission Society celebrates 25 years
Dick McClain named president of The Mission Society
‘Refocused on our divinely appointed mission’: The GBGM and The Mission Society co-sponsor missions conference in Atlanta

Related articles and information
The Mission Society and GBGM build relationship: Leaders help mission groups to make up | Sam Hodges, UM Reporter (Nov. 18, 2011)
Dr. Thomas Kemper, chief executive of the UM General Board of Global Ministries, addresses The Mission Society Board of Directors | Audio (Nov. 2, 2011)
Going worldwide: For 25 years the Mission Society has helped the church discover its mission | Dick McClain, Good News (September/October 2009)
Report on The Mission Society’s 25th anniversary celebration | Mission Society News (Sept. 17, 2009)
Video the 25th anniversary celebration | The Mission Society media library
Timeline of The Mission Society
Built to last: A look at The Mission Society after 25 years of building for God’s Kingdom | Interview with Dr. Phil Granger, Unfinished (Winter 2009)
Report on the October 2008 Mission Society ‘visioning’ gathering in Prague, Czech Republic | Jim Ramsay, The Mission Society (Dec. 2, 2008)
There must be more: Mission Society ‘campus missionaries’ are helping feed the spiritually hungry at several U.S. colleges | Anna Egipto, Unfinished (Spring 2009)
The Faith that compels us: The first decade of the Mission Society | An excerpt from The Faith that Compels Us by H.T. Maclin (Bristol House)
The demise of the world’s greatest mission agency | Mark Tooley, Touchstone magazine (November/December 1998)
An open letter to the United Methodist Church from The Mission Society | The Mission Society, via the UM Confessing Movement (May 8, 1998)
Struggling for soul and purse: Disgruntled Methodists challenge their biggest agency | TIME magazine (Jan. 30, 1984)
Methodist critics form own mission agency | David E. Anderson, UPI (Jan. 27, 1984)

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St. Patrick’s Day is widely observed, but in our time few people know anything about Patrick himself.

A statue of St. Patrick in County Down

A statue of Patrick in County Down

Patrick was not born in Ireland, as is widely supposed, but in what is now England.

As a teenager, in about the year 430, he was captured by Irish soldiers and sold into slavery.

While enslaved, he became a zealous follower of Jesus Christ. Eventually, he escaped slavery and responded God’s call to become a missionary — to the Irish.

Later, in Ireland, he wrote this in his journal:

“Daily I expect murder, fraud or captivity, but I fear none of these things because…I have cast myself into the hands of God almighty who rules everywhere.”

A prayer by St. Patrick:

I sing as I arise today.
I call upon the Father’s might,
The will of God to be my guide,
The eye of God to be my sight.
The Word of God to be my speech,
The hand of God to be my stay,
The shield of God to be my strength
The path of God to be my way.

Amen.

Related articles
Patrick the Saint | Mary Cagney, Christian History
What St. Patrick can teach United Methodists | Heather Hahn, United Methodist News Service (March 17, 2011)
Patrick the Saint | Bill Potter, Circa History Guild

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The president of a United Methodist-affiliated seminary says Christians who feel the need to evangelize people of other faiths have “an incorrect perception of what it means to follow Jesus.” The comment from Jerry D. Campbell, president of California’s Claremont School of Theology, was published July 2 by the United Methodist Reporter.

Dr. Jerry D. Campbell

“The correct perception [of following Jesus] is much more on [the] side of learning to express love for God and love for your neighbor as yourself,” he told the newspaper.

Dr. Campbell’s remarks were reported in an article about Claremont’s plan to become an “interreligious institution” that offers clerical training for Muslim imams and Jewish rabbis as well as Christian pastors (see this June 14 MethodistThinker report). Claremont intends to later add training for Buddhists and Hindus, as well.

(On June 25, the United Methodist Church’s University Senate approved Claremont’s new multifaith educational model; details below.)

In dismissing an evangelistic imperative in relation to people who practice non-Christian faiths, Dr. Campbell appears to be calling into question the church’s historic understanding of the Great Commission recorded in Matthew 28, as well as much of the Christian movement’s evangelistic and missionary ministry over its 2,000-year history.

Further, Dr. Campbell’s comments seem at odds with official United Methodist doctrine, which declares that the “ultimate concern” of the church’s ministry is “that all persons will be brought into a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ” (United Methodist Book of Discipline ¶127). The Book of Discipline also states that while United Methodists “respect persons of all religious faiths,” the UMC “affirms that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and the Lord of all” (¶121).

The United Methodist statements about Christ’s uniqueness, lordship, and salvific work stand against a “pluralistic” religious view that sees all religions as equally valid and as serving essentially the same function.

From the religious pluralist’s perspective, evangelizing people of other faiths is not only unnecessary but constitutes an exercise in arrogance, as summed up by missiologist and theologian Lesslie Newbigin in his influential 1989 book, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (here via Google Books):

If what matters about religious beliefs is not the factual truth of what they affirm, but the sincerity with which they are held; if religious belief is a matter of personal inward experience rather than an account of what is objectively the case, then there are certainly no grounds for thinking that Christians have the right— much less any duty — to seek conversion of [others] to the Christian faith….

[According to the religious pluralist, we] have no right to affirm…that there is no other name given under heaven whereby we are to be saved.

The issue of how — and if — Christians should seek to evangelize people of other faiths was a “recurring theme” at Edinburgh 2010, last month’s ecumenical world mission conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, according to a June 4 report published by the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.

