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Consultation explores global nature of the church

Bishop Sharon Rader, along with Bishops Scott Jones (left) and Ruediger Minor, present the findings of the Task Force on the Global Nature of the Church.
UMNS photos by Ronny Perry.

By Fran Coode Walsh*
June 6, 2007 | NORCROSS, Ga. (UMNS)

"My hope is that as a movement, Methodism will become a significant force in the global church," says
the Rev. Larry Pickens.

The United Methodist Church is at work in more than 38 countries on four continents, and more than 20 percent of its members live outside the United States.

Amid this increasingly global church environment, United Methodists are exploring what it means to be in mission worldwide and how it should shape its organizational structure accordingly.

Fifty-five church leaders from four continents gathered May 18-20 at Simpsonwood Conference and Retreat Center to discuss issues related to global interdependence and interrelationships. The Consultation on the Global Nature of the Church was sponsored by the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns.

"As we think locally, global issues are not absent but part of our reality," said the Rev. Larry Pickens, chief executive of the commission.

Bishop Ann B. Sherer, president of the commission, said the agency's long-term planning committee has put much thought and prayer into "how to live in all our relationships to strengthen the unity of the church and enable us to make disciples that make a difference."

Sherer presented to the consultation in behalf of a Council of Bishops Task Force on The Global Nature of The Church, which has been studying the issue. She joined Bishops Scott Jones, Ruediger Minor and Sharon Rader and Connectional Table member Dora Washington to discuss their findings after studying past General Conference actions and other texts.

The task force is proposing four constitutional changes to the 2008 General Conference that would pave the way to create structures for regional and jurisdictional conferences that are the same everywhere that The United Methodist Church is in ministry—whether in the United States, Africa, Europe or Asia. The current structure gives the U.S. church greater influence than its overseas counterparts.

"The world is becoming both more local and global at the same time, and the church needs to pay attention to that."
-Bishop Sharon Rader

The task force also proposes legislation for continued study of the global nature issues, including reports to the 2012 General Conference by the Connectional Table and the Council of Bishops.

Jones said the proposals "have a way of helping figure out what holds us together—common doctrine, discipline, mission. At the same time, expressions have to be different in different parts of the world. … Regional conferences allow for space for differences."

"The world is becoming both more local and global at the same time and the church needs to pay attention to that," said Rader. "The proposal seeks to help us get to 2025 or 2030 in a way that will build up the body and help us in outreach and mission and ministry in the world."

The Rev. Jonathan Ulanday from the Philippines, called the efforts "a culturally sensitive step from the leaders of the church, giving us the opportunity to contribute equally with the life and mission of the church. …

"This is a welcome development for the central conferences," Ulanday said, referring to United Methodist jurisdictions outside of the United States.

The Rev. Jonathan Ulanday of the Philippines is among 55 church leaders from four continents to participate
in discussions.

The Rev. Ilunga Kandolo of the Congo agreed. "The members of the Central Conferences await this joyfully because The United Methodist Church has always taken into account all cultures. … Even though we have our own local realities, at the global level we can come together as one in spirit."

The Study Group on the United Methodist Relationship with the Affiliated Autonomous

Methodist Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean made the final presentation of the consultation. That "dialogue about how to rekindle relationships and develop new opportunities" was important to include, according to Pickens.

"The conversations become richer and provide us perspectives which are important as we try to gauge our future as a church," he said.

There is a desire to hold future forums in Europe, the Philippines and Africa, according to Pickens. "My hope is that as a movement, Methodism will become a significant force in the global church," he said.

*Walsh is supervising producer of UMTV, a unit of United Methodist Communications based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn.,

Related Articles

Plan would pave way for U.S. regional conference

Connectional table considers church's 'global character'

Global nature task force proposes a U.S. central conference

Latin American Methodists: separate but connected


Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns

Council of Bishops

Connectional Table

General Conference 2008

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