|For United Methodists and others, disasters dominated ’05|
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
pilings and a plastic sign are all that remain of a building at the
historic Gulfside Assembly grounds in Waveland, Miss.
Dec. 7, 2005
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
It was only one of 26
named storms in a record-breaking hurricane season, but for United
Methodists, Hurricane Katrina packed the biggest wallop.
When Katrina bore down
on the Gulf Coast at the end of August, it swept away homes, churches,
parsonages, and social service centers in its path. In Louisiana, much
of the southeastern part of the state was flooded, including New
Orleans. In Mississippi, the towns of Waveland and Pass Christian were
wiped out. Hurricane Rita followed a few weeks later, compounding the
damage and distress. The death toll from the storms exceeded 1,000,
though a final figure is not known.
Natural disasters were a
major focus for the church during 2005, but the year also was a
tumultuous one for other reasons: the war in Iraq, church court rulings
on cases related to homosexuality and clergy authority, relief
initiatives in Africa and other parts of the world, and progress in
ecumenical relationships, to name a few.
The most destructive
U.S. hurricane came some eight months after a tsunami swamped countries
rimming the Indian Ocean, stunning the world. It followed Hurricane
Dennis and preceded Rita and Wilma and, perhaps, contributed to
compassion fatigue as relief agencies sought donations to assist victims
of a major earthquake in Pakistan and Kashmir and hurricane-related
floods in Central America in October.
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
The Rev. Darryl Tate views the ruined sanctuary of St. Luke's United Methodist Church.
Throughout the Gulf
Coast region, United Methodist churches and institutions opened as
shelters to provide temporary housing to evacuees. Working with the
United Methodist Committee on Relief, annual conferences in the region
set up storm recovery centers, coordinating volunteer work teams from
across the country, collecting and distributing supplies and assisting
affected individuals through case management.
As of Nov. 10, UMCOR had received more than $22.5 million for Katrina/Rita hurricane relief.
One of the landmarks
washed away by Katrina was the historic Gulfside Assembly retreat center
in Waveland, which has special significance to the denomination’s
African-American members. But the assembly’s board of directors voted to
rebuild, establishing a Gulfside Recovery Fund.
A new landmark — a
towering mountain of trash, part of an estimated 7 million cubic feet of
trash accumulated in New Orleans from the cleanup — was left near St.
Luke’s United Methodist Church. Bits and pieces of many of the 79
churches in the district were part of the heap.
At St. Luke’s, only 15
of the 126 families in the congregation had returned by late October.
The number of returning families is a factor in the rebuilding process.
Currently, the evacuees — 1.5 million from Louisiana and several hundred
thousand from Mississippi and Alabama — are spread across the United
States. Those evacuees include entire congregations and clergy.
UMCOR funds do not
cover such expenses as church construction or clergy salaries. That is a
problem for the Louisiana Conference, which has projected it will spend
$1.3 million through May on salary and benefits alone, and for the
Mississippi Conference, where six churches were destroyed and at least
20 suffered major damage.
To assist the Gulf
Coast conferences, the denomination’s Council of Bishops approved the
Katrina Church Recovery Appeal in early November. The special fund will
focus on building new ministries, rebuilding facilities and addressing
other local church and conference needs, such as paying clergy salaries
and covering uninsured losses.
UMCOR also has taken on
its biggest relief project to date. Through a $66 million agreement
with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, UMCOR is heading Katrina
AID Today: A National Case Management Consortium, which will help some
100,000 qualifying families achieve long-term recovery from the
As the lead agency,
UMCOR will manage the grant, of which $60 million will be passed through
to six to12 other organizations also equipped to organize case
management. Consortium members will employ case mangers who will
work directly with families.
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
Members of a United Methodist delegation pray during a visit to Banda Aceh, Indonesia, three weeks after the tsunami.
commanded United Methodist attention throughout 2005, even though it
occurred at the end of the previous year. In fact, church members
responded so compassionately to the Dec. 26 tsunami that killed more
than 220,000 people in 11 Indian Ocean countries that they raised $42
million for relief efforts through UMCOR.
