News Archives

Agency invites church members to online dialogue July 8

6/19/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.

By United Methodist News Service

United Methodists are being encouraged to participate in an online conversation July 8 about the future of the denomination and what it means to be a global church.

The "Forum on the Future" webcast will be at 8 p.m. Eastern time at Denominational leaders and scholars, meeting in Detroit, will be in dialogue with one another and listeners around the world. The United Methodist General Council on Ministries and the denomination's Inter-Agency Research Task Force are sponsoring the two-hour event.

The webcast follows an initial "Forum on the Future" dialogue Feb. 26, which originated in Nashville, Tenn. Both share the same theme, "What in the World Are We Talking About? Strengthening our Global Connection and Ecumenical Relationships." The first dialogue focused on this question from a U.S. perspective, and the upcoming webcast will focus on it from the perspective of the church's central conferences - regional units outside the United States.

"The first Forum addressed a wide range of issues about the church and its changing world, and we expect the second one will as well," said Craig This, director of the Council on Ministries' office of research and planning in Dayton, Ohio. "The first one showed us how diverse the U.S. culture is. The second one will show us how diverse the world culture is as we hear from individuals from Africa, Asia, and Europe."

The panelists will include United Methodists from the central conferences - Emma Cantor, the Philippines; Solomon Chiripasi, Zimbabwe; Øyvind Helliesen, Norway; and Roland Siegrist, Austria - all of whom serve on the Council of Ministries. They will join Bishop Alfred Johnson, leader of the New Jersey Area and chairperson of the Advance for Christ and His Church, and two panelists from the first webcast - the Rev. Bruce Robbins, top staff executive of the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, and Jay Williams, a member of the Council on Ministries.

The Forum on the Future will also include Betty Jane and Martin Bailey, co-authors of Who are the Christians in the Middle East? for part of the conversation.

The conversation will focus on the United Methodist Church's relationships with surrounding cultures, particularly those outside the United States.

Small groups and individuals are encouraged to participate in the Forum on the Future, and a bulletin board has been created to generate conversation before the webcast. People can log on to the bulletin board and talk about topics related to the global nature of the church or begin submitting questions for the panelists.

"We had roughly 500 computers logged on to the last Forum on the Future," This said, "but there is no way to know how many of these were single users or groups. Our hope is by having these groups register we can get a better feel for our audience, and see how well this format works to bring people together to discuss the future of the church."

More details are available by contacting This at

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This report was adapted from a General Council on Ministries release.

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