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Social Creed gets European flavor at consultation


United Methodist Bishop Jane Allen Middleton leads the discussion on a new
Social Creed for the denomination at a consultation in Oslo, Norway.
UMNS photos by Karl Anders Ellingsen.










By Karl Anders Ellingsen*
March 28, 2007 | OSLO, Norway (UMNS)

A task force working on a new version of The United Methodist Social Creed is heading to Africa and the Philippines after meeting with church members from across Europe.


Bishops Øystein Olsen and Jane Allen Middleton serve communion to consultation participants. 

Seventeen United Methodists from several regional conferences in Europe gathered in Oslo in early March for consultations on a proposed new version of the creed that will be presented to the 2008 General Conference, the denomination's top lawmaking body.

The original creed was written in 1908 and began as a short declaration calling for "equal rights and complete justice for all men in all stations of life" and addressing other predominantly work-related issues. The creed was rewritten in 1972 and ends with: "We believe in the present and final triumph of God's Word in human affairs and gladly accept our commission to manifest the life of the gospel in the world."

"The current creed doesn't roll off the tongue," said Jim Winkler, top executive with the United Methodist Board of Church and Society.

As the Social Creed's 100th anniversary approaches, the denomination's social advocacy agency is reminding members that the creed and its successor, the Social Principles, have played a prophetic role in advocating for social change, such as the abolition of child labor.

The board has prepared a new draft that it is taking to consultations with United Methodists in Europe, Asia and Africa. Following the Oslo event, the Social Creed Task Force will take the draft to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in May and then to the Philippines, said the Rev. Neal Christie, a board executive.

Global perspective

The Social Creed Task Force formed by the board includes clergy, lay, liturgical and theological scholars and composers. Bishop Jane Allen Middleton, a member of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, led the discussions in Oslo.

"It was an amazing experience, in that we were people from eight nations, from different theological perspectives, from various settings of ministry and with obvious differences in languages," Middleton said.

"To be given the opportunity to discuss the Social Creed from a European perspective was both useful and interesting," said Bishop Øystein Olsen, episcopal leader for the Nordic and Baltic Area. "I was inspired by the level of enthusiasm and the knowledge among the participants, and look forward to seeing a global perspective in the final draft."

“Words in worship matter, and the process by which we produce a new Social Creed for use by the whole church deserves our patient and diligent attention.”
–The Rev. Neal Christie

"Words in worship matter, and the process by which we produce a new Social Creed for use by the whole church deserves our patient and diligent attention," Christie said.

"The Social Creed Task Force was eager to hear what this Social Creed draft might look like and sound like through the many eyes and ears of our European sisters and brothers," he added.

The Rev. Knut Refsdal, assistant to Bishop Olsen, was pleased with the result.

"It was a good consultation," he said. He found it inspiring that the church is willing to invest resources to involve the different parts of the global church, he said.

"It is a good experience to meet so many different people with a heart for the same issues," said the Rev. Hilde Marie Øgreid, one of two representatives of the Northern Europe Central Conference.

"We all want a new Social Creed that expresses the theology and social interest of the church. To meet so much knowledge and hear so many relevant contributions has been excellent."

Issues and context

The participants in Oslo were dedicated to their charge, Middleton said. "They are passionate about The United Methodist Church's position on these matters. When we make statements about social issues, we will do so in awareness of the context which the whole church lives in," she said.

The March 5-6 consultation included five representatives from the board in the United States, along with four from Germany, one from Switzerland, one from Austria, two from Russia, one from Denmark and three from Norway.

Ethnicity, nationality, social, political and economic challenges, gender and age, were some of the issues that influenced the conversation in Europe.

"When the Social Creed is presented to the General Conference in Fort Worth in 2008, the product will look and sound different than when we began," Christie said. "And as a church, we will be better because of the time taken to consult and conference together across the connection."  

*Ellingsen is editor for the Norway Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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