God’s mission of saving, healing and transforming beckons all United Methodists to join in regardless of the form their church takes in the future.
This is the invitation of an unprecedented statement, “United in God’s Mission,” unanimously issued by the 32 voting directors of the General Board of Global Ministries, the church’s mission agency that incorporates the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). It grew out of table talks at an April 12 director’s meeting about the current, deep United Methodist division growing out of the February Special General Conference.
Many of the directors, coming from varied parts of the world, expressed concern about the negative impact the division is having on the church’s mission and humanitarian work. Directors represent a broad range of theological and cultural perspectives but are one in commitment to what the statement calls “God’s work.”
“We acknowledge and lament the deep division in our United Methodist Church and the conflict between peoples and places,” the statement admits. “We do not yet know how to overcome that division, but as Global Ministries and UMCOR, we believe that the work God has called us to do represents what is right with the global church. We believe we have an opportunity to work for healing, peace and reconciliation – no matter what form the future of United Methodism takes.”
“This statement reflects our deep, heartfelt hope as directors that the division in our church will not diminish our commitment to God’s mission,” said Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, episcopal leader of the Wisconsin Area and president of Global Ministries. “We must remember and confess that God’s mission is what sustains and enlivens the church.”
Global Ministries’ directors are chosen through a process of election by geographic jurisdictions in the United States and regional central conferences in Africa, Europe/Eurasia and the Philippines. It includes 11 directors from central conferences, more than any other general agency. The board has 32 voting and five nonvoting members.
Following the table talks on April 12, the Rev. Katie Dawson, a director from the Iowa Annual Conference, initiated the unity in mission invitation. The text underwent reviews and editing and was submitted to voting directors for approval.
The full text of the statements follows.
United in God’s Mission
An invitation from the directors of the General Board of Global Ministries,
The United Methodist Church
The first Methodist missionary society in the tradition Global Ministries continues was founded in 1819 to promote mission that crosses boundaries of culture, race, ethnicity, class and nation. Two hundred years later, such boundary-crossing mission remains central to who we are as United Methodists.
When Bishop Herbert Welch founded what is today the United Methodist Committee on Relief, he told the 1940 General Conference that the agency would serve as a “voice of conscience among Methodists to act in the relief of human suffering without distinction of race, color or creed.” This mandate remains true and is practiced to this day.
The work of Global Ministries and UMCOR has always connected United Methodist churches, people and partners in God’s mission – not our mission – in a variety of settings, countries and cultures. As United Methodists celebrate 200 years of mission, we are also learning from that past and have claimed a theology of mission emphasizing the Missio Dei. We are learning to confess the harm and the toxic nature of colonial rule and are in mission to witness to what God has done and is doing and to learn from what God is doing in every land where disciples gather in the name of Jesus Christ.
When a storm or conflict destroys a community, it does so without regard for sexual orientation, theological perspective, race, class, gender or religion. And when UMCOR shows up to respond, build resiliency, rebuild homes and empower people, it does so because every person in that community is our neighbor and we have been called by God to live out the good news of Jesus Christ. Global Ministries brings sight to the blind, heals the sick, seeks release for the prisoner and justice for the oppressed, builds peace where there is conflict, invites people to be transformed and perfected by God’s love and starts new faith communities in various contexts around the world.
Global Ministries has missionaries, volunteers and partners in more than 125 countries in the world, and our mission truly moves from everywhere to everywhere. Our Advance projects are a direct response to the needs we hear lifted up by the communities with which we are in partnership. We empower women and girls. We save the lives of babies and mothers. We work to ensure the rights of migrants. We help to create access to human rights, gender equity and reproductive health. We are assisting communities to be earthkeepers and to care for creation. We are providing resources for sustainable development in impoverished communities. We have laid a foundation through Imagine No Malaria for health boards that respond holistically to the health needs of communities. Global Ministries does this by connecting the church in mission from everywhere to everywhere.
This is God’s work.
We acknowledge and lament the deep division in our United Methodist Church and the conflict between peoples and places. We do not yet know how to overcome that division, but as Global Ministries and UMCOR, we believe that the work God has called us to do represents what is right with the global church. We believe we have an opportunity to work for healing, peace and reconciliation – no matter what form the future of United Methodism takes.
We remain committed to the Missio Dei. And we invite you to join in and continue to participate in what God is already doing in saving, healing and transforming the lives of all people, everywhere in this world.