|Bishops' president calls for new church movement|
Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, president of the United
Methodist Council of Bishops, addresses the episcopal gathering in
Myrtle Beach, S.C. A UMNS photo by Linda Green.
By Linda Green*
May 2, 2007 | SPRINGMAID BEACH, S.C. (UMNS)
The president of the bishops of The United Methodist Church is
calling on the denomination to reclaim its heritage as a Christian
Bishop Janice Riggle Huie told her colleagues on the Council of
Bishops that the church "must be led more by a clear vision and mission
than by rules and regulations" in order to make disciples for the
transformation of the world.
In her April 30 address, Huie said John and Charles Wesley's
Methodist movement began by ministering to people with no economic,
religious or political power and helping them become what God intended.
"They made Christian faith simple and practical," she said.
The denomination's membership is growing throughout the world but
shrinking in the United States at a time when 50 percent of the U.S.
population has no ongoing relationship with a faith community. There are
almost 14 million members in 50 countries, including almost 8 million
in the United States. Much of the growth has been in Africa.
Huie reflected on the energy and excitement she has witnessed in the
people of Africa and other parts of the world working to make disciples
of Jesus Christ.
"There is a movement of God’s spirit that is transforming the world
and we are witnesses to it, and you and I are blessed by it in this
community of faith called The United Methodist Church," she said.
The church in the 21st century
Huie's vision of the church in the 21st century is one
"that is guided by more movement than by institution" and offers a
holistic vision of salvation: body, mind and spirit.
"The United Methodist movement invites
belief in Jesus Christ over the cultural gods, the practice of
forgiveness over hate, peace over violence, a better life over poverty,
health over sickness."
-Bishop Janice Riggle Huie
Noting that movements are not easy but are "downright chaotic and
messy," she said they often begin with a few people on the margins of
culture rather than from the centers of power and authority. The message
of a movement is to change the way that things are in the dominant
culture, Huie said.
"The United Methodist movement invites belief in Jesus Christ over
the cultural gods, the practice of forgiveness over hate, peace over
violence, a better life over poverty, health over sickness."
The invitation or vision for a United Methodist movement begins with a
few people who -- through prayer, study, worship, holy conversation,
justice and mercy -- reach out to others and make connections so that,
"finally, the body of Christ starts to move, together."
Historically, Methodists were known for their ability to move and
empower ordinary people to express their faith and were called "the
church which moved with the spirit."
Referring to a description by Methodism historian Nathan Hatch, Huie
said early Methodists were "nimble." While the church had four ministers
and 300 lay people early in American Methodism, nearly one in five
Americans were associated with Methodism by 1850, making Methodists the
most extensive national institution other than the federal government.
By the 1960s, the church was identified by its institutions and
agencies rather than the prompting of the Holy Spirit, as its founders
were. The institutions "brought permanence and stability" to a world
that had engaged in two wars in a half century, she said.
"Functioning like mighty, well-oiled machines, they were created to
endure, to order the church and to offer Christ’s ministry forever," she
said, noting that agencies remain today that benefit the church and
world because of their emphasis on health, education, mission and
ministry to the poor.
Ordained as a United Methodist deacon 37 years ago, Huie said she
rarely has "experienced" a United Methodist church or seen the
denomination in the United States with a sense of mission and vision
that galvanized people into a movement. "I have never been a part of a
church in the U.S. which was making more new United Methodist disciples
of Jesus Christ than it lost in the previous year," she said.
Huie said the platforms that helped launch the church’s movement in
the 19th and 20th centuries should be used as the foundations for
today’s new initiatives.
"I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to loosen up a little. I’m
ready to move. I’m ready to follow Jesus. I am ready for The United
Methodist Church to rise up and dance before the Lord. I’m ready for The
United Methodist Church to step forward into God’s reign on earth as it
is in heaven. I believe this Council of Bishops is ready to lead that
"I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to
loosen up a little. I’m ready to move. I’m ready to follow Jesus. I am
ready for The United Methodist Church to rise up and dance before the
Saying movement already is happening across Africa and the
Philippines, she said the Methodist "DNA" is one of radical hospitality,
passionate worship and extravagant generosity in responding to God.
"Sometimes it is as though I am -- to paraphrase (poet) T.S. Elliot
-- arriving at the place where we first started and to know the place
for the first time," Huie said.
She praised the church’s work to partner with other organizations to
combat malaria in Africa and its response to the bishops seven
"pathways" to reshape the way the church carries out its mission and
ministry. Such efforts, she said, are getting the church moving again.
"It is the sound of collaboration and communication. We feel it in
our own conferences — a new spirit welling up from the grassroots of the
church, 'Move on out, church. Get going!'"
Huie said the bishops should be leaders in the journey. "The task of
this council is to lead that movement of God. It is our task to lead the
church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the
world," she said.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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