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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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Noted United Methodist leaders Maxie Dunnam and Eddie Fox have released separate YouTube videos in which they state opposition to several proposed constitutional amendments to be voted on this year by Annual Conferences throughout the UMC.

amendments-clipDr. Dunnam is the former president of Asbury Theological Seminary. Dr. Fox is the world director of World Methodist Evangelism.

In the first of two videos, Dr. Dunnam argues against Amendment I, which would alter eligibility requirements for church membership by revising Paragraph Four (“Inclusiveness of the Church”) of the UM Constitution.

At first, [this amendment] seems quite benign…. [But] there is more here than meets the eye…. This amendment was brought to [the 2008] General Conference by a gay advocacy group in Texas by the name of Breaking the Silence. This is a group that has long opposed our United Methodist Book of Discipline where it states that though “all persons are of sacred worth…the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

For over 30 years, we United Methodists have made our views clear on this matter. We’re open to all persons but not to all practices. Groups that have wanted to change our grace-filled, biblical position have been unable to convince the General Conference to do so. So now they’re trying a different tactic.

The amendment is an attempt to change our position so that persons [who are] openly practicing a [homosexual] lifestyle and who have no desire to change would be allowed to join the church and continue in that lifestyle….

There are additional very serious implications. Because the amendment states no “organizational unit of the Church shall be structured to exclude any member,” you can be sure that radical gay advocacy groups will argue that practicing homosexuals, once they have joined the church, cannot be kept from the ordained ministry. It pains me to say so, but this is the real agenda behind Amendment I.

And please understand this: the Constitution trumps what’s in the rest of the Discipline. If this amendment means what I believe it means, if passed, it will make our position on homosexuality and on practicing gay clergy null and void.

See the full six-minute video below.

 

In a second video, Maxie Dunnam states his concerns about five amendments (numbered IV, X, XIII, XXIII, and XXV) that would allow United Methodists in the U.S. to structurally segregate themselves from United Methodists in Europe, Asia, and Africa. This would be done by creating a series of “regional conferences.”

 

In his video, Eddie Fox of World Methodist Evangelism also argues against the five amendments aimed at changing the UMC’s structure.

Mr. Fox has a related column here.

All 135 UM Conferences (62 Annual Conferences in the U.S. and 73 Conferences in Africa, Asia, and Europe) will vote on a total of 32 amendments, including 23 relating to the structure of the denomination. The full text of all 32 proposed amendments is here (PDF). (Note: There are two minor errors in Amendment XXV on page 18. In the second paragraph, the two references to “Article I” should read “Article II.”)

The 23 amendments related to church structure were proposed by the Task Force on the Global Nature of the Church (the Task Force’s 2007 report—PDF).

Most of the 23 are “cosmetic” in nature, simply implementing certain name changes. As noted above, the “five amendments of distinctive substance” that would actually alter the structure of the UMC are numbered IV, X, XIII, XXIII, and XXVI.

To be enacted, a constitutional amendment must be ratified by two-thirds of the aggregate “voting members” from all the Conferences. (Provisional deacons and elders, “local pastors,” and associate and affiliate clergy members are not eligible to vote — ¶602.1 of the Book of Discipline).

Members may debate a proposed amendment, but cannot alter it.


Related posts
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
Full text of all 32 amendments (PDF)
Transcript of the brief General Conference debate on Amendment I (PDF—see pages 2705-2707)
Worldwide decision: United Methodists to vote on amending constitution | Bill Fentum, UM Reporter (April 10, 2009)
Meddling with membership | Walter B. Fenton, Good News (March/April 2009)
Inclusiveness and membership decline (on the possible implications of Amendment I) | Riley Case (March 23, 2009)
Coming soon to your Annual Conference (article on Amendment I) (PDF) | The Kindred Connection (Winter 2009) (This is a publication of an arm of the Reconciling Ministries Network — “We envision a United Methodist Church which…accords all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, full participation in the life of the church.”)
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)

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The Reserve Officers Association this week recognized Chaplain (Major) James B. (Jim) Higgins of the U.S. Army Reserve as Chaplain of the Year. The award is given for “extraordinary contribution to the welfare, morale and effectiveness of the military reserve services.”

Major Higgins is also the senior pastor of  McEachern Memorial UMC in the North Georgia Conference.

Mike Selleck, head of North Georgia’s office of Connectional Ministries, profiled Jim Higgins in a recent issue of the Wesleyan Christian Advocate, the newspaper of the North and South Georgia Conferences.

In November of 1994, the Rev. James B. Higgins chose the Army reserves as an expression of his belief that Christ must be available to all who may need Him, wherever that may be….

