|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.
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.
Bishops Øystein Olsen and Jane Allen Middleton serve communion to consultation participants.
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
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.
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
“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
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
"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
*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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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