Many perspectives emerged among the 300 delegates from 67 countries and more than 50 Christian denominations…. A few voices in a study section on other faiths spoke in favor of a “live and let live” approach to non-Christians, but the temper of the small group reports there reflected that of the overall Edinburgh 2010 conference — witnessing to one’s faith in the contexts of living….

Dr. Dana L. Robert at Edinburgh 2010

A witness approach prevailed among the panelists of conference speakers in the June 4 press conference. “Mission is the church breathing,” said Dr. Dana Robert, the conference keynote speaker, who is a professor at Boston University School of Theology and a United Methodist. “If we don’t breathe, we die,” Dr. Robert said.

In relating to people of other faiths, she recommended an approach of engagement and hospitality to all people…. For Christians, she said, “witnessing to the love of God in Jesus Christ” is an essential part of life, but the results of that witness lie with the Holy Spirit.

Groups participating in the Edinburgh 2010 conference included (partial list): the Anglican Communion, Baptist World Alliance, the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, the Roman Catholic Church, the World Council of Churches, and the World Methodist Council.

Dr. Dana Robert, in addition to serving as the Truman Collins Professor of World Christianity and History of Mission at the Boston University School of Theology, also heads the School’s Center for Global Christianity and Mission. One of the Center’s stated tasks is “to explore the relationship of mission studies and interfaith dialogue in theory and practice.”

In his 2002 book, Christianity at the Religious Roundtable: Evangelicalism in Conversation with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, Timothy C. Tennent, now president of Asbury Theological Seminary, argued that inter-religious dialogue and faithfulness to historic Christianity are not mutually exclusive. But he rejected acceptance of an “all-religions-are-fundamentally-the-same” ideology.

[W]e must not succumb to the forces of religious pluralism that seek to bring to the table of dialogue a version of Christianity that has been robbed of its distinctiveness. For too long interreligious dialogue has been advanced and identified with a pluralist agenda that openly seeks to accommodate other world religions by discarding distinctive Christian doctrines such as the incarnation and the resurrection of Christ….

True interreligious dialogue acknowledges that all religions in one way or another seek to defend certain truth claims. It is not fair to any religion to allow it to be ensnared in the swamp of religious pluralism, which concludes that we are all saying the same thing….

Many of the proponents of dialogue… [insist] that any desire to convert another person is a fundamental violation of the mutuality inherent in dialogue. The result is the advocacy of a dialogue without persuasion. However, the mutuality of dialogue is not sacrificed if everyone is permitted to speak with persuasion….

[W]e must learn to listen to and understand the actual claims of other religions in order to effectively bear witness to our faith. The New Testament does not just call us to preach the gospel, but to communicate the gospel. This means we cannot speak the gospel into thin air; rather it must be effectively communicated to specific contexts, and we must be ready and willing to respond to real and specific objections and doubts, giving reasons for the hope that is within us (1 Pet. 3:15)….

[I]t is argued [by some that] Christians who dialogue are actually engaged in a monologue disguised as a mutual exchange. On the contrary, I have discovered over and over again that I am enriched by the mutual exchange….

Asbury's Dr. Timothy C. Tennent

I do not think my own appreciation for the doctrine of the Trinity would be nearly as deep if the doctrine had not been challenged so often by my Islamic friends. It was the Buddhists, not my own Christian friends, who finally helped me see the momentous dangers of advocating faith without a clear connection to the historical Jesus of Nazareth….

[W]e stand at an opportune time in the history of the church…. Many who so eagerly jumped onto the postmodern bandwagon are beginning to realize that the true struggle is not between tolerance and intolerance but between truth and falsehood. A new openness to revelation is emerging as well as a desire to reclaim the language of truth that has, until recently, been dropped into the abyss of relativism.

This makes it an exciting and strategic time to sit down at the religious roundtable and bear witness to the good news of Jesus Christ.

Although Asbury Theological Seminary is not one of the United Methodist Church’s 13 official seminaries, it currently educates about 17 percent of all those training to be United Methodist clergy, according to a 2009 article in Good News magazine.

On June 25, the United Methodist Church’s University Senate, a elected body that determines which schools meet criteria for being affiliated with the denomination, approved Claremont School of Theology’s new interreligious educational model.

The Senate also ordered the release of an estimated $800,000 in Ministerial Education Fund (MEF) money that had been withheld earlier this year pending a review of Claremont’s multifaith educational model and its overall financial situation. MEF funds are raised from local United Methodist churches via the UMC’s apportionment structure.

Riley B. Case, associate director of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church, described the University Senate’s decision in favor of Claremont as “a tragic step for the United Methodist Church to take,” according the United Methodist Reporter (from the same article quoted earlier).

“[Is Claremont] really fulfilling what ought to be the purpose of United Methodist seminaries?” he asked. “Are they tied into the mission of the church, which is to make disciples for Jesus Christ?”

However, Ellen Ott Marshall, associate professor of Christian ethics at the UM-affiliated Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, told the Reporter that Claremont’s interreligious approach is “a tremendous and exciting leap forward.”

Although no other UM seminary has thus far adopted a multifaith model, in 2007 UM-affiliated Emory University, home of the Candler School of Theology, named Buddhist leader (and Tibetan head of state) the Dalai Lama as a Presidential Distinguished Professor.

This fall, Emory is sponsoring an Interfaith Summit on Happiness featuring Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, The Dalai Lama (a title that roughly translates as “Ocean of Wisdom”), Muslim scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth (U.K.).


