April 2024 First Friday Letter

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First Friday Letter

The World Methodist Council

Greetings from the President

April 2024

From March 9 to 19, I visited Cape Town, South Africa for the Management Team Meeting of the WMC. General Secretary Bishop Ivan Abrahams made the arrangements for the team so we were ableto plan for the Conference as well as learn about this beautiful part of the world.

Completing the term for the last eight years, the Team made a video greeting for Easter while we were visiting the Metanoia gathering of the World Methodist Evangelism. More than 80 young adults [18-35 years old] from 18 countries listened to my greeting: “Kings and empires rose and perished. Prophets, philosophers, gurus and sages came and went away. But the one and only Jesus Christ is everlasting. As John the Baptist witnessed, ‘The one who came after me is ahead of me because he was before me.’ Let’s proclaim as Jesus did: ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the Gospel!’ The King has come. The King is alive. The King will return. Hallelujah!”

On the boat sailing back to Cape Town from Robben Island, I heard the recorded voice of Nelson Mandela, a Methodist who received the Peace Award of the WMC speaking: “Kings and generals cannot change history. The masses of people can.”

We attended Sunday worship service at the Langa Methodist Church (see photos on page 7). The powerful songs and dance of the people called Methodists there inspired us. I was deeply moved when the whole congregation joyfully sang to congratulate me and my wife Seung-eun for our 42nd anniversary of marriage.

Discovering that the address of the Church is Dumisani Circuit 103, it reminded me of my old time friend Rev. Dumisani Shikakana from 45 years ago. I told the Church that I miss him, yet I am still blessed for I have become new friends with Bishop Ivan and his wife Esme. In my greeting I shared the three peace agendas that Ivan and I have sought for, namely, the struggle for justice and peace in South Africa, in the Holy Land, and on the Korean Peninsula. I also asked them for their prayer for the upcoming World Methodist Council and Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, themed ‘On the Move.’

It was an unforgettable experience as I sang ‘Summertime’ at Ivan and Esme’s home to celebrate our fellowship in the joy of the Holy Spirit, overcoming what is known as the ecumenical winter we are facing today in the war-torn world, as well as in the fundamentalist regression of religion. Let’s dream to envision that “fish are jumping” and “little baby will take the sky.” Let’s be “daddy and mammy standing by” “till that morning” every crying little one will “rise up singing.” Amen.

Grace and Peace, President J. C. Park

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King Protea, South Africa’s National Flower Photo 16744589 | Flower South Africa © Luzav10 | Dreamstime.com

Learn more about World Methodist Conference Speakers

Rt. Revd. Dr. Paul Swarup is the tenth Bishop of the Diocese of Delhi, The Church of North India. He is a Langham Scholar with a Ph.D. in Old Testament/Dead Sea Scrolls from the University of Cambridge. Bishop Swarup is one of 15 translators on the Committee on Bible Translation of the New International Version of the Bible. He has authored commentaries on Exodus, Proverbs, Jeremiah and Lamentations in South Asia Bible Commentary and is an editor of the SABC. He has served as a speaker at the Lambeth Conference. Bishop Paul and his wife, Nina, have a son, Daniel.

Ms. Tahseen Mehar has more than 20 years combined experience within the education, local government and charity sectors in London.

She holds a BSc (Hons) in Social Anthropology and Communications.

Ms. Mehar teaches Islamic Studies at a Sunday Muslim School, and most recently served as Director of the Brent Multi-Faith Forum.

The Rev. Dr. Joel Halldorf is a professor in Church history at the University College Stockholm. As a theologian, he participates frequently in the Swedish public debate. He writes editorials, reviews, and essays for several newspapers, such as Expressen and Corren, and has argued that Sweden needs to develop a post secular public square. He has also published several books on the topic.

His education includes the University College Stockholm (Enskilda Högskolan Stockholm), Linköping University, Lund University, Uppsala University, and Duke University.