Chaplain (and pastor) Jim Higgins

Chaplain (and pastor) Jim Higgins

After earning his current rank of Major, Jim left his family in March of 2007 for a 17-month deployment ministering to American troops, first at Ft. Hood, Texas, then in Balad, Iraq. While [in Iraq,] Jim earned the Bronze Star.

Currently, Dr. Higgins is the Brigade Chaplain of the 415th Chemical Brigade, out of Greenville, South Carolina, with units throughout the Eastern United States. His responsibilities are focused on counseling, with emphasis in suicide prevention and marriage enrichment, while [also] providing worship and sacraments.

Jim recently commented on his tour in Iraq…:

“It was pure ministry, 24-7, without distraction or interruption. Every moment was given to being the hands and feet, the heart and soul of Christ in situations that cannot be described or understood unless you were there.

“It was all consuming and so totally vital and real, I could do nothing but marvel at the power of Christ to touch and transform, to heal and bring hope.

“My time in Iraq will be one of the lasting memories of my life, and one of the proudest parts of my ministry, bar none.”

Jim Higgins… has brought honor and distinction to himself, his family, his unit, the United Methodist Church generally, and especially to the North Georgia Conference.

Major Higgins received the Vincent Robert Capodanno Chaplain of the Year award Monday during the Reserve Officers Association Mid-Winter Conference in Washington, D.C.

From a news release (PDF) issued by the ROA:

Chaplain Higgins served with the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade from the Texas National Guard from March 2006 to August 2007. As the brigade chaplain, he served with distinction during the loss of Easy 40, a helicopter mission that crashed on one of the deadliest days in Iraq.

His stellar care while helping the 2,800 personnel of the brigade work through the sorrow of that tragic event contributed to his selection for this award.

Yesterday (Feb. 4), Major Jim Higgins was further honored as Chaplain of the Day by the U.S. House of Representatives. He led the House in its opening prayer (video below).

After the prayer, two members of Georgia’s House delegation, Rep. David Scott (D-13th District) and Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-11th District), gave brief addresses focusing on Chaplain Higgins’ accomplishments.

Use the audio player below to listen to their comments (5 min.).

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B. Michael (Mike) Watson has been officially “installed” as the Resident Bishop of the North Georgia Conference.

At a service Sunday at Dunwoody United Methodist Church, Bishop Watson said the Installation ceremony offered both clergy and laity a “fresh opportunity to recognize our mutual calling to Christian ministry.”

Following are excerpts from his Installation sermon:

Bishop Mike Watson

Bishop Mike Watson

Dearly beloved, we are in this Christian ministry together…. We are all, each of us, minsters of the gospel of Jesus Christ….

All of us are being installed…. We all are ambassadors of Jesus Christ…. God has called us! God has set us apart! God would use us to [let every person] on this earth know how much God loves him or her….

The task that looms before us…is too large for us to assume on our own, for we are all dependent on the power of God and the gift of the Holy Spirit. I may not be up to the task on my own — but our Lord is up to the task, and it our Lord we serve!…

If we are to do all that God calls us to do, if we are to run the race, we must look to Jesus Christ, the perfecter of the faith. We must follow Christ if we are to love the world. We must follow Christ if we are to transform the world. We must follow Christ if we are to reconcile the world in love….

I pledge my sincerest effort and fidelity to the task before us. And I ask each one of you to examine your heart and to reaffirm your calling. What is God calling you to do?….

What is your ministry? I am being installed to this one. You’re being installed to one, too. Will you accept that, as I accept this?

Bishop Watson recently was assigned to the North Georgia Conference after serving eight years as the bishop of the South Georgia area. He fills the position held for 12 years by Bishop Lindsey Davis, who has now been sent to lead the Kentucky Conference and the Red Bird Missionary Conference.

Mike Waston was elected a bishop in 2000, after serving ten years as the senior pastor at Dauphin Way United Methodist Church in Mobile, Alabama. Prior to that, he was the founding pastor of Covenant UMC in Dothan, Alabama, where he served from 1979-1990.

In the early 1970s, he served briefly as the minister of evangelism at North Georgia’s Decatur First UMC while working on his Master of Divinity degree at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Mike Watson earned his Doctor of Ministry degree at Vanderbilt University in 1975, and later was ordained an Elder in the Alabama-West Florida Conference.

More of his biography is here.

You can use the audio player below to listen to streaming audio of Bishop Mike Watson’s Installation sermon (27 min.) — or download an mp3 (6.3MB).


Several short video clips and still photographs are posted here.

Streaming video of the entire service is below (74 min.).

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