Related posts
UM seminary embraces non-Christian faiths, will train Muslim imams, Jewish rabbis
Podcast — Bishop William R. Cannon: ‘The Whole Gospel for the Whole World’
Podcast — Harry Denman: ‘Are We Making Christ Known?’
Podcast — Sir Alan Walker: ‘Christianity at the Crossroads’
Podcast — Eddie Fox: ‘That the World May Know Jesus’

Related articles and information
Claremont’s religious diversity: Church affirms multi-faith project | Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter (July 2, 2010)
United Methodist money to train Muslim clerics? | Riley B. Case, Good News (July 6, 2010)
Another PR release for Claremont | Terry Mattingly, GetReligion.org (July 6, 2010)
University Senate rescinds public warning (PDF) | news release, University Senate of the United Methodist Church (June 25, 2010)
University Senate organization, policies, and guidelines — 2009-2012 (PDF) | United Methodist University Senate
Members of the United Methodist University Senate — 2009-2012 | UM General Board of Higher Education & Ministry
Methodists, Muslims and Jews: Learning together to lead together | Jerry D. Campbell, On Faith, WashingtonPost.com (June 10, 2010)
Claremont seminary reaches beyond Christianity | Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times (June 9, 2010)
All religions are the same, right? | Bobby Ross Jr., GetReligion.org (June 10, 2010)
Theology school becomes 1st accredited U.S. seminary to train Muslim & Jewish theologians | Islam Today (June 9, 2010)
Methodist and multi-faith dialogue | Sandra N. Bane (chair, Claremont School of Theology board of trustees), Los Angeles Newspaper Group (April 24, 2010)
Being Methodist and multifaith | Jerry D. Campbell, United Methodist Reporter (Oct. 15, 2009)
Why Methodist seminaries are becoming irrelevant and dying | Riley B. Case, Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church (July 2009 — via Methodist Examiner)
Report from Church of England Bishops highlights unchanging duty to share the Good News | The Church of England (June 21, 2010)
Christian mission and other faiths: A complex issue | Elliott Wright, United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries (June 4, 2010)
Mission and unity in the long view from 1910 to the 21st century (PDF) | Dana L. Robert, keynote address at the Edinburgh 2010—Witnessing to Christ Today conference (June 3, 2010)
Report on Study Theme 2: Christian mission among other faiths | Edinburgh 2010—Witnessing to Christ Today (April 2010)
Statement on Wesleyan/Methodist witness in Christian and Islamic cultures (PDF) | World Methodist Council (Sept. 18, 2004)

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MethodistThinker.com will be on hiatus from posting new material for the next several weeks. During this time, we will showcase podcasts from the fall of 2009.

The premiere podcast of our fall 2009 season featured one of the most influential Methodists of the 20th century: the Rev. Dr. Sir Alan Walker.

Sir Alan Walker

Sir Alan Walker

Born in Sydney, Australia, in 1911, Alan Walker was the 13th person in his family tree to become a preacher.

In the 1950s, he became known for leading evangelistic meetings across the Australian continent. Later, he came the United States to work briefly with the Board of Evangelism of The Methodist Church (a predecessor denomination of The United Methodist Church).

Returning to Australia in the late 1950s, he became the superintendent of the Sydney’s famed Central Methodist Mission (now known as Wesley Mission), a post he held for 20 years. During that time, he founded Lifeline, an innovative telephone counseling ministry that continues today.

In 1978, Alan Walker became the first World Director of Evangelism for the World Methodist Council. In that position, he traveled to more than 75 countries to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.

He was honored with knighthood in 1981. In 1986, he and his wife, Lady Winifred Walker, received the World Methodist Peace Award.

In his 70s, he founded what is now known as the Alan Walker College of Evangelism in Sydney.

The Rev. Dr. Sir Alan Walker died in January 2003 at the age of 91.

This podcast features a recording of Sir Alan Walker from the 1980 United Methodist Congress on Evangelism, held in Tulsa, Okla. Listen using the audio player below (27 min.) — or download an mp3 file (12.3 MB; on a PC, right click and choose “save as”).

To subscribe to the MethodistThinker.com Podcast, use the link near the top of the right column.


Related information
Honoring Sir Alan Walker | Gordon Moyes, successor to Alan Walker as superintendent of Wesley Mission (from an address originally presented in June 2001)
Theologian, leader, champion of the poor: Sir Alan Walker dies aged 91 | Wesley Mission news release (Jan. 30, 2003)
Sir Alan Walker, World Methodist evangelist, dies at 91 | Linda Bloom, United Methodist News Service (Jan. 30, 2003)
Remembering Sir Alan Walker | Sunday Nights radio program (transcript), Australian Broadcasting Corporation (Feb. 2, 2003)
A study in word and deed: A eulogy at Rev. Sir Alan Walker’s Thanksgiving Service | Harold Henderson, author, Reach for the World: The Alan Walker Story (Feb. 11, 2003)

Books by Alan Walker
Standing Up To Preach: The Art of Evangelical Preaching
Breakthrough: Rediscovery of the Holy Spirit
The Whole Gospel for the Whole World (The Wieand Lectures in Evangelism)
The Promise and the Power (The 1980 Harry Denman Lectures)

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In the wake of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s triennial missions conference, Urbana 09 (held Dec. 27-Dec. 31 in St. Louis), a leader with The Mission Society (formerly The Mission Society for United Methodists) notes that the Urbana conference offers a clear and encouraging sign that “God is calling a new generation to His mission.”

