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Church agency executives plan office of new church starts

A UMNS Report
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Jan. 24, 2007

The Rev. Karen Greenwaldt

Proposals to open an office for new church starts and enable training on the Social Principles in Europe, Asia and Africa have been approved by top executives of the agencies of the United Methodist Church.

The office for new church starts would be housed at the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, while the training events on the Social Principles are planned for the central conferences — regional units of the church in Africa, Asia and Europe — by the United Methodist Board of Church and Society.

The General Secretaries Table backed the proposals at its Jan. 18-19 meeting in Albuquerque, N.M. They now go before the church’s Connectional Table for final funding consideration. The Connectional Table, which meets twice annually, is a 60-member group responsible for coordinating the mission, ministries and resources of The United Methodist Church. Its next meeting is set for May 21-24 in Atlanta.

If approved, funding will come from the existing World Service Contingency Fund administered by the Connectional Table.

New churches

The office for new church starts represents an "exciting initiative of the church in the United States," said the Rev. Karen Greenwaldt, top executive of the Board of Discipleship.

"New churches are the way to reach new people," she said. The office would work with the Council of Bishops and other agency representatives and annual conferences to develop a national strategy to develop new churches in the United States. Its funding would run from June 2007 through 2008.

The new office represents a step toward four goals called the “four provocative propositions,” which are being drafted by the leaders of the church's boards, agencies and commissions to face the challenges of global ministry.

The four proposals, which will be considered at the denomination’s top legislative assembly in 2008, would address the leadership crisis in the church in the United States; create a strategy to develop new congregations; partner with the poor; and implement a global health initiative. The 2008 General Conference will meet in Fort Worth, Texas.

Singable Social Creed

Jim Winkler

The 2004 General Conference identified the 2005-2008 quadrennium as a special time for study and emphasis on the Social Principles leading up to the 100th anniversary of the denomination’s Social Creed, a statement of church beliefs within the Book of Discipline affirming the United Methodist Church’s concern for and relationship with the world.

A task force of the Board of Church and Society is working to revise the Social Creed and will present the proposed text to conferences in Africa, Asia and Europe. The funding would help cover travel expenses for participants.

The original creed was written in 1908 and rewritten in 1972.

"The current creed doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue," said Winkler, a top executive of the board. In addition to revising the text, the task force wants to add music so the creed can be both read and sung by churches.

"The hope and prayer is we will have a traditional version, a gospel, blues, jazz, hip hop ... a number of different versions that will grab people's attention," he said.

The first training has been set for March 5-6 in Oslo, Norway, and representatives from Central and Southern Europe and Germany will gather to review the new creed and receive training on the Social Principles. Future events will be held in the Philippines and Africa.

"We want to encourage additional submissions and get as much feedback from as many as possible before the Social Creed is presented to General Conference," Winkler said.

Winkler said rewriting the creed has been an interesting process. "The task force has chosen not to list every issue facing the world but rather to have something that inspires hope and faith."

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Related Articles

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Connectional Table affirms four 'provocative proposals'

A Social Creed you can sing? Revision aims for broad usage


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