LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (UMNS) ? It might be surprising that a worldwide
organization makes its home beside a quiet lake in the North Carolina mountains.
But since it moved from New York in 1955, the World Methodist Council has made
its headquarters here while reaching out around the globe.
The council is a fellowship of 76 Methodist-related churches around the
world. It sponsors the World Methodist Conference every five years, including
one coming up July 20-24 in Seoul, South Korea.
The Rev. George H. Freeman, top staff executive of the World Methodist
Council, has already made several trips back and forth to Seoul to prepare for
the gathering, which is expected to attract 3,000 Methodists from all parts of
?The purpose of our conference is educational, inspirational and
motivational,? Freeman says. The council will also conduct a business meeting at
the same time.
The theme of the conference will be ?God in Christ Reconciling.?
?That theme is appropriate anywhere in the world,? Freeman says, ?because of
divisions in the church, in our homes, in our personal lives. When the Korean
Methodist Church invited us to meet in Seoul, it was seen as an opportunity to
talk about the reunification of the Korean peninsula. The Korean people are very
anxious for peace in their land.?
In addition to planning for the World Methodist Conference, the council is
active in ecumenical areas. Recently a World Methodist Council lay and clergy
delegation, including Freeman, met with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.
?Methodists have been in dialogue with the Roman Catholics for 40 years,?
Freeman says. ?We were first in line after Vatican II, where Catholics said they
were more open to ecumenical activities. Our audience with Pope Benedict was an
important sign that we want to remain in dialogue, and that we?re making
progress as we continue these conversations.?
?This was one of the issues that created the split that formed the Protestant
church,? says Freeman. ?Methodists are certainly in agreement with the idea of
justification by faith, and we ought to add our names to this declaration.?
This will be one of the items for discussion in Seoul, and if approved,
Methodist denominations could participate in an ecumenical signing ceremony.
The council is also active on a range of international issues, including war,
torture, poverty, AIDS and HIV, and immigration.
A tour of the offices
Freeman says the World Methodist Council is a proud part of Lake Junaluska.
?This is a beautiful part of God?s world,? he says, ?and it?s blessed with
incredible facilities. We?re glad to have such a prominent position on the
Since 2002, the World Methodist Council?s offices have been housed in a
replica of the Old Epworth Rectory where John and Charles Wesley grew up. The
building was funded by Royce and Jane Reynolds, a lay couple from West Market
Street United Methodist Church in Greensboro, N.C.
Next door is the organization?s museum, built in 1956 and renovated in 1983.
Elmer Clark?s personal collection of Methodist artifacts was moved from New York
when the organization moved to Lake Junaluska, and it accounts for the bulk of
the original collection. Also featured are a number of John and Charles
Wesley-related items that came directly from England.
Arthur Swarthout is about to mark his first anniversary as director of the
World Methodist Council museum. Attendance appears to be climbing: since
September, when the museum started keeping a daily count of visitors, more than
3,000 people have passed through. While the museum is popular with former or
current missionaries and foreign visitors, the largest tour groups are
confirmation classes, who often come when Lake Junaluska Assembly holds special
The Rev. George Freeman
?This jurisdiction is blessed to have this facility,? Swarthout says. ?What
other group of confirmation classes can see their heritage like this??
On Swarthout?s desk, a stack of old editions of the Book of Discipline
is waiting to be sorted. ?People are constantly calling and asking, ?do you need
??? Very often its things we don?t already have. And we?re still running across
things in this building that we didn?t realize we had.?
The museum is currently hosting the Ebenezer Methodist Plate Collection, a
special display of nearly 600 of the world?s largest collection of
Methodist-related plates. Tom and Barbara Southwell of Memphis own nearly 2,000
of these commemorative plates. The exhibit will run through October.
To the left of the main entrance and the small museum office is the library
of Bishop William R. Cannon, which was moved from Atlanta, shelves and all.
?We haven?t touched any of the contents,? Swarthout says. ?If there?s a
Christmas card used as a bookmark, it?s still there. If you want to study Bishop
Cannon and see what he taught from, this is the place to go.?
Special events are planned for 2007, the 300th anniversary of the birth of
The World Methodist Council Museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through
Friday and other times by appointment.
*Caldwell is a freelance writer in High Point, N.C.