“I just finished attending the huge Urbana 2009 student missions conference,” wrote Jim Ramsey, the groups’s senior director of field ministry, on The Mission Society blog.

“Over 15,000 young people gathered to learn about and explore commitment to God’s mission in the world. It has been an amazing time,” Ramsey wrote.

He said his time at the Urbana conference made it clear that not only is “calling a new generation to His mission,” but that this particular generation has “an exciting passion among students to confront issues of injustice and poverty with the power of the Gospel.”

This isn’t a fuzzy “do-gooder” type of approach, trying to come up with human solutions — the approach that has characterized various “social gospel” attempts of the past. This generation seems to be gifted with a radical abandon to Jesus Christ and a willingness to confront systems of poverty and injustice with the light of the Gospel. They seem to experience the deep offense that such systems are to the Creator and feel compelled to challenge and change….

Those of us who are a bit further along in years — parents, church leaders, mission leaders — need to recognize what God is doing and do all we can to encourage, to advise, and to release this incredible energy and passion.

Meanwhile, Riley B. Case of the United Methodist Confessing Movement writes that the passion and strong sense of mission exhibited at the Urbana Conference serves as sober reminder about the declining state of official UM missions.

[When I attended by first Urbana Conference in 1955,] the Board of Missions of The Methodist Church was very visible and active in recruitment of persons for service in the Methodist Church. The board at that time was recruiting evangelical students as missionaries….

Dr. Riley B. Case

The Methodist Church in 1955 had nearly 1,800 overseas full-time missionaries on the field. The General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM, the successor to the Board of Missions) now has fewer than 200 full-time overseas missionaries in service….

InterVarsity seeks to work in cooperation with other parachurch groups and other denominations. In the light of this nearly 150 mission agencies and educational institutions exhibited at Urbana 09. However, The United Methodist Church was conspicuous by its near-absence.

Numbers of evangelical seminaries recruited students at Urbana, but few mainline seminaries. One has the feeling that United Methodist seminaries either are not aware of conferences like Urbana 09, or are not interested in pursuing evangelicals as students.

That is most unfortunate, because The United Methodist Church could benefit from the commitment and enthusiasm that comes out of conferences like Urbana.

Of the more than 15,000 attendees at this year’s Urbana conference, more than 2,600 committed themselves to long-term missionary service. Another 5,000 committed themselves to short-term service.


Related posts
The Mission Society celebrates 25 years
‘Refocused on our divinely appointed mission’: GBGM and The Mission Society co-sponsor missions conference in Atlanta

Related articles and information
‘Justice generation’ puts Jesus into social action | Heather Sells, CBN (Jan. 12, 2010)
Thousands of Urbana attendees bring in new year with commitment to missions | Steven Lawson, Charisma News Online (Jan. 1, 2010)
Going worldwide: For 25 years the Mission Society has helped the church discover its mission | Dick McClain, Good News (September/October 2009)
There must be more: Mission Society ‘campus missionaries’ are helping feed the spiritually hungry at several U.S. colleges | Anna Egipto, Unfinished (Spring 2009)
The demise of the world’s greatest mission agency | Mark Tooley, Touchstone magazine (November/December 1998)
An open letter to the United Methodist Church from The Mission Society | The Mission Society, via the UM Confessing Movement (May 8, 1998)

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The premiere podcast of our fall 2009 season features one of the most influential Methodists of the 20th century: the Rev. Dr. Sir Alan Walker.

Sir Alan Walker

Sir Alan Walker

Born in Sydney, Australia, in 1911, Alan Walker was the 13th person in his family tree to become a preacher. In the 1950s, he became known for leading evangelistic meetings across the Australian continent.

Later, he came the United States to work briefly with the Board of Evangelism of The Methodist Church (a predecessor denomination of The United Methodist Church).

Returning to Australia in the late 1950s, he became the superintendent of the Sydney’s famed Central Methodist Mission (now known as Wesley Mission), a post he held for 20 years. During that time, he founded Lifeline, an innovative telephone counseling ministry that continues today.

In 1978, Alan Walker became the first World Director of Evangelism for the World Methodist Council. In that position, he traveled to more than 75 countries to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.

He was honored with knighthood in 1981. In 1986, he and his wife, Lady Winifred Walker, received the World Methodist Peace Award.

In his 70s, he founded what is now known as the Alan Walker College of Evangelism in Sydney.

The Rev. Dr. Sir Alan Walker died in January 2003 at the age of 91.

This podcast features a recording of Sir Alan Walker from the 1980 United Methodist Congress on Evangelism in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Listen using the audio player below (27 min.) — or download an mp3 file (12.3 MB; on a PC, right click and choose “save as”).

To listen to programs from our spring 2009 season, click the podcasts tab at the top of this page.

You can now subscribe to the MethodistThinker Podcast via iTunes or other Podcast software. Use this link to set up your feed: http://methodistthinker.com/category/podcasts/feed.


