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World Methodists to meet in Durban, South Africa

Traditional Korean singer Hyung-Chul Kim sings at the opening worship of the 2006 World Methodist Conference in Seoul, South Korea. The executive committee of the World Methodist Council has selected Durban, South Africa, as host site for the 2011 global gathering. A UMNS file photo by Joan LaBarr. 

A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
Sept. 27, 2007

The World Methodist Council has selected Durban, South Africa, as the location for the 2011 World Methodist Conference.

The assembly convenes every five years to bring together members of the worldwide association of churches in the Methodist/Wesleyan tradition. It will meet the first week of August in 2011.

The location was chosen by the World Methodist Council's executive committee from among three invitations offered by church bodies, according to the Rev. George Freeman, the council's executive director. The executive committee met Sept. 15-20 in Sydney, Australia, hosted by the Uniting Church of Australia.

The Rev. George Freeman

The presentation on Durban by the Methodist Church of Southern Africa was led by Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa of Port Elizabeth, bishop of the Grahamstown District, and Meme Mackine, a lay leader.

Durban was a runner-up to Seoul, South Korea, when the location of the 2006 World Methodist Conference was selected. With more than 3 million residents, it is South Africa's second-largest city.

Freeman said South African Methodists want their global counterparts to meet in Durban "so they could experience the changes that have taken place in southern Africa since apartheid ended."

The Rev. Mvume Dandala, a South African Methodist who is a council officer and also chief executive of the All African Conference of Churches, encouraged the selection of Durban, noting the importance of the South African people believing in themselves.

"Our coming there would help affirm all the churches in their ministries," Freeman said. "We will do our best to find ways to enable people not just to see the city of Durban but to see the Methodist family at work."

The Rev. George Mulrain of Antiqua, president of the Methodist Churches of the Caribbean and the Americas, is chairman of the planning committee for the 2011 event.

At work in the world

In other business, the council's executive committee unanimously agreed "to ask our member churches to make the first Sunday in Advent as a day of prayer for peace in the world," according to Freeman.

Committee members also voted to create a council staff position of youth and young adult coordinator, beginning as a part-time job with the aim to become full time in 2011. The coordinator will work with existing youth networks and be responsible for a pre-conference seminar in 2011.

As a model, Freeman cited the work of Fabiola Grandon of Chile, the full-time youth and young adult coordinator for the Council of Evangelical Methodist Churches of Latin America.

The executive committee approved new membership of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of New Zealand, which was created in the late 1990s and had its roots in the Methodist Church of New Zealand but left over theological differences, according to Freeman.

"That fact that the Methodist church of New Zealand endorsed their application for membership was an important part of that process," he added.

Strategic planning

Richard Heitzenrater, professor of Wesley studies at Duke Divinity School, led the executive committee in a process of strategic planning as the council begins to consider updating its constitution and bylaws, vision statements and operational procedures.

A task force was elected to continue that work, delivering an interim report when the executive committee next meets in 2009 in Chile and a full report in 2011 "with a new and clear vision for global Methodism," Freeman said.

Bishop Sarah Davis of the AME Church is the task force convener. Members are the Rev. J.C. Park, Methodist Church in Korea; Archbishop Michael Stephen, Methodist Church of Nigeria; the Rev. Hal Brady, St. Luke United Methodist Church, Columbus, Ga; the Rev. Amos Nascimento, Methodist Church of Brazil; and Joshua Rathman, Methodist Church in India. Tracy Merrick, a United Methodist from Wexford, Pa., is serving as a consultant, and Heitzenrater will lead the strategic planning.

*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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