The Rev. R. Randy Day,
chief executive of the Board of Global Ministries, UMCOR’s parent
agency, believes television coverage of the unusual but deadly
catastrophe touched many people in a personal way. “I think it had a
major emotional and spiritual impact on people, and they responded
through giving,” he said in a November interview.
The relief agency is
conducting long-term rehabilitation in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India,
Thailand and Somalia, working with various partners in each country. The
three major components of most of the work are housing, education and
Judicial Council rulings
Two October rulings relating to homosexuality attracted both denomination-wide and national attention.
On Oct. 31, the Judicial Council, the
denomination’s top court, reversed an appeals court ruling in the case
of a lesbian pastor, restoring the original trial court ruling and
verdict that had resulted in the minister losing her clergy credentials.
The Rev. Irene Elizabeth “Beth” Stroud,
an associate pastor at First United Methodist Church in Germantown, Pa.,
was convicted by a clergy trial court last December after stating that
she was a practicing lesbian — a violation of church law, which forbids
the ordination and appointment of “self-avowed practicing” homosexuals.
The court revoked Stroud’s credentials, but a jurisdictional court of
appeals set aside that ruling in April.
The Judicial Council, which heard oral
arguments in the case Oct. 27 in Houston, found “the Northeast
Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals erred in reversing and setting aside
the verdict and penalty from Rev. Stroud’s trial.
“Stroud was accorded fair and due process rights enumerated in the (Book of) Discipline
and Judicial Council decisions,” the court said. “Regulation of the
practice of homosexuality does not violate the ‘status’ provisions of
the Constitution. The Northeast Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals was
without jurisdiction to declare that Paragraph 304.3 established a new
standard of doctrine contrary to our present existing and established
Stroud continues to work as a lay pastor for the Germantown church.
In another decision during its October
meeting, the Judicial Council ruled that United Methodist ministers do
have the power to decide who becomes a member of the local church,
supporting a pastor who blocked an openly gay man from joining his
The council issued two decisions related
to the case of Rev. Ed Johnson, who was serving as senior pastor at
South Hill (Va.) United Methodist Church until he was placed on
involuntary leave of absence in June. In Decision 1031, the council
dealt with the due process problems in how Johnson was disciplined.
Decision 1032 was the more sweeping ruling, saying that the church’s Book of Discipline “invests discretion in the pastor-in-charge to make determination of a person’s readiness to affirm the vows of membership.”
The result of both decisions was that Johnson was immediately reinstated to active status.
In a Nov. 2 statement responding to the
court’s decision, the denomination’s Council of Bishops declared that
homosexuality is not a barrier to membership in the United Methodist
“While pastors have the responsibility to
discern readiness for membership, homosexuality is not a barrier,” the
bishops said in their pastoral letter to the people of the United
Methodist Church. The letter was unanimously adopted in a closed session
during their October meeting.
“With the Social Principles of the United
Methodist Church, we affirm ‘that God’s grace is available to all, and
we will seek to live together in Christian community,’” the bishops
said, quoting from the Social Principles in the Book of Discipline.
“‘We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and
gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and
with all persons.’
“We also affirm our Wesleyan practice
that pastors are accountable to the bishop, superintendent and the
clergy on matters of ministry and membership,” the bishops said.
Debate over Iraq war
The war in Iraq continued to preoccupy United Methodists, just as it did the rest of the United States.
|A UMNS photo by John Gordon
Sue Niederer, whose son was killed in Iraq, is comforted by the Rev. Bob Edgar (left) and retired Bishop Joe Wilson.
On Nov. 4, the Council of Bishops adopted
a resolution calling on President George Bush to draw up a plan and
timeline for withdrawing all U.S. forces from Iraq. The resolution
stated that “the continuing loss of Iraqi civilian lives, especially
children, and the increasing death toll among United States and
coalition military, grieves the heart of God.”