Related information
Honoring Sir Alan Walker | Gordon Moyes, successor to Alan Walker as superintendent of Wesley Mission (from an address originally presented in June 2001)
Theologian, leader, champion of the poor: Sir Alan Walker dies aged 91 | Wesley Mission news release (Jan. 30, 2003)
Sir Alan Walker, World Methodist evangelist, dies at 91 | Linda Bloom, United Methodist News Service (Jan. 30, 2003)
Remembering Sir Alan Walker | Sunday Nights radio program (transcript), Australian Broadcasting Corporation (Feb. 2, 2003)
A study in word and deed: A eulogy at Rev. Sir Alan Walker’s Thanksgiving Service | Harold Henderson, author, Reach for the World: The Alan Walker Story (Feb. 11, 2003)

Books by Alan Walker
Standing Up To Preach: The Art of Evangelical Preaching
Breakthrough: Rediscovery of the Holy Spirit
The Whole Gospel for the Whole World (The Wieand Lectures in Evangelism)
The Promise and the Power (The 1980 Harry Denman Lectures)

Read Full Post »

The Mission Society, launched in 1984 as The Mission Society for United Methodists, hosted a “Celebration of God’s Faithfulness” Friday, marking the mission-sending agency’s 25th anniversary. Hundreds friends and supporters gathered at the First United Methodist Church in Norcross, Georgia (near the Society’s headquarters) to celebrate with missionaries, staff members, and current and former leaders of the agency.

MissionSociety25Among the speakers was The Mission Society’s founding president (and president emeritus), H.T. Maclin. He led the then-fledgling agency from 1984 to 1991, after having completed a 31-year career with The Methodist Church’s Board of Missions and the United Methodist’s Church’s General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM).

Dr. Maclin described how The Mission Society was formed as a “supplemental mission agency” by a group of 34 United Methodists who had grown concerned that the GBGM flagging in its commitment to Christ-focused missions and had embraced leftist political causes and non-Wesleyan theology.

Even though he was appointed to The Mission Society directorship “without hesitation” by Bishop Joel McDavid, episcopal leader of the Atlanta Area, Dr. Maclin said the General Board of Global Ministries was not at all pleased with the creation of the new agency, perceiving it to be a threat.

The Board…circulated a letter…[saying] that this new organization could be “disruptive of the administrative order of the Church.” There was only me and a part-time secretary with a desk made from an inner door in our basement! [But] what was meant to disparage the new Society could not have been more helpful. Thank God for that!

Within a short time, we began to receive hundreds of responses from across our church, nearly a hundred of them asking me to send an application for missionary service. From around the world came a flood of letters of support, with requests from four bishops in as many nations to send missionaries….

And the following May, the Society commissioned its first 10 missionaries…. Since then, 460 additional men and women have been trained and sent out for ministry in 32 nations around the world. There, they introduce individuals to Christ.

Use the audio player below to listen to Dr. Maclin’s full remarks (7 min.).

Other speakers at the 25th anniversary celebration included: Florencio Guzman, one of the agency’s first missionaries, who — along with his wife and children — continues to serve in Monterrey, Mexico; former Society president Al Vom Steeg, who led the organization from 1994-2000 and now serves with a Mission Society offshoot organization, the International Leadership Institute; and outgoing president Dr. Phil Granger, who has been The Mission Society’s president since 2001.

Dr. Bill O'Brien delivers the keynote address

Bill O'Brien delivers the keynote address

The keynote address for the 25th anniversary event was presented by Mission Society board member, Dr. William O’Brien, former president of the American Society of Missiology and co-author of Choosing A Future for U.S. Missions.

To listen to Dr. O’Brien’s address, use the audio player below (16 min.) — or download the 4MB mp3 file (on a PC, right click and choose “save as”).

Dr. O’Brien begins by quoting portions of Psalm 19 and Psalm 8 as rendered by Eugene Petersen in The Message. (NOTE: The audio includes a brief introduction by Jim Ramsay, The Mission Society’s senior director of field ministry.)

Praying for Dick and Pam McClain

H.T. Maclin leads prayer for Dick McClain

Toward the end of the evening, current and former leaders of The Mission Society participated in a prayer of consecration for the agency’s new president, Dick McClain, who officially took office during the anniversary event.

McClain is the longest-tenured member of The Mission Society’s staff, having served 23 years, most recently as executive vice president and chief operating officer.

In a just-released Mission Society podcast, Dick McClain discusses the changing face of world missions and talks about his vision for The Mission Society. Click here to listen.

WorldMissionThe Society’s 25th anniversary celebration coincided with the release of the book, World Mission in the Wesleyan Spirit (Providence House, 2009).

Twelve of the 31 authors whose work is represented in the new book were on hand for anniversary event, including Gerald Anderson, Luis Wesley de Souza, Howard Snyder, and Bishop Robert Aboagye-Mensah of the Methodist Church Ghana.

Other contributors include William J. Abraham, David B. Barrett, Timothy C. Tennent, and Hwa Yung, a bishop of the Methodist Church in Malaysia.

As noted above, the formation of The Mission Society as a “supplemental mission agency” was controversial among some the United Methodist Church. Archival audio related to that controversy is below.

First, an excerpt from the Episcopal Address at the 1984 General Conference in Baltimore. Speaking on behalf of the Council of Bishops, Bishop William R. Cannon (North Carolina Conference) acknowledged legitimate concerns about certain United Methodist boards and agencies, but noted that “[w]e support General Board of Global Ministries as the sole sending agency of missionaries and disapprove the organization of another agency in competition with it” (1:35).

Next, two excerpts from a legislative committee at the 1984 General Conference. A resolution to approve The Mission Society as “an alternative mission sending agency of the United Methodist Church” met with a vote of “non-concurrence” (:50). (The full General Conference, however, mandated that the GBGM maintain a series of conversations with representatives of The Mission Society.)

During a workshop at the 1989 UM Congress on Evangelism in Atlanta, then-Mission Society President H.T. Maclin discussed the role that “unofficial” groups such as The Mission Society fill within the church (:42).

