From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Global church vision needs to be defined: consultation

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.UMC.ORG>
Date 12 Oct 1998 14:26:39

Oct. 12, 1998	Contact: Linda Bloom·(212) 870-3803·New York       585}

TULSA, Okla. (UMNS) - What exactly do United Methodists mean when they
talk about a "global church?"

That question must be considered in discussions about the future of the
church's structure, according to participants at an Oct. 5-7
consultation. The meeting dealt with the ecumenical implications of a
discussion under way on the church's global nature.

In a statement adopted at the meeting, participants said the challenge
will be to create a structure that:

* moves toward great equality among its members;
* provides for fellowship within the connection but also freedom for the
fullest expression of one's own identity and calling; and
* is open to initiating fuller expressions of unity with other

The statement was forwarded to the Connectional Process Team (CPT),
which is assessing the structure of the church. The team was mandated by
the 1996 General Conference to develop a "transformational direction"
for the United Methodist Church beyond the year 2000, a direction that
could include restructuring the denomination.

The consultation was sponsored by the United Methodist Commission on
Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns. Participants included
commission members as well as representatives of the CPT, the United
Methodist connection and autonomous Methodist churches and ecumenical

Participants were encouraged to consider how any proposed structures
would affect the global church, said the Rev. Bruce Robbins, the
commission's general secretary. Although participants expressed great
differences of opinion, they did so in a "reconciling spirit," he said.

A primary issue was the global relationship between United Methodists
and the broader Methodist constituency. 

"We found ourselves talking about what it means to be United Methodist,"
Robbins said. "What is it that keeps us together other than historical

The Rev. Brian Beck, former head of the British Methodist Church, helped
spur that discussion. "He was the one who challenged us about the
distinctiveness of United Methodism in relation to the whole Methodist
community," Robbins said.

The Rev. R. Lawrence (Lonnie) Turnipseed, who served as a consultant for
the event, reported that "the general feeling was that we should move
away from the term 'global church.'"

The consultation statement pointed to how "globalization" can be seen as
a process of domination and oppression of the poor. The participants
wondered how the United Methodist Church can be global "if autonomous
churches and other churches in the family are not included."

Another major concern is that the U.S. church should not dominate any
future model of the United Methodist Church. "There must be greater
equality of power and influence in any new structure," the statement

A global church, rooted in the United Methodist constitution and
historical tradition, should enhance the cause of Christian unity, the
participants said in their statement. "The global nature of the church
should be ecumenical and form multilateral partnerships to create
effective mission work in various parts of the world."

Currently, the denomination shows that commitment by participating in
councils of churches at the local, regional, national and international
levels; entering into covenanting agreements with other churches;
participating in the World Methodist Council; engaging in dialogues with
other denominations; cooperating in service ministries and engaging in
ecumenical shared ministries.

Freedom to be a church in mission is accompanied by responsibility,
participants said. "Freedom to preach the Gospel is accompanied by
responsibility in our relationships with Methodists or other churches in
a place. Freedom to fulfill an integral mission of evangelism and
service goes with responsibility to maintain our connectionality."

A global structure will work if the U.S. churches realizes it is only
one part of that structure, the group added. 

"Connectionalism can be expressed by recognizing that members belong to
the same church, have the same sacraments, recognize bishops and have
variations on structure to meet various cultural and locality needs.
This kind of fellowship needs to stress inclusiveness, mutual
accountability, conferencing with or without jurisdictions and
guidelines for membership."

Participants noted that the shaping a vision of a global United
Methodist church should include dialogue with other Methodist bodies and
the World Methodist Council.

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