|Church leaders speak out on economic suffering|
Daniel Wisehart of Longmont, Colo., packs boxes at the Welfare Reform
Liaison Project warehouse in Greensboro, N.C., in this 2007 photo. United
Methodist leaders are calling for the church to offer hope amid a global
economic downturn. A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.
A UMNS Report
By Linda Green*
Feb. 24, 2009
The world’s financial crisis is bringing hardship and suffering to
people across the globe, and The United Methodist Church’s focus areas
of ministry are among the most effective responses, according to three
United Methodist leaders.
United Methodists must engage in ministries with the poor; tackle the
diseases of poverty that limit life, health and wholeness; and develop
principled Christian leaders for the church and the world, the three
leaders said in a statement. The message, addressed to the people of
The United Methodist Church, was signed by the president of the Council
of Bishops, chairperson of the Connectional Table and chairperson of
the table of general agency executives.
The letter, signed by Bishop Gregory Palmer, Bishop John Hopkins and
Neil Alexander, notes a loss of 50 million jobs in the world by Dec.
31, adding to the poverty rolls and leading to an increase in global
unrest and violence and the death of up to 400,000 children by 2015 if
the situation continues. It acknowledges the economic constraints
placed on churches, annual conferences and churchwide agencies, forcing
them to reevaluate their ministries while keeping their focus. The
situation is affecting the wealthy and poor alike, creating misery and
scarcity of necessities, they note.
Bishop Gregory V. Palmer
“It is a prophetic reminder that our destiny as a worldwide
community and a global church is interwoven with complex bonds of
prosperity, security, dignity and justice,” the three leaders said. “We
reclaim anew Jesus’ teaching, ‘as you (cared for) the least of these
who are members of my family, you did it to me’ as an urgent appeal for
how we can live today.”
The financial crisis was discussed recently at a meeting of the Table
of General Secretaries, presidents of the agencies, the Council of
Bishops’ ecumenical officer, Bishop Hopkins and Mary Brooke Casad from
the Connectional Table, and Bishop Palmer.
They wanted to use the opportunity to let United Methodists know that
church leaders are focused on the mission and “upon ways in which we
can respond to the church and world that is experiencing dis-ease
because of the downturn in the global economy,” said Palmer, president
of the United Methodist Council of Bishops.
Acknowledging the challenges and hardships faced by people in every
part of the world, Palmer said “the church is needed now more than
ever” and that he and church leaders are “absolutely convinced that our
four foci will help us stay on task around the mission of reaching the
world for Jesus Christ and making it a transforming world.”
Bishop John Hopkins
A conversation is occurring across the church about ways to
reenergize outreach to the world and to offer hospitality to those
seeking deeper spiritual fulfillment. Rethink Church, the leaders say,
is an avenue United Methodist constituencies are using in
self-examination to move their outreach beyond the church doors.
Rethink Church is an awareness campaign designed to redefine church as
a 365-days-a-year experience, in which people seeking a church
community can become involved at many different levels.
During the 40 days of Lent, people engage in the practice of
self-denial and sacrifice as they look for hope, resurrection and new
life. However, the three officials declare, faith “does not rise and
fall with the financial markets but resides in the enduring love of
God, who is present with us as we struggle and strive to love God and
our neighbors.” They advise United Methodists to recommit to three
basic rules: do no harm, do good and stay in love with God.
The letter invites United Methodists to embrace life with hope,
expectancy and the assurance that God, through Christ, “is calling us
to prepare our hearts, minds and hands to work for the New Creation.”
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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