Bishop Emerson Colaw (retired—North Central Jurisdiction), speaking at the 1990 UM Congress on Evangelism in Pittsburgh, cited the furor of The Mission Society as an example of “misplaced energy” and “paranoia.” He said the controversy demonstrated how heirarchical organizations tend to become “more concerned with maintaining the structure than getting on with the mission” (1:26).

On May 2, 2008, the General Conference of The United Methodist Church passed a resolution affirming the work of The Mission Society and encouraging the General Board of Global Ministries to “develop new conversations and liaisons with the Mission Society for new and ongoing partnerships in areas of mutual concern.”

Last October, for the first time, GBGM and The Mission Society jointly sponsored a missions conference (in concert with several other organizations). The “Beyond These Walls” conference was hosted by McEachern UMC in the Atlanta area.

Another such conference will be held next year, also at McEachern. Details here.


Related posts
Dick McClain named president of The Mission Society
Happy Birthday to The Mission Society
‘Refocused on our divinely appointed mission’: The GBGM and The Mission Society co-sponsor missions conference in Atlanta

Related articles and information
Going worldwide: For 25 years the Mission Society has helped the church discover its mission | Dick McClain, Good News (September/October 2009)
Report on The Mission Society’s 25th anniversary celebration | Mission Society News (Sept. 17, 2009)
Podcast audio of all speakers at the 25th anniversary celebration | The Mission Society media library
Timeline of The Mission Society
Built to last: A look at The Mission Society after 25 years of building for God’s Kingdom | Interview with Dr. Phil Granger, Unfinished (Winter 2009)
Report on the October 2008 Mission Society ‘visioning’ gathering in Prague, Czech Republic | Jim Ramsay, The Mission Society (Dec. 2, 2008)
There must be more: Mission Society ‘campus missionaries’ are helping feed the spiritually hungry at several U.S. colleges | Anna Egipto, Unfinished (Spring 2009)
The Faith that compels us: The Mission Society celebrates 20 years of service | H.T. Maclin, Good News magazine (March/April 2004)
The demise of the world’s greatest mission agency | Mark Tooley, Touchstone magazine (November/December 1998)
An open letter to the United Methodist Church from The Mission Society | The Mission Society, via the UM Confessing Movement (May 8, 1998)
Methodists in flap over independent mission agency | David E. Anderson, UPI (June 1, 1985)
New Mission Society for UMs opens for business in Atlanta | Good News magazine (March/April 1984)
Struggling for soul and purse: Disgruntled Methodists challenge their biggest agency | TIME magazine (Jan. 30, 1984)
Methodist critics form own mission agency | David E. Anderson, UPI (Jan. 27, 1984)

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The Global Day of Prayer

Stopping in for a brief visit last week at a United Methodist Church in Indiana, I was pleased to see a poster in the narthex indicating the congregation would be participating in this Sunday’s Global Day of Prayer. This international prayer event represents one of the most remarkable spiritual movements of our time.

GDOP-09The Global Day of Prayer had its beginnings in 2001, when a Day of Repentance and Prayer was held at Newlands Rugby Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa. In 2002, similar prayer events took place across South Africa.

In 2004, Christians throughout the African continent — in 56 nations — participated in a continental Day of Repentance and Prayer for Africa.

The first Global Day of Prayer took place on Pentecost Sunday 2005, with believers in 156 nations — including the United States — taking part. By Pentecost Sunday last year, the movement had spread to 214 nations.

Use the video player below to see excerpts from last year’s Global Day of Prayer observance, the largest prayer gathering in history.

 

Global Day of Prayer gatherings will be held this Sunday in stadiums, parks, local churches, and private homes.

Because this year the event falls on a “fifth Sunday,” the Day of Prayer will be observed in some communities as part of regularly scheduled “Fifth Sunday Community Services” that bring together several congregations for joint worship.

Each local Global Day of Prayer event will be unique, as believers in different parts of the world worship and pray according to their own cultures and customs. But at some point each gathering of believers — across all 200-plus nations — will pray the 2009 Prayer for World (PDF), a prayer of unity rooted in a common desire to see the unfolding of God’s purposes. In English, it reads in part:

King of Glory,
Come and finish Your work in our cities, our peoples and our nations.

We lift our voices in unison with believers from Africa and Asia,
from the Middle East and Europe, from North and South America,
and from Australia and the Pacific Islands — together we cry:
Lift up your heads, O you gates!
Be lifted up ancient doors
so that the King of glory may come in!

As Your deeds increase throughout the earth,
and as Your blessings abound to all the nations,
they will seek You, asking, “Who is this King of glory?”
Together we will answer:
He is the Lord Almighty!
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

Come fill the earth with Your glory as the waters cover the sea.
The Spirit and the Bride say:
Amen! Come Lord Jesus!

Many (but certainly not all) Global Day of Prayer events in the U.S. are shown here.


Related posts
Toward Palm Sunday
A Lenten focus: ‘Prayers of biblical hope’

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The Rev. Dick McClain has been chosen as the next president of The Mission Society, the Methodist-led missionary-sending agency founded 25 years ago. The Society now has more than 225 missionaries serving in 32 nations around the world.

dick-mcclain-the-mission-society

The Rev. Dick McClain

Mr. McClain, who has served as The Society’s vice president for church ministry since 2000, will succeed Dr. Phil Granger, who is retiring at the end of this year.

“Dick brings [to the presidential post a] total commitment to Christ and the mission entrusted to the church to…bring God’s message of salvation and eternal life to the world,” Dr. Granger said of his newly named successor “He [also] brings his love for The Mission Society, as evidenced by more than 20 years of service to this fantastic ministry.”