The bishops said the U.S. government’s
reasons for war — “the presumption of weapons of mass destruction and
alleged connection between al-Qaida and Iraq” — have not been verified,
and that the violence in Iraq has created a context for “gross
violations of human rights of prisoners of war.”
The following week, 96 individual bishops
issued a separate statement repenting “of our complicity in what we
believe to be the unjust and immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq.”
The statement confessed “our preoccupation with institutional
enhancement and limited agendas while American men and women are sent to
Iraq to kill and be killed, while thousands of Iraqi people needlessly
suffer and die, while poverty increases and preventable diseases go
In October, the United Methodist Board of
Church and Society also passed a resolution calling on the United
States to withdraw its troops from Iraq.
But the denomination continues to
minister to military personnel stationed in Iraq and elsewhere. Since
2003, for example, military men and women have had more than 6 million
minutes to speak to someone they love — free of charge — because
thousands of United Methodists have donated to a phone card campaign.
“Chaplains have felt supported, and
service members, many who have no church affiliation, know that the
United Methodist Church cares about them,” said the Rev. Greg Hill,
director for the United Methodist Endorsing Agency of the Board of
Higher Education and Ministry, sponsor of the campaign. The phone cards,
which cost $4.95 for 120 minutes, feature the United Methodist cross
and flame and include a recorded prayer.
Five bishops — Peter Weaver, Ernest
Lyght, Janice Huie, John Schol and Charlene Kammerer — paid a May 3
pastoral visit to President George W. Bush in a meeting that they said
opened the door for future conversations and work with the White House.
During the private 10-minute session, the bishops presented Bush, a
fellow United Methodist, with a Bible signed by the Council of Bishops,
and they shared a moment of prayer with him.
Elsewhere in the world,
the situation in Sudan remained a concern for the denomination. In
early February, UMCOR opened a mission in South Darfur, on the western
side of Sudan, with a start-up budget around $1 million. The mission’s
priorities include providing emergency aid and development services in
water, sanitation, and agriculture. The agency is helping manage the El
Ferdous IDP (internally displaced persons) camp.
|A UMNS photo by John Goodwin
Joao Somane Machado of Mozambique discusses the church's malaria
initiative at the Nov. 1-3 TIME Global Health Summit in New York.
UMCOR also was among the faith-based
humanitarian agencies providing basic necessities to hundreds of
thousands of people displaced from homes and jobs in Zimbabwe.
At several points during the year,
Filipino and foreign Protestant church leaders condemned what they
describe as “massive human rights violations” and outright killings of
innocent people perceived as “subversives” under the government of
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the Philippines. Church
leaders have been alarmed by a “wave of killings” of peace advocates,
including church people.
In Liberia, several United Methodists
were among the candidates for president of the West African nation,
including Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and George Weah, who faced each other in
the Nov. 8 run-off election. Johnson-Sirleaf was declared the
winner in what the country’s National Committee for Elections Monitoring
called a “free and fair” election, despite a protest from Weah
supporters. She will be Africa’s first female head of state.
The Board of Global Ministries announced
an initiative to combat malaria and Bishop Joao Somane Machado of
Mozambique and the Rev. R. Randy Day, the board’s chief executive, spoke
about the new initiative to combat malaria during a Nov. 1 press
conference at the TIME Global Health Summit in New York.
The United Methodist Community Based
Malaria Prevention Program was set for launch in Sierra Leone in early
December. Participants from seven countries will be trained at the
denomination’s Maternity and Health Center in Kissy.
On the U.S. front, a United
Methodist-backed consumer boycott against Taco Bell ended March 8 when
the company agreed to work with the Florida-based Coalition of Immokalee
Workers to address working conditions and the wages of farm workers in
the Florida tomato industry. The United Methodist Church officially
joined the boycott by a vote from the denomination’s 2004 General
Conference, its top legislative body.
