Methodists marked historic firsts, anniversaries in '06
Dec. 4, 2005
|A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf takes the oath of office as Liberia's 23rd president during inauguration ceremonies in Monrovia Jan. 16.
By Kathy Gilbert*
2006 started with a United Methodist becoming
the first woman elected head of state in Africa and ended with the
denomination's Council of Bishops making a historic visit to that continent
for its first meeting ever held outside the United States.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected the 23rd president of Liberia, and her
Jan. 16 inauguration was attended by church leaders from around the world.
An active member of First United Methodist Church in Monrovia, Sirleaf spoke
of her faith several times during her speech.
Nearly 70 United Methodist bishops traveled to Mozambique in November to
"demonstrate to the United Methodist Church and to all the world that we are
a global church," said Bishop Janice R. Huie, president of the council. "We
embody a global reality by being here."
It was fitting for the council to meet outside the United States, since the
church in Africa, Asia and Europe is growing while the U.S. membership has
been declining. Membership in the central conferences (regions in Africa,
Asia and Europe) increased more than 68 percent from 1995 to 2004, to 1.88
In 2004, the number of U.S. members decreased by 0.81 percent, to about 8.07
million, and worship attendance was down by 0.96 percent from 2003,
according to The State of Our Connection, a report by the church's General
Council on Finance and Administration. Membership has declined annually
since the formation of the denomination in 1968. During the last 10 years,
overall membership decreased by 5.48 percent.
More than 1,500 United Methodist clergywomen went "marching in the light of
God" as they gathered to celebrate advancements made in the 50 years since
women received the same clergy rights as men in the denomination.
Participants at the 2006 International Clergywomen's Consultation, held Aug.
13-17 in Chicago, marked the half-century anniversary of that decision by
the denomination's top legislative body.
In 1956, after the General Conference action, 27 women were accepted on
trial for full clergy rights in their annual (regional) conferences. Today,
the denomination's 44,091 clergy members include 9,749 United Methodist
clergywomen -- about one in five, or 22.1 percent.
|A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert
pioneers - (from left) the Revs. Marion Kline, Grace Huck and Jane Ann
Stoneburner Moore - are honored at a banquet celebrating the 50th
anniversary of full clergy rights for women.
Before the clergywomen's consultation, 22 graduates of the Women of Color
Scholars program met to celebrate a program that is "is unparalleled to any
Protestant denomination" today, according to the Rev. Jerome King del Pino,
top executive at the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and
Ministry. The board sponsors the program that mentors women of color
pursuing advanced degrees in religious studies.
This year also marked the 50th anniversary of the United Methodist Church's
call to end executions and the 30th anniversary of a decision by the U.S.
Supreme Court to reinstate the death penalty.
At its 1956 General Conference, the Methodist Church declared: "We stand for
the application of the redemptive principle to the treatment of offenders
against the law, the reform of penal and correctional methods, and to
criminal court procedures. We deplore the use of capital punishment."
(Social Principles, 164G) The United Methodist Church has passed resolutions
opposed to the death penalty since 1976.
In commemoration of the 50th anniversary, the United Methodist Board of
Church and Society resurrected the United Methodists Against the Death
|A UMNS photo by John C. Goodwin
A cross made of steel beams from the wreckage of the World Trade Center Towers sits at Ground Zero in New York City.
United Methodists also remembered the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11
The church was involved in recovery efforts from Ground Zero to the five
boroughs of New York City to New Jersey and Virginia, and beyond.
A total of 87 grants were given by the New York Annual (regional) Conference
to local church projects ranging from after-school programs to interfaith
dialogues to pastoral support. "We tried to add a religious dimension and a
charity dimension (to recovery)," said the Rev. Charles "Chick" Straut,
program administrator for the conference response.
On a national level, United Methodists funded trauma-response training
through Church World Service; sponsored training for child-care workers;
supported local Muslim-Christian dialogues through "Honoring Our
Differences" grants; and gave additional money to the United Methodist
Committee on Relief's "Justice for Our Neighbors" immigrant assistance
For many along the U.S. Gulf Coast, the countdown to the new year started
Aug. 29. Hurricane Katrina hit Mississippi and Louisiana Aug. 29, 2005,
after striking Alabama, and it was followed Sept. 24 by Hurricane Rita,
which struck Texas and Louisiana.
In New Orleans, Katrina damaged 90 churches and displaced 80 pastors. In
Mississippi, the entire coastline was flattened and more than 300 churches
suffered damage -- seven of them destroyed. In neighboring Alabama, one
church was destroyed and another dozen damaged. Hurricane Rita damaged
church property in Beaumont, Port Arthur, Orange and Bridge City in Texas
and in Lake Charles and Cameron Parish in Louisiana.
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
from Christ Church United Methodist in New York repair a roof damaged
by winds from Hurricane Katrina in Biloxi, Miss.
Signs of progress a year later included student registration Sept. 16 at
United Methodist-related Dillard University in New Orleans. The opening
marked the return of the 136-year-old historically black college, which
flooded after Hurricane Katrina.
