|Justice lovers gather for international conference|
The Rev. Elizabeth Tapia welcomes more than 600 justice
lovers to "Living Faith, Seeking Justice," a conference sponsored by the
United Methodist Board of Church and Society. UMNS photos by Kathy L.
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Nov. 12, 2007 | FORT WORTH, Texas (UMNS)
than 600 "justice lovers" from across the globe gathered in Texas to
celebrate faith in action and renew their spirits at an international
conference sponsored by The United Methodist Church.
"My goal tonight is simple: to encourage you in your justice-making
ministries," said the Rev. Elizabeth Tapia, an ordained elder from the
Philippines. "We need to encourage one another because at times justice
making can be a very lonely, unrewarded, risky endeavor."
The United Methodist Board of Church and Society sponsored the
"Living Faith, Seeking Justice" conference Nov. 1-4. Participants
included 53 international participants from 16 countries.
"The conference is opening the whole world to us," said the Rev.
Lloyd Nyarota, a pastor in Zimbabwe, Africa. "Hearing so many different
issues, different challenges ... prepares you to face your situation and
to remobilize your energy for a new day."
It was the first such conference held by the church's social action
agency, and the response was overwhelming, said design team members as
they scanned a conference room packed with people of all ages, colors
The Rev. Hilde Marie Øgreid of Norway greets participants to the international justice gathering.
"This conference was more than I even dreamed of," said the Rev.
Hilde Marie Øgreid, pastor of Bjolsen United Methodist Church in Oslo,
Norway, and a member of the design team. Øgreid brought 10 young people
with her from Norway, all of whom worked to raise the money to attend.
"I saw the topics we were going to discuss here were many and good,"
said Audun Westad of Norway. "I think we need to be aware of all these
topics to be an alive church today. I like the sermons. They are very
different from what we have in Norway. It is good to experience
something different and something new."
Bible studies, plenaries, worship services, visits to local churches
and workshops all reinforced the mission of the conference to resource
local churches for justice ministry.
The 'sweet spot'
The Rev. Adam Hamilton, pastor at Church of the Resurrection in
Leawood, Kan., said when evangelism and social justice merge, the result
is the "sweet spot."
"Sometimes evangelists forget about social justice, and sometimes
justice seekers forget to tell people about Jesus," he said. "People
need to know about the bread of life, but they also need to know their
"People need to know about the bread of life, but they also need to know their lives matter,"
says the Rev. Adam Hamilton.
Hamilton said many unchurched people want to start with mission. He
said the emerging generation longs for a gospel that pursues justice. "I
see generations hungry for the Methodist way. God's grace is a call to
holiness, a call to be the heart, head and hands of God," he said.
"If we care about the poor, we know their names," said activist Shane
Claiborne, a founding member of The Simple Way, a community in
inner-city Philadelphia working with the poor.
Claiborne recounted traveling to Calcutta, India, to spend time with
Mother Teresa before she died. She told him that "Calcutta is
"I learned so much from her, but especially that change starts with
one person at a time," said Claiborne. "We can know all the right
answers and still be mean. If we don't have joy or love then no one is
going to want what we have."
Cynthia Rives, a layperson from Stephenville, Texas, was inspired by the international participation.
"To be with the central conference members (who live outside of the
United States) is very important to me because they speak a story I
don't hear in my local church. But their story compares to mine so we
are in solidarity and I am reminded of that when we are together," she
Jim Winkler sings praises along with
more than 600 advocates for social justice.
Albert Aruna Trye, a music director in Sierra Leone, Africa, said he was "elated and touched" by the acceptance he felt.
"It is good to feel accepted and appreciated, especially when we have
suffered rejection and oppression during our 10-year rebel war," he
said. "It is a motivation to be with Christians who can make you feel
part of them."
Jim Winkler, chief executive of the Board of Church and Society, said
the conference experience was about growing together and growing
stronger. "I will walk with you because I need you to walk with me," he
said in a sermon.
At the close, Winkler called people "to recommit to Christ." As
pastors lined the front of the hotel ballroom, participants streamed
forward to receive prayers and words of encouragement.
"Even though we are different from one another, we are one in faith
and mission," said the Rev. Connie Semy Mella, a pastor from the
Philippines. "After listening and experiencing this wonderful
conference, we could not help but be transformed. We will never be the
*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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rev. Lloyd Nyarota, Zimbabwe, Africa: "Sharing of experiences give you strength."
Cynthia Rives, Stephenville, Texas: "They speak a story I don't hear in my local church."
Albert Aruna Trye, Sierra Leone, Africa: "It is good to feel accepted and appreciated."
Jim Winkler: "We must help the church find healing."
Jim Winkler: "God offers us joy."
Shane Claiborne: "I caught another dream for the world."
Shane Claiborne: "Jesus is not safe but he sure is good."
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Living Faith, Seeking Justice
United Methodist Board of Church and Society