Ms. Mackenzie Carlson, a Youth and Young Adult member of the Conference, has been working in nonprofits since the beginning of her career in fundraising for local to international organizations.

Ms. Carlson’s degree is in Political Science from DePaul University. Her passions include social justice, literature, and education. Living passionately in Des Moines, Iowa, USA, her work revolves around equity and accessibility.

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Are you ready for the 22nd World Methodist Conference?!

The 22nd World Methodist Conference of the WMC will be held 13-18 August 2024 in Gothenburg Sweden. Be part of this historic event. This is an opportunity for all Wesleyan, Methodist and Uniting Churches to come together. The WMC is the only place for all of John Wesley’s family to join at one table in a common bond.

Register NOW to join this worldwide celebration of cultures, music, and learn from people who will share their knowledge, allowing you new experiences.

Reserve your hotel room at Gothia Towers so that you are conveniently located where all Conference activities are being held. Council Meetings, Seminars, Worship and more will take place in Gothia Towers, where rooms are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. (If you have registered for the Conference, you may access the lodging link by using your Confirmation Code in the confirmation email.) WMC Booking Reservations!

WesleyMen Meet up in Gothenburg!

The World Methodist Conference will include the first world gathering of WesleyMen1 since Houston, 2016. Mark your schedules now for Thursday, August 15, 2004, 1700-1900.

In that moment between the day’s activities and evening worship, there will be food, fellowship, and the free flow of ideas. We look forward to reporting on our dual efforts to deepen discipleship and to put faith into action. You will hear about the John Wesley’s “means of grace” coming alive in the movement to FastPrayGive, the Wesley World Hunger Fund and the FastPrayGive publications, including seasonal daily devotions for Advent and Lent (see FastPrayGive.org), as well as our five-part small group study. 2 Your presence and voice will help shape WesleyMen for the next quinquennium! (Meeting room information available at registration.)

1The formal name of WesleyMen is The World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Men.

2 FastPrayGive: Ending Hunger By The Means of Grace, by Andy Morris.

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Photo 300167432 | Night View © Trygve Finkelsen | Dreamstime.com

Feast of Creation

Care for our world in worship, prayer and action

An international seminar on “The Feast of Creation and the Mystery of Creation: Ecumenism, Theology, Liturgy, and Signs of the Times in Dialogue” was held from 14-16 March 2024 at Assisi, Italy. The seminar gathered voices from the Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Orthodox and Reformed communions, along with World Council of Churches and the Laudato Si’ Research Institute. Attendance included church leaders, biblical scholars, eco-theologians, liturgists, ecumenists, youth, Indigenous people, politicians, and scientists – including a small delegation from the World Methodist Council on behalf of the Ecumenical Relationships Committee.

The Feast of Creation arose from an ancient tradition of the Orthodox Church. Other churches took inspiration from this, and from the 1990’s developed the Season of Creation. The season starts 1 September, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, and ends 4 October, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and ecology beloved by many Christian denominations.

At the World Methodist Council meeting in 2016, held in Houston, Texas, the resolution was made:

“This Council commends the celebration of a ‘Time for Creation’ from 1st September to 4th October, first observed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and now welcomed by concerned Christians across the world.”

The Assisi Conference gathered to explore a proposal to “upgrade” the celebration of the Feast of Creation on 1 September from its current “World Day of Prayer” status, by jointly instituting it as an official ecumenical liturgical feast in the calendars of Western churches alongside Eastern churches. This proposal is linked with the observance in 2025 of the 1700th anniversary of the Nicaean Creed, which opens with the invoca-

tion “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth …”.

The Season of Creation has particularly engaged worshiping communities to connect creation, ecology and climate matters with their worship life, preaching, theological reflection and discipleship. These have encouraged our minsters and preachers, worship leaders, and the life of the parishes to reflect and engage contemporary theology for the care and nurture of creation and the world’s resources. Further, is our acknowledging of the beauty and wonder of God’s creation.