Methodists prayed for the Red Lake tribe after a March 21 school
shooting at an Indian reservation left 10 people dead. Church members
also provided physical assistance through the local Red Cross.
The Council of Bishops approved interim
agreements in May for sharing the Eucharist with two other mainline
denominations — the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America. The separate agreements would result in those churches and
the United Methodist Church sharing worship, particularly communion,
studying with one another and being involved in mission together.
Lutherans approved the agreement in August.
A new study guide about Holy Communion
was released to help local United Methodist churches improve the
practice of the sacrament. “This Holy Mystery: A United Methodist
Understanding of Holy Communion,” includes the church’s official
statement about Holy Communion as the main text plus commentary and
The United Methodist Publishing House
made changes to the “Disciple” Bible study class to increase access to
the program, with new eight-week sessions and videos for “Disciple I.”
In the past 20 years, more than a million people have graduated from a
“Disciple” Bible study class.
Catholic and United Methodist scholars,
meeting in Washington April 29-May 1, called for greater sharing and
collaboration between their churches as they concluded a dialogue on the
church and church structures. The findings of this sixth round of
dialogue between the two denominations were published in a joint study
titled “Through Divine Love: The Church in Each Place and All Places.”
The Rev. Hans Vaxby of
Helsinki, Finland, was elected Feb. 11 as bishop of the Eurasia Area of
the United Methodist Church, succeeding Bishop Ruediger Minor, who
retired after serving the church’s Russia mission since 1992.
The Rev. David Kekumba
Yemba, professor and founding dean of the faculty of theology at United
Methodist-related Africa University, was elected bishop of the Central
Congo Area on Feb. 12, succeeding Bishop Fama Onema, who served the area
for more than 30 years.
In Germany, the Rev.
Rosemarie Wenner was elected Feb. 16 as the denomination’s first woman
bishop in Europe, succeeding Bishop Walter Klaiber.
The Rev. Benjamin Boni
was elected March 12 as the first bishop of the newly constituted United
Methodist Church of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). The West Africa
Central Conference delegates also recognized Côte d’Ivoire as an annual
conference of the denomination.
|A UMNS photo by Tim Tanton
Secretary Ernest Lyght (left) and President Peter Weaver (right)
congratulate Gregory Palmer and Janice Huie after the election.
The Rev. Patrick Streiff, 49, of
Switzerland was consecrated as a new bishop of the Central Conference of
Central and Southern Europe during an April 17 service. He will succeed
Bishop Heinrich Bolleter in May 2006.
Bishop Janice Riggle Huie of Texas was
elected president of the Council of Bishops and Bishop Gregory V. Palmer
of Iowa as president-designate, effective in May 2006, at the council’s
Oct. 30-Nov. 4 meeting. Huie, 58, will succeed Bishop Peter D. Weaver
of the Boston Area as president for a two-year term. Palmer, 51, is in
line to succeed her. Bishop Ernest Lyght of the West Virginia Area was
Hae-Jong Kim, who became the
denomination’s first Korean-American bishop when he was elected in 1992
and who retired in 2004, resigned from the episcopacy Sept. 1 as part of
the resolution of a complaint filed against him. Weaver announced the
resignation Aug. 30 in a statement that did not specify details of the
complaint against Kim. The former bishop’s clergy membership was
returned to the Greater New Jersey Annual (regional) Conference.
More than 100 pastors, students and
visitors attended a daylong Sept. 10 dedication event for the new Russia
United Methodist Theological Seminary in Moscow, organized by seminary
President Tobias Dietze. The day also marked the installation of the
first Russian professor, the Rev. Sergei Nikolaev, to the Ruediger and
Gerlinde Minor Chair. Funded by the Foundation for Evangelism, the chair
also honors the tradition of Methodist evangelist E. Stanley Jones.