Mr. McClain, the son and grandson of missionaries, was born in China and was raised in India and Hong Kong. Later, after earning a degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky (USA), he served as a United Methodist pastor in West Michigan.

He began his career with The Mission Society in 1986 and became vice president for mission ministries 1995, with responsibility for overseeing the agency’s international ministries. Nine years ago, he was named vice president for church ministry, with the task of mobilizing local churches (PDF) for global outreach (related video here).

Mr. McClain will assume his duties as The Mission Society’s new president on Dec. 1, 2009.

Use the audio player below to listen to a 2008 interview with Dick McClain, produced by Mission Network News (11 min.).

mission-society-logoThe Mission Society was founded in January 1984 under the name, The Mission Society for United Methodists.

In celebration of 25 years of ministry, The Society is sponsoring an open house on Sept. 11 at the agency’s headquarters in Norcross, Georgia, followed by a reception, banquet, and program at nearby Norcross First United Methodist Church (registration details here). Seating for the banquet is limited to 350.


Related post
Happy Birthday to The Mission Society

Articles/audio by Dick McClain
Is your church on mission? (PDF) | Unfinished (Spring 2007)
Mary’s devoted heart | Good News Magazine (Nov/Dec 2003)
Do we still need missionaries? | Good News Magazine (Jul/Aug 1993)
Audio: Ten guidelines for evaluating your church’s mission program (3 min.)

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This week’s MethodistThinker Podcast features a sermon by Dr. Eddie Fox, world director of World Methodist Evangelism, a ministry of the World Methodist Council.

Dr. Fox is also the executive director of the World Methodist Evangelism Institute.

Dr. Eddie Fox

Dr. Eddie Fox

In his role as director of World Evangelism, he oversees the efforts of 16 regional evangelists worldwide. His efforts at linking Methodists through the “Connecting Congregations” program have resulted in 149 partnerships between established churches and newly formed congregations.

Eddie Fox’s books include Faith Sharing and Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So, both written with Dr. George Morris.

The sermon on this week’s podcast was preached in February 2009 at Calvary UMC in Nashville, Tennessee. Dr. Fox’s text is 2 Corinthians 5:16-21.

To listen to the podcast, use the audio player below (17 min.) — or download an mp3 (7.9 MB).

Next week, as Pentecost Sunday nears, the MethodistThinker Podcast will present sermon titled, “The Power of the Holy Spirit,” by Methodist evangelist Tom Atkins of the North Georgia Conference.

For previous podcasts, click the podcasts tab at the top of this page.


Related post
Maxie Dunnam, Eddie Fox release videos on proposed amendments

Related articles and information
The worldwide Methodist movement | Eddie Fox, Interpreter Magazine (Web-only article—March 31, 2009)
Evangelism is ‘powerful dynamic’ for Methodist movement | Joan G. LaBarr, United Methodist News Service (July 2006)
Holding fast: Reflections for the 2008 General Conference (PDF) | H. Eddie Fox, We Confess newsletter (March/April 2008)

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Jerry P. Kulah, superintendent of the United Methodist Church’s Monrovia District in Liberia, is urging defeat of a series of constitutional amendments aimed at restructuring the denomination. If passed, the amendments likely would result in the structural segregation of United Methodists in Africa, Asia, and Europe from United Methodists in the U.S.

The Rev. Jerry Kulah

The Rev. Jerry Kulah

The amendments, proposed by the Task Force on the Global Nature of the Church (Task Force report—PDF), were approved by last year’s General Conference.

To be enacted, an amendment to the UM Constitution must be ratified by two-thirds of the aggregate “voting members” from all the Annual Conferences. Members may debate amendments, but cannot alter them.

In a video posted to YouTube on May 7, Mr. Kulah said the amendments were written without an appropriate level of consultation with African leaders or with “grassroots” Methodists from across the denomination.

“We should have been consulted on this matter,” he said.

Mr. Kulah noted that “most United Methodists in Africa are not [even] aware” of the proposed amendments, much less have an understanding of the changes that could result if the amendments are passed. For that matter, he is “not sure that [most] United Methodists in America are [aware] either.”

All 135 UM Conferences (62 Annual Conferences in the U.S. and 73 Conferences in Africa, Asia, and Europe) have begun voting on 23 amendments relating to the structure of the denomination. Those votes will take place over the next several months (schedule of Annual Conference sessions—PDF).

In the video, the Monrovia District Superintendent said he was open to a well-considered proposal for restructuring the UMC at some time in the future, but noted that “many of us who are leaders of the church in Africa do not favor passing these amendments right now.”

 

In a December 2008 address to a session of the West Africa Central Conference (meeting in Paynesville, Liberia), Jerry Kulah offered an extended critique of the current restructuring proposal. He expressed concern that it could “create division and segregation within the global community of believers called the United Methodists.”

Excerpts from his address are below.

At the most recent General Conference, some leaders of the United Methodist Church in America proposed an amendment to the Constitution of the UMC for the creation of “Regional Conferences.”… [Related amendments call for renaming the] Central Conferences [as] Regional Conference….

[It is said] that we need to change our name from Central Conference to Regional Conference because this name has had a racial overtone in the U.S.A. It is also alleged to have had a racial overtone outside of the U.S.A., including Africa, since it was the white missionaries who established Central Conferences here, thereby creating a paternalistic relationship between the Church in America and the Church in Africa….

amendments-clipWhile this argument, on the surface, looks appealing and unifying, there is a serious problem with it.