Observing the ‘signs of the times’, the Season also focuses our attention to the suffering of our human and non-human neighbours that arises because of the changing environment and the impact of depleting the earth’s resources. our concern for ecology, and to heal God’s creation of our own damage, is evoked in worship and action.

The Season of Creation commends itself as a pilgrimage of faith, worship and action, particularly in ecumenical witness in solidarity with our fellow world communions.

An international workgroup from across WMC will embark on a process of conversation and discernment of Wesleyan/Methodist responses to this project and initiative. A report will be presented to the World Methodist Council meeting in Gothenburg, Sweden in August 2024.

Submitted by Rev Tony Franklin-Ross, Chairperson of Ecumenical Relationships, World Methodist Council

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Ukraine efforts highlighted in 2023 Peace Award Nomination

Bishop Alsted connects groups across Europe

Within a year of the Russian war on Ukraine, Bishop Christian Alsted has visited Ukraine already multiple times, meeting pastors and lay leaders, connecting with ministries that support the internally displaced people in Ukraine. It is not just about visiting Ukraine. The context and background of the situation is extremely complex.

When the war started, it became impossible for the Eurasian Bishop with its seat in Moscow to exercise his episcopal oversight in Ukraine. Ukraine UMC was moved to the Nordic-Baltic episcopal area by the Central Conference’s extraordinary decision in April 2022. Since then Bishop Alsted has been visibly and physically present in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries in different locations, meeting with the IDPs and those in the church ministering to and with these people.

During this war Bishop Alsted has actively built connections between Ukraine UMC and UMC worldwide - with the local churches (to create more partnerships), with the Council of Bishops, and with the General Agencies of the UMC. Together with the Ukraine UMC leadership he has been developing the concept of a Methodist Center in Ukraine that supports the IDPs during the war with humanitarian and physical help as well as psychological support of persons with post-traumatic syndrome.

He is already developing a vision of the new approach of the post-war situation by connecting people in Ukraine who have received help through the UMC during the war, and connecting Ukrainian refugees across Europe. Because of the committed support of suffering people in Ukraine, there are many contacts in Kharkiv, Kherson, Nikolaev, Odessa, Kyiv and smaller places. He has started to map the connections in Europe, to connect these groups across Europe.

He is looking for people with leadership potential who can be trained to start ministries. His focus is rebuilding the church and society after the war by starting new faith communities and churches, raising new leaders and training new leaders for the post-war UMC in Ukraine.

His vision is to see the United Methodist Church in Ukraine being strongly present in rebuilding the post-war Ukraine and strengthening the many

connections to the communities whom the church today has helped during the war crisis (individuals, hospitals, NGOs, etc) and society at large.

As soon as Central Conference Council decided to change the conference borders and Ukraine UMC came under the episcopal area of Nordic and Baltic region, Bishop Alsted started to connect with the leaders in Ukraine UMC, paying multiple visits to the war-ridden country, communicating the message of connection to the Methodists there, being present with pastoral care, meeting the IDPs and listening to them, supporting with pastoral care. It was not an one- time emotional approach but has been a consistent building up the church, its ministries within the society, as well as clergy and lay leadership.

Due to his active presence and even weekly online meetings with the leaders in Ukraine, the church has been empowered and encouraged to continue its ministry of service in Ukraine, helping those who have been hurt physically, materially, and emotionally.

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Bishop Christian Alsted

Filipino deaconess receives 2024 Peace Award

Norma Dollaga is a United Methodist deaconess in the Philippines (see above photo), who for decades has struggled heroically to forge the justice that makes for peace in her conflict-ridden homeland. When a campaign against the use of illegal drugs became a government-sanctioned war against the poor who used drugs, Dollaga became an outspoken advocate for the right of the poor not to be killed. She and other courageous faith leaders refused to be intimidated by then President Rodrigo Duterte and other government officials who villainized church leaders and others who spoke up for the poor. She organized prayer vigils and memorial services for the dead, people often killed by assassins on motorcycles or unidentified masked men who showed up at night in urban slums with a list of those to be killed.