A settlement was reached in April between
United Methodist-related Iliff School of Theology in Denver and the
Rev. David Maldonado, its former Latino president, who claimed he was
forced to resign last year due to “culturally different” views.
An April 19 joint
declaration issued by Maldonado and Iliff names Maldonado as president
emeritus and says the school will “honor his legacy” by establishing the
David and Charlotte Maldonado Scholarship Fund. He will also serve as
special adviser to the president in the year ahead. Iliff regained
positive standing from the church’s University Senate in June after
being placed on a warning list the previous fall.
The president of United Methodist-related
American University in Washington resigned Oct. 24 following an
investigation of his personal and travel expenses. An audit
committee found that Benjamin Ladner, 63, president for 11 years, and
his wife allegedly spent more than $500,000 inappropriately in the past
On Sept. 6, a judge reduced a $6 million
civil court judgment against the Missouri Annual Conference by half,
leaving $3 million in compensatory and punitive damages in place. Teresa
and Sid Norris of Springfield, Mo., had sued the conference for
intentional failure to supervise and act on complaints against a pastor
more than six years ago. The conference is continuing to appeal the
judgment. Mrs. Norris was a local church music director.
started the year on an improved fiscal note, having increased their
giving by nearly 4 percent to the denomination’s churchwide ministry
during 2004, despite a membership loss. The increase of almost $4.4
million to the United Methodist Church’s seven apportioned funds marked a
reversal from slight decreases in the two preceding years.
The North Georgia Conference grew by more
than 7,000 members during 2004. Across the denomination, average
attendance at morning worship grew by a small margin while U.S.
membership declined by about 71,000 from the previous year, according to
mid-year annual conference reports. Official, audited numbers for the
denomination haven’t been released yet.
The Rev. Robert J. Williams, a New Jersey
pastor, was elected top executive of the United Methodist Commission on
Archives and History, succeeding the Rev. Charles Yrigoyen Jr., who
will retire on Dec. 31.
The Commission on United Methodist Men
organization was expected to move into its first headquarters, the
facilities being vacated by the Nashville, Tenn., office of the
denomination’s General Council on Finance and Administration, by the end
of 2005. The organization had been lodged in a suite of offices at
the Board of Discipleship.
GCFA bought a building on Nashville’s Music Row previously occupied by RCA and moved its headquarters there from Evanston, Ill.
Several prominent United Methodists died in 2005.
J. Alfred Ndoricimpa, East Africa Conference, July 29 at a hospital in
Nairobi, Kenya. The Burundi native had been forced to flee that country
in 1994 after the assassination of its first democratically elected
president and lived in exile in Kenya for 6 years before returning
permanently in 2000.
Paul W. Milhouse, 94, on March 12 in Franklin Ind. He was the last
remaining bishop elected by the former Evangelical United Brethren
· Bishop Earl Gladstone Hunt Jr., 86, on March 26 in Asheville, N.C. He was a leader in the church and in world Methodism.
· Bishop Edward L. Tullis, 88, on Oct. 6 in Lake Junaluska, N.C. He was known throughout the denomination as a visionary leader.
lay leader J. Wesley Hole, 101, on Feb. 14 in Arcadia, Calif. He served
as secretary of the 1939 Methodist uniting conference.
· The Rev. J. Arthur West, 95, on April 8 in Lebanon, Ohio. West was a pioneer communicator in the United Methodist Church.
Rev. Karuna Bhujel, 48, on April 23 in Kathmandu, Nepal. A United
Methodist missionary, Bhujel was killed in a motorbike accident on her
way to church.
Moser, 72, on May 3 in Nashville, Tenn. Moser was instrumental in the
vision and development of the Disciple Bible Study for the United
Methodist Publishing House.
Rev. Kenneth J. Deere, 69, on June 23 in Holdenville, Okla. Deere was a
former United Methodist agency staff executive and a leader in
addressing Native American concerns.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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