From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Commission plans follow-up consultation on theological diversity

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.UMC.ORG>
Date 12 Oct 1998 14:36:03

Oct. 12, 1998	Contact: Linda Bloom·(212) 870-3803·New York      {588}

NOTE: This story is accompanied by a sidebar, UMNS #589.

TULSA, Okla. (UMNS) - A national United Methodist consultation on
questions of Scripture and revelation is being planned for 1999 by the
denomination's Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious

Commission members authorized a task force to organize the event during
their Oct. 8-11 meeting at the Doubletree Hotel Downtown. A specific
date and location has yet to be set.

The consultation will be a follow-up to the two-part United Methodist
dialogue on theological diversity that the commission sponsored in
1997-98. That dialogue produced a document, "In Search of Unity."

The Rev. Bruce Robbins, the commission's general secretary, said that
different understanding of Scriptural authority and the nature of
revelation "was the key item lifted up as a (denominational) division in
the 'Search of Unity' document." The consultation will further explore
differing theological perspectives within United Methodism.

The earlier dialogue had generated a "huge response," with the
commission receiving requests for 20,000 copies of  "In Search of
Unity," Robbins said. Similar dialogues have been generated at the local
and annual conference levels, and the United Methodist Council of
Bishops has added time to its fall meeting to consider the document.

On the ecumenical front, commission members learned that upcoming
dialogues have been scheduled with two groups. A new round of dialogue
with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) will begin with a
planning session during the National Council of Churches meeting in
Chicago in November. United Methodist participants will be selected by
the commission and Council of Bishops. A report from the last round of
United Methodist-Lutheran dialogue was issued in 1987.

A dialogue between United Methodists and the Wesleyan-Holiness Church
will begin with a Feb. 18-20 meeting at Perkins School of Theology in

In recognition of Tulsa's Native American population - more than 100
tribes have members living in the area - Native American spirituality,
history and current concerns became a focus of the commission meeting.

Curtis Zunigha, chief of the Delaware Tribe, demonstrated how Native
Americans combine traditional ways with a belief in Jesus by using
natural elements in worship through a "smudging ceremony." Displaying
sage, tobacco, cedar and sweetgrass, he noted that "these things which
are considered sacraments sometimes are just taken for granted by

Zunigha also spoke about the need of Indians to have access to sacred
sites for worship and the right to use all sacraments, including peyote,
without regulation by the federal government. Noting the minority status
of Native Americans, he told the commission members that "when these
issues come up, we need your voices."

He used eagle feathers to fan cedar smoke into the room, providing "a
universal blessing. No person is better than the other. We are all God's
children." The Rev. Harry Long then led singing of Native American

Commission members viewed an exhibit at Tulsa's Gilcrease Museum on the
Euchee Indians. Currently considered a part of the Creek nation, the
tribe is simultaneously struggling for federal recognition and the
preservation of its language and culture. Methodist congregations among
the Euchee began at the turn of the century. The oldest congregation is
at Pickett Chapel, south of Sapulpa, Okla.

After the museum visit, the commission gathered at All Tribes Church,
where Richard Grounds, a Native American commission member, led them in
a discussion about the exhibit and the problem of Indian remains and
sacred objects being part of museum collections rather than returned to

In other meeting action, the commission:

* Decided to update two United Methodist resolutions, "On the Ecumenical
Road" and "Guidelines for Interreligious Relationships: 'Called to Be
Neighbors and Witnesses,'" for the 2000 General Conference, to better
serve as resources for local churches.
* Heard a report about the upcoming World Council of Churches Assembly
in Harare, Zimbabwe.
* Worked on revisions for several drafts of its program priorities for
* Learned that dialogue between American Indian and Alaskan Christian
and traditional practitioners of religion will continue, with a meeting
set for next September.  

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