As can be seen in her founding of Rise Up, Dollaga has developed a knack for empowering others to join the struggle for justice and peace. She’s far from a lone leader, instead working in the trenches to help others move forward. A deaconess since her graduation from Harris Memorial College in 1985, since 2000 she has been appointed by the Bishop of the Philippines Central Conference to the Ecumenical Center for Development, also known as Kapatirang Simbahan Para sa Bayan (the Church of the People). As the organization’s General Secretary, she has helped shepherd ecumenical groups and networks focusing on human rights and peace. In addition to Rise Up, these include Dambana, which provides humanitarian assistance to communities affected by disasters and the climate crisis, and One Voice, an alliance of Catholic and Protestant church leaders advocating for human rights and good governance.

United Methodist deaconesses in the Philippines are an amazing group of women. Yet the contributions they make to ministries both within and outside the church are often unrecognized by male church leaders. Frustrated with low pay and outright discrimination, it’s not surprising that many have abandoned their official deaconess status for better pay or more effective work unrelated to the church. Deaconesses have left the church to become pastors, social workers, government officials and guerrilla insurgents. Despite the myriad challenges, Dollaga has stayed true to her calling and appointment as a deaconess, and has become an inspiring model for younger deaconesses interested in deepening their Wesleyan witness to personal and social holiness within the Philippines. She frequently teaches classes and leads seminars as a member of the faculty at Harris Memorial College, the regional training ground for deaconess and women leaders in the United Methodist Church and other denominations.

While leading street demonstrations and testifying at legislative hearings is part of her public persona, her witness is deep and comprehensive. Just as her work with Rise Up combined public protagonism with behind the scenes pastoral support for the victims of violence, so her work in the campaign to save Mary Jane Velasco. A Filipina migrant worker imprisoned in Indonesia, and her work demanding justice after the 2014 murder of Jennifer Laude, a trans woman, was accompanied by pastoral and other support for the women’s families. While leading demonstrations for indigenous rights in the streets, she has also raised funds to build schools of displaced indigenous children. While publicly demanding the resumption of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front, she has offered support for the families of people killed in the war’s all too frequent massacres. Such ministry combines concrete solidarity with a pastoral accompaniment that offers the gift of hope to those left hurting and grieving.

Former Manila Area Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco characterized Dollaga’s ministry with the marginalized as “heroic work for the Lord.” Dollaga has for decades displayed the courage, creativity, and consistency that mark her as a true disciple of Jesus Christ, proclaiming abundant life to all, especially those victims of injustice in her homeland. Because she has embodied both compassion and resilience as she has witnessed for true peace in the Philippines, it is an honor to nominate her for the World Methodist Peace Award.

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WMC Officers are On The Move!

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Congregation at Langa Methodist Church. General Secretary Ivan Abrahams shares Conference information and Blessings with church members. President Park greets the church on behalf of Methodists around the world.

Join On The Move Online Monthly Prayer Meetings

Save the dates:

Tuesday, April 9, 2024 7:00 am GMT

Tuesday, May 14, 2024 6:00 pm GMT

Tuesday, June 11, 2024 7:00 am GMT

Tuesday, July 9, 2024 6:00 pm GMT

As we are moving from Lenten Season into the Easter Tide and towards the World Methodist Council and Conference August 13-18, 2024 in Gothenburg, Sweden, we invite you to continue to pray for and with migrants. Please join our Online Prayer meetings every second Tuesday in a month. At the 4th Online Prayer Meeting Tuesday, April 9, 2024 at 7 am GMT (9 am Berlin, 3 pm Manila, 7 pm Auckland), Rev Marie Sol Villalon from Manila, Philippines, will be our main speaker. She leads the Anti Trafficking and Migrant Ministries of the Manila Episcopal Area in the Philippines and works with overseas migrant workers who are far to often abused and exploited.

