April 27, 2004
By Linda Green*
PITTSBURGH (UMNS)––The United Methodist Church’s bishops want to expand efforts to help children and the poor.
the denomination’s 2004 General Conference, the bishops said they may
merge the critical points of the Episcopal Address with “Our Shared
Dream: The Beloved Community,” a paper the body adopted last November.
The Council of Bishops anticipates that merging these two documents
would create a new episcopal initiative for 2005-08.
|Bishop Donald A. Ott|
convergence of the two papers could provide the council with “marching
orders” for the next four years, according to Bishop Donald A. Ott,
coordinator of the Bishops’ Initiative on Children and Poverty. The
bishops anticipate selecting a new initiative during their November
council meeting, with contributions from the 20 new bishops who will be
elected this July.
episcopal initiative seeks to “reshape the United Methodist Church”
with a focus on Jesus and the “least of these,” Ott said. “God has a
bias for the poor,” and through evangelism and theological reflection,
the bishops must enlighten the church about “this critical and urgent
matter for our time,” he said.
before General Conference, the bishops urged a task force to present a
way in which the council’s paper on the “beloved community” could become
an evolving initiative that could be affirmed as an initiative for the
next four years.
council does not want to relinquish its work with children and the poor
during the past eight years, explained Ott. The council wants to
continue and enlarge its efforts because of the belief that “this is
where God is calling us.”
“Beloved Community” document notes that the plight of children is tied
to economics, politics, globalization, war, family breakdown, the AIDS
epidemic and other problems. It also states that the root causes of
poverty and the neglect and abandonment of children “lie in a society in
which people live in fear.”
said the proposed new initiative would reclaim the bishops’
responsibility to be teachers of the church, which is focused on
blending the Wesleyan principles of acts of piety and acts of mercy.
should not be a people who cultivate our own spirit, but we must act on
it and care for the poor,” he said. He lamented that the church and
many congregations today are inwardly focused on other concerns and must
be taught about caring for children and the poor.
to the “Beloved Community,” the church must broaden its understanding
of local mission because too many congregations and individuals are
satisfied with being involved in direct-service ministries with the poor
without the faith-sharing and congregational inclusion essential to
“beloved community” is one where all people are valued for the gifts
they are and the gifts they bring, Ott said. The important gifts include
mutuality, diversity and inclusiveness.
*Green is a staff writer for United Methodist News Service.
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