|United Methodists join Christian Unity conference|
Bishop Charlene Kammerer addresses worshipers
at the opening service at the National Cathedral in Washington as
Archbishop Vicken Aykazian of the Armenian Church in America listens. A
UMNS photo by Neill Caldwell.
By Neill Caldwell*
Feb. 2, 2007 | WASHINGTON (UMNS)
While waiting for worship to begin at the National Cathedral, United
Methodist Bishop Charlene Kammerer surprised Archbishop Vicken Aykazian
of the Armenian Church in America by showing him the Armenian cross
around her neck.
Kammerer, bishop of the Richmond, Va., Episcopal Area, also dazzled the
archbishop with her knowledge of Armenian geography. She had visited
Armenia a few years ago to get a first-hand experience of Project Agape,
a partnership of United Methodists in the North Carolina Conference and
the Western North Carolina Conference and the Armenian Apostolic
The choir of the Korean United Methodist Church of Greater Washington sings during the opening worship service
of the ecumenical gathering.
A UMNS photo by Neill Caldwell.
Such informal ecumenical exchanges were commonplace during the
National Workshop for Christian Unity, held Jan. 29-Feb. 1 in Rosslyn,
Va., and the nation's capital.
The United Methodist Church was well represented at the gathering,
which brought together hundreds of pastors and laypersons from many
Protestant denominations, Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions.
In his sermon during the opening worship service, Aykazian noted that
the loud and the powerful seem to get the most attention in today's
"We must give voice to the needs and suffering of those who have no
voice," said Aykazian, president-elect of the National Council of
Churches. "Our Lord and Savior has shown us the way, but there are too
many distractions in this information-overloaded world that draw us away
from Christ's teachings."
Participants in the four-day conference attended workshops,
participated in a variety of worship styles and celebrated with a
concert at the U.S. Senate office building.
Linda Bales, an executive with the United Methodist Board of Church and
Society, participated in a panel discussion on advocacy with
representatives from the Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran churches.
She explained to non-Methodists that her agency bases its advocacy
positions on the denomination's Social Principles, which outline the
church's position on social and economic concerns and other human issues
based on a "sound biblical and theological foundation."
United Methodist executive Linda Bales speaks during a panel discussion at the National
Workshop on Christian Unity.
A UMNS photo by Neill Caldwell.
"We're not lobbyists," said Bales, "but we do mobilize people to be a
prophetic voice. We play the United Methodist card whenever we can,
reminding politicians that there are 8 million United Methodists in the
U.S. Of course, not all agree with every position we take. Our General
Secretary, Jim Winkler, regularly speaks out against the war in Iraq and
gets numerous pieces of hate mail because of that."
The Rev. Larry Pickens, chief executive of the United Methodist
Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, said such
ecumenical gatherings are a great opportunity to network with Christians
from other faith traditions.
"The National Workshop on Christian Unity is unique because it brings
together Catholics, Episcopalians and other communions around issues we
don't always get an opportunity to talk about," he said. "It gives
United Methodists exposure to what issues are important to the other
Pickens cited ecumenical concerns such as poverty, evangelism, global
health issues and leadership training. "I'd include 'how to live in an
interfaith world,' because these are not just United Methodist issues,"
he said. "We are a really key point in the lives of our churches, and
this kind of discussion helps provide vision and hope as to how we go
forward in ministry."
Bishop Ted Schneider, of the Metropolitan Washington Synod of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, presented the ecumenical idea in
physical terms: "Like the human body - where if one part is not working
'up to code' then the entire body suffers - we must work together
smoothly or the entire church body will suffer. We have to catch the
vision of wholeness for Christ's church."
As Aykazian reminded participants, Scripture does not say "blessed are the peaceful, but 'blessed are the peacemakers.' Our faith should not be passive, but instead a call to action to respond to a suffering world."
*Caldwell is the editor of The Virginia United Methodist Advocate magazine.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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