Please register at: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZclfuytrD0tHtQ7VdxBK5GGGHa-wnP0U5bB

Register for WMC Pre Conference Event IAMSCU

Community, Conciliation, and Connectionalism: Methodist Education in Scandinavia and Around the World

The purpose of the IAMSCU International Meeting in 2024 is to follow-up on the Joint IAMSCU-MSN International Conference “Transforming Lives,” held in the United Kingdom in April 2023, and take advantage of the two events happening in Europe in August 2024 (Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies and the World Methodist Conference) to reconnect, strengthen the IAMSCU community, expand the discussion on “conciliation” and Indigenous Peoples initiated during the conference in 2023. This event will also reflect on how issues related to worldwide inclusion, diversity, equity, accessibility, and solidarity (WIDEAS) as well opportunities for “intercultural connectionalism” are being integrated into formation processes at educational institutions in the Wesleyan and Methodist traditions. The IAMSCU International Meeting will consist of three pillars.

Location: Gothia Towers Address: Mässans gata 24, 412 51 Göteborg, Sweden

Please book your hotel room through the WMC Conference website: https://worldmethodistconference.com

Registration: Please register for the IAMSCU International Meeting here: https://cvent.me/AYMebO

Information: For any questions or more details, contact iamscu@iamscu.org

Check out more Program Information Here!!

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Rev. Marie Sol Villalon

Congratulations to Bishop Teresa E. Snorton, our Ecumenical Bishop and Program Development Officer, on being inducted into the Martin Luther King College of Ministers & Laity at Morehouse College!

What is the Martin Luther King Jr. College of Ministers & Laity? Sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College, the annual College of Ministers & Laity is the Chapel’s signature program. For 37 years, it has attracted some of the brightest minds across an array of disciplines to engage in dialogue, learning, growing and revealing.

In recognition of Dr. King’s role as an exemplar of adaptive faithful servant scholar moral cosmopolitan leadership, a highlight of the College of Ministers & Laity is the induction of honorees into (1) the Martin Luther King Jr. International Board of Preachers, (2) the Board of Sponsors, (3) the Collegium of Scholars and (4) the College of Pastoral Leadership . Like Dr. King, these individuals have demonstrated and are evolving toward great achievement in their chosen vocation, a profound commitment to their community and society, the planet and the cosmos and are living their lives according to a high standard of cosmopolitan ethical principles.

The Board of Preachers is comprised of ordained clergy from the Christian tradition as well as faith leaders (Rabbi’s, Imam’s, Priests, etc.) from a wide array of global spiritual and ethical traditions. These diverse individuals have exhibited a commitment to and/or promise for using their positions of religious leadership to promote peace, tolerance, interfaith understanding, healing, reconciliation, nonviolence, moral cosmopolitan social progress, agapic justice and care for the ecosystem.

Wesley House - Forthcoming Events 2024

With 2024 fully underway we wanted to update you about the range of lectures, courses and webinars we have planned between now and the summer.

Whether you are able to join us in-person or online we hope there will be an opportunity to engage with Wesley House.

Free free to forward this email to your contacts and if you have any queries don’t hesitate to email office@ wesley.cam.ac.uk

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Please send press releases, articles and resources! Submissions should be a page or less (450-500 words), edited and ready to publish. Contact us by Friday, 26 April at communications@worldmethodistcouncil.org if you would like your story to be included in the May edition of the First Friday Letter.

On the Web

This and past First Friday Letters can be found online at FirstFridayLetter.worldmethodistcouncil.org.

The World Methodist Council’s website may be found at worldmethodistcouncil.org

The World Methodist Council’s Conference website is at worldmethodistconference.org

To subscribe to this newsletter, please email communications@worldmethodistcouncil.org.

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the First Friday Letter
First Friday Newsletter is a monthly publication of the World Methodist Council. Publisher: Bishop Ivan Abrahams, General Secretary Communications: Michaela Bryson All stories and photos, unless otherwise stated, are protected by their respective copyrights. Please do not copy without expressed written permission from the Council. 22nd World Methodist Conference Gothenburg, Sweden 13-18 August
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