In the first place, the African Central Conferences are not the ones putting forth this proposal…. The African Church is not complaining for bearing the name “Central Conference.”…

Besides, ever since the Church transitioned from missionary leadership to African leadership several decades ago, the African Central Conferences became African institutions: self-governing, self-sustaining, self-theologizing, and largely self-supporting….

Our Central Conferences, just like any American Jurisdictional Conference, enjoy the same representation commensurate with its membership — have the same authority, same responsibility….

[Some have argued that ultimately there should be a Regional Conference just for America, saying,] “We need to create the possibility of a regional Conference in the U.S.A. to deal with cultural issues and other questions that do not concern the rest of the world.”…

Certainly, this proposal, as it stands, has the propensity to create division and segregation within the global community of believers called the United Methodists….

If this [idea of creating a] Regional Conference [in the U.S.A.]…is pursued and sustained, we are most likely to have a fractured church. In addition, we might not have a common [Book of] Discipline and a unified way of doing the business of the United Methodist Church. Regional Conferences doing their own things could keep going their separate ways until new denominations eventually evolve…. The pursuit of Regional Conferences is not likely to enhance our unity but to divide us….

um-global-membership-map-2007

 

[Another argument for restructuring the UMC] surrounds the financial sustainability of the boards and agencies of the General Church. As the financial situation currently stands, it is a fact that almost all of the money to run the agencies comes from the United States. Therefore the unpublicized but vehement argument amongst some of the leaders of our American Methodist church is: “Let the people who pay the money make the decisions about church structure.”

Based upon information we often gather from various UMC web sites, African Central Conferences are not alone in their struggle to become financially self-sustaining. The Western Jurisdiction [in the U.S.] is also being subsidized by other jurisdictions, particularly the Southeast[ern] Jurisdiction. When one therefore uses this argument against the African Church, it has the tendency to be prejudicial and racist because the same argument is not being raised [in regard] to the Western Jurisdiction.

Besides, our financial challenges are not due to rapid loss in membership, as [is the case in] the Western Jurisdiction, but [stem from] civil crises, wars, diseases, coupled with institutionalized corruption of some African leaders that affects every institution, including the Church. However, in my opinion, this argument should serve as a wake-up call to all African Central Conferences to face up to the reality of becoming more and more financially sustainable….

Leaders from the American UMC cannot plan for us in isolation and tell us what is best for us. The period of colonization and paternalism is over for the people and Church in Africa. Any decision regarding the future of the Church must involve leaders of the Church in Africa — from its conception stage to the time it becomes a finished product. In this way, such a decision would be understood, owned by the people, and sustained by them….

Methodist missionaries from the U.S., photographed before leaving for Liberia circa 1898

Methodist missionaries from the U.S., before leaving for Liberia circa 1898

The…missionaries who came to us in Africa…a hundred years ago brought to us a biblical faith. Our [African] delegates going to General Conference are going there with a biblical perspective.

Because of our biblical perspective and continued growth, the liberals within the Church see their African brothers and sisters as threat to the control of the Church — just as about 140 years ago, whites Methodists in America saw black people as a threat to the control of the Church.

Certainly, this divisive spirit should not be encouraged amongst brothers and sisters who claim allegiance to Jesus Christ….

As I end this presentation, I wish to call to mind a concern raised by John Wesley five years to his demise. He had entertained the fear that, the people called Methodists would “not cease to exist” across the globe but that they would “exist as a mere sect,” having the form of godliness but having no power to live for Christ. And that would certainly be the case unless they held to the “faith, doctrine, and discipline with which they first set out.”

I am afraid that the current trend within global Methodism, wherein some are calling for segregation within the Church in the name of Regional Conferences, might well be confirming Wesley’s fear.

Let us recommit ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and to an undivided commitment to the supremacy of the Holy Bible as our final authority for faith and practice. We must ensure that after our labor on earth is done, we shall leave behind positive legacies that future generations would build upon.


Related posts
Maxie Dunnam, Eddie Fox release videos on proposed amendments
Ed Tomlinson: Proposed amendments would ‘decimate connectionalism’
Proposed amendments would separate UMC into ‘national entities’
John Ed Mathison: Seven concerns about the UMC
Bill Bouknight: The bad news from General Conference ‘08

Related articles and information
This is Our Story: Trends in the Church from the Office of Analysis and Research (PDF) | UM General Council on Finance and Administration (June 2008)
Statistics for the UM Central Conferences (2007) (Excel spreadsheet) | UM General Council on Finance and Administration
Understanding the contextual realities of the Church in Liberia | Jerry P. Kulah, Lausanne World Pulse
Hope for the future: Jerry Kulah | Mark Tooley, Good News magazine (July/August 2008)
Full text of all 32 amendments (PDF)
Worldwide decision: United Methodists to vote on amending constitution | Bill Fentum, UM Reporter (April 10, 2009)
Amending away our global church? | Riley Case, Good News (March/April 2009)
A rationale to oppose proposed constitutional changes | Tim McClendon, Columbia District Superintendent, South Carolina Conference
The worldwide Methodist movement | Eddie Fox, Interpreter Magazine (Web-only article—March 31, 2009)
Conferences to consider church structure | Linda Green, United Methodist News Service (March 10, 2009)
African Power: How 192 delegates saved Methodists from madness & other stories from the General Conference | Mark Tooley, Touchstone (November 2008)

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