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Church’s ecumenical body sets global priorities

Editor's note: Third paragraph from the bottom, starting with “The commission,” corrected on March 20, 2012 to reflect that Col. John Chivington was a Methodist pastor.

A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*

July 5, 2007

The Rev. Larry Pickens

The United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns wants to help the denomination put its interfaith and ecumenical agenda in context.

That means explaining how hard it is to separate the church in the United States from history, culture and government, according to the Rev. Larry Pickens, the commission’s chief executive.

"The church, in many ways, has to overcome the legacy of what it means to be a citizen of the United States and, with that, how this country is viewed internationally," he told United Methodist News Service in a July 3 interview.

One question to ponder, for example, is how the U.S. "war on terror" impacts interfaith relations and the opportunity for dialogue. At the same time, Pickens said, it is important for United Methodists to struggle with "what it is that they want in these dialogues."

Interfaith dialogue was one of the priorities established by the commission for the denomination’s 2009-2012 quadrennium during its June 25-30 annual meeting in Chicago.

Other priorities include promoting ecumenical formation; continuing dialogue about the church’s global nature; carrying out the commission’s mandates from General Conference, the denomination’s top legislative body; and developing ecumenical and interfaith resource materials.

An operational plan is being developed in the next few months, according to Pickens. Specific actions during 2009-2012 will include:

  • Sponsoring a training event on ecumenical formation in each U.S. jurisdiction and in at least two of the denomination’s Central Conferences;
  • Holding a consultation on the Global Nature of the Church in a Central Conference—most likely in Africa—in 2008, with hopes for additional consultations in the Philippines, Latin America and Europe;
  • Making significant interfaith efforts, particularly with Christian-Muslim relations, including a dialogue within the church on how it understands other faiths; and
  • Working with the denomination’s Board of Discipleship to include ecumenical and interfaith themes in Sunday school materials.

Christian Unity also is working with the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race to develop a DVD on "understanding white privilege" to distribute as a resource for the 2008 General Conference, which meets next April in Fort Worth, Texas.

Commission members approved resolutions for General Conference consideration, including one that would include Spanish among languages for translation services at General Conference. Currently, the official languages are English, French and Portuguese.

The commission is asking the denomination to contribute $50,000 to the development of the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site Research and Learning Center. The 1996 General Conference apologized for the actions of a prominent Methodist pastor, Col. John Chivington, who led the fatal attack on a Native American village in 1864.

A resolution calling on the church to continue to advocate for a peaceful settlement of the conflict between Israel and Palestine through negotiation and diplomacy also was approved.

The commission is asking General Conference to formally disavow any United Methodist program of proselytism aimed at bringing practicing Jews into Christian church membership "even as we acknowledge it to be our obligation as Christians to continue to witness to the truth of the Gospel."

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns

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