Another United Methodist historic site is still waiting to be restored. The
sea and wind swept away the 64 acres and 14 buildings that once were
Gulfside Assembly in Waveland, Miss. A team of African-American
denominational staff members journeyed to Gulfside and other sites on the
Gulf Coast July 23-25 to do recovery work.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief ranked sixth for the amount raised
for hurricane relief in a survey by Newsweek of the "Big Names in Katrina
Relief." UMCOR raised some $64.5 million for hurricane relief and
rehabilitation that will fund long-term recovery for the next three years.
This is in addition to the thousands of hours United Methodist volunteers
have put into the recovery effort and the $7.6 million United Methodists and
others donated in relief supplies.
A first-anniversary fundraising appeal to help rebuild churches and
congregations affected by Hurricane Katrina netted more than $2 million,
with additional donations expected. But that is just a beginning for the
Katrina Church Recovery Appeal, sponsored by the United Methodist Council of
Bishop William Oden of Dallas, who leads the council's task force on the
appeal, noted that while Katrina was "the worst natural and man-made tragedy
in the history of the United States," the hurricane also had the most
disastrous impact ever on church property, facilities and programs.
"Because there are over 40 churches totally destroyed or severely damaged,
it's going to take up to a decade and maybe as much as $10 million to have
mission and ministry along the Gulf Coast," Oden said.
They came in the name of Christian unity. From Feb. 14-23, the campus of
Catholic Pontifical University in Porto Alegre, Brazil, was transformed into
a global village for the World Council of Churches 9th Assembly.
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
A procession of banners carried by United Methodist Women opens the 2006 Assembly in Anaheim, Calif.
The vitality of the ecumenical movement was evident as some 4,000 people
prayed and sang together, engaged in dialogue and debate, and learned more
about one another's cultures and religions -- in five official languages.
In a "scary time" when war, terrorism, environmental calamity and unchecked
poverty and disease are looming fears, United Methodist Women can still make
practical expressions of their faith. That was the closing message from Jan
Love to participants at the 2006 United Methodist Women's Assembly, which
drew 7,000 members to Anaheim, Calif., May 4-7. Love is chief executive of
the Women's Division, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
Concerns about tensions on the Korean Peninsula and bombings in the Middle
East were acknowledged as more than 2,500 Methodists gathered in Seoul for
the World Methodist Conference July 20-24. "God in Christ Reconciling" (II
Corinthians 5:18) was the theme for the 19th conference.
United Methodists from around the world gathered Sept. 8-9 in Washington to
hear that the church must respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
|A UMNS photo by Erik Alsgaard
The Rev. Constance Smith (right) lights a candle with Lonny LeFever during the "Lighten the Burden" conference in Washington.
"We need you, and more people like you, to become ambassadors for the United
Methodist Global AIDS Fund," said the Rev. Don Messer, a member of the
fund's board of directors. "We need United Methodists to pray, speak out in
their local churches and wherever their ministries take them, and do
something in support of HIV/AIDS ministries."
"Lighten the Burden," was the first conference of its kind in more than 20
years. The event was sponsored by the Global AIDS Fund, created by the 2004
United Methodist General Conference, Board of Global Ministries and the
Board of Church and Society.
United Methodist church leaders stood with clergy from other denominations
in numerous marches held across the United States to protest the strict
immigration bill passed by the House of Representatives. A Senate
immigration bill approved May 24 gave legalization for about half of the 12
million undocumented workers in the country.
In mid-August, Elvira Arellano and her 7-year-old son, Saul, found sanctuary
in Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago. Arellano, lay leader of the
church, asked for sanctuary against the threat of being deported from the
United States. Members of the small Hispanic congregation rallied around
Arellano, granting her sanctuary while she attempts to stay in the country
with her son, who is a U.S. citizen.
|A UMNS photo by Linda S. Rhodes
Bishops Minerva Carca˝o and Hee-Soo Jung pray with Elvira Arellano (right) and her son, Saul, 7.
The administrative council of First United Methodist Church in Tacoma,
Wash., voted unanimously June 11 to declare the church a sanctuary for
members of the armed forces with moral qualms about participating in
military activities that may violate their conscience.
United Methodists rallied in support of Army Lt. Ehren Watada, 28, who has
refused deployment to Iraq because he feels the war is "morally wrong" and
"a breach of American law." He faces charges of missing troop movement,
conduct unbecoming an officer and contempt towards officials. United
Methodists joined a vigil and rally at Fort Lewis in Tacoma, where Watada is
In the fall, United Methodists participated in the official kickoff of a
malaria-prevention campaign that encourages donations for malaria nets for
African families. Bishop Thomas Bickerton of the denomination's Pittsburgh
Area said one of the campaign's most appealing aspects is that "anyone,
anywhere" can forge this lifesaving link with children in Africa.
"It all fits in to the whole issue of eradicating poverty," added Bickerton,
who also serves as president of United Methodist Communications. "A million
people are dying of malaria every year, 75 percent of them children."
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
Domingos and her 1-year-old daughter, Sarafine Lorenšo, take shelter
beneath a mosquito net at their home near Malanje, Angola.
The campaign asks for a $10 contribution. The first $7 purchases and
distributes the nets, which can cover up to four family members as they
sleep. The last $3 pays for community workers to educate families on how to
use the insecticide-treated bed nets.
Partners in Nothing But Nets include the people of The United Methodist
Church, the United Nations Foundation, Sports Illustrated, the National
Basketball Association's foundation, NBA Cares, Millennium Promise and the
Measles Initiative. The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries and
United Methodist Communications are coordinating participation in the
Other significant events in 2006:
- Coretta Scott King, widow of civil
rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was remembered by United
Methodists as a strong woman of faith who "answered a hard call at a
high price." King, 78, died Jan. 30 at a rehabilitation center in
- United Methodists help defeat Internet
gambling, a cause worked on by the United Methodist Board of Church and
Society for seven years.
- A delegation representing the United
Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns
received a special license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control of
the U.S. Treasury Department to visit Cuba Oct. 7-12.
- After 13 years in Bosnia, UMCOR
officially closed its project there. United Methodists will continue to
be involved in the region through volunteer teams and financial support
for projects, such as youth houses.
- United Methodist clergy are getting
older than the population the denomination is trying to reach, according
to a report examining clergy age trends for the past 20 years. In 1985,
the average age of ordained elders was 46.8 years, compared to 51.5
years in 2005.
- A sex scandal involving the Duke
University men's lacrosse team brought to the surface multiple issues
about privilege and cultural values within higher education, the church
and wider society, according to United Methodist Bishop Ken Carder,
director of pulpit and pew at the Duke Center for Excellence in Ministry
at Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C.
- United Methodists gathering for their
top legislative assembly in 2008 will meet, symbolically, under a tall,
green tree representing "A Future with Hope." The green tree and theme
of hope are the key elements of the new logo for the next General
Conference, which will be April 23-May 2, 2008, in Fort Worth, Texas.
- The United Methodist Church's top court
ruled that the 2004 General Conference was within its authority to limit
the United Methodist Church of Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) to two
General Conference delegates. The Judicial Council also made it clear
that the action by the 2004 General Conference "was not a final act of
admission" of the Methodist Church of Cote d'Ivoire into the United
Several prominent United Methodists died in 2006.
- Carrie Sahmaunt, who was the oldest
living member of the Kiowa Indian Tribe, died Jan. 15 at the age of 101
at her home in Meers, Okla.
- Dr. Ruth Nichols, a podiatrist who was
an active supporter of Africa University and the widow of a United
Methodist bishop, died Jan. 22 in her San Jose, Calif., home.
? David W. Worley, 72, the first United Methodist scouting executive,
died Jan. 1 at his home in Hot Springs, Ark., after a
five-and-a-half-year battle with melanoma.
- Thomas H. Dahl, 66, of Anchorage,
Alaska, died March 30 from injuries suffered in a fall from a ladder in
Moss Point, Miss., where he was working with a volunteer team on Gulf
Coast recovery work. Dahl was a retired clergyman who also served as
chief counsel to the Alaska Missionary Conference, and he was a former
director of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
- Mark Allen Masters, an executive with
the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, died May 14 of a heart
attack while visiting missionaries in Nepal. Masters, 48, was a regional
executive for mission personnel.
- Bishop Leroy Charles Hodapp, 82,
described by his peers as a steady, consistent and faithful leader for
the United Methodist Church, died May 26 at Methodist Hospital in
- Two members of Tonga's royal family,
56-year-old Prince Tu'ipelehake and his 46-year-old wife, Princess
Kaimana, were killed July 5 in a traffic accident in Menlo Park, Calif.
Their driver, Vinisia Hefa, 36, a member of San Bruno United Methodist
Church, was also killed.
- A United Methodist in the Philippines
who had served as a local pastor was shot dead by gunmen outside his
home. According to a story in the Aug. 6 edition of the Philippine Daily
Inquirer, Isaias Sta. Rosa was found dead in Malabago, Daraga, Albay, on
- Bishop Rhymes H. Moncure Jr., leader of
325 United Methodist congregations in North Texas, died Aug. 19 at
Baylor Medical Center as a result of complications from neurosurgery.
- The first United Methodist bishop of
Nigeria, Done Peter Dabale, died Aug. 26 of cancer at the Methodist
Hospital in Houston. He was 57.
- Bishop Thomas S. Bangura, 81, retired
leader of the church in Sierra Leone, died Sept. 24. He began his
ministry in the Evangelical United Brethren Church and served as bishop
from 1979 to 1992.
- Tonga's King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, a lay
preacher in the Free Wesleyan Methodist Church, died Sept. 10 at Mercy
Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand.
- Robert Lear, 79, a former news director
for United Methodist News Service and former Iowa Area communicator,
died Oct. 16 in Wernersville, Pa., after a lengthy illness. He
chronicled news of Methodism for more than 37 years.
- Betty Jane Admussen, of Kansas City,
Mo., a member of the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race
and an active part of Native American ministries in the church, died
Nov. 22 after a long illness. She was 80.
- Finees Flores Jr., former editor of el Interprete magazine, died Nov. 18 at his home in San Antonio after a
long struggle with cancer. He was active in Hispanic concerns and
ministries and also was a former member of the General Council on
Finance and Administration.
*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