August 2022 - FFL

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First Friday Letter The World Methodist Council

August 2022

Greetings from the General Secretary Dear Friends, Greetings from Kent, where we are experiencing a heatwave! What a joy and a blessing it is to be meeting with old acquaintances and forging new friendships at the 15th Lambeth Conference, which takes place across venues at the University of Kent, Canterbury Cathedral, and Lambeth Palace under the timely theme, “God’s Church for God’s World: walking, listening and witnessing together.” I wrote an article for the Christian Recorder before the Conference. Look here for my further insights and comments. ( On 18 July, the global community had the opportunity to pause and commemorate Mandela Day by celebrating the lifetime of service he gave to South Africa and the world. This year has a fitting theme – Do what you can, with what you can, with what you have, where you are – focusing on sustainable solutions to deal with climate crisis and food sustainability. In a speech at the end of his presidency, Nelson Mandela encouraged the next generation to take on the burden of leadership, “it is time for new hands to lift the burden.” At his memorial service in 2013, I recalled the story of Elijah and Elisha, which is recognized by the Abrahamic faiths. I challenged those gathered to pick up Mandela’s mantle to ensure a “double portion” of blessings upon the world he served. Mandela is a moral compass for us all. Every little deed of goodwill counts. It is not too late to do yours now!! I will soon be traveling to Stuttgart for the Steering Committee meeting. Many members of the Steering Committee will then go on to the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Karlsruhe. It is important to remember that to be Methodist is to be ecumenical. It is part of our DNA. The World Methodist Council has been actively involved in every phase of today’s Ecumenical Movement. The Methodist Church gave the WCC three great General Secretaries, Phillip Potter, Emilio Castro, and Samuel Kobia. Today the WMC and its member churches are not just actively involved in the work of the WCC but in national and regional Councils of Churches as well as ecumenical affairs in their various churches across the world. Please follow the WCC proceedings. ( We lament the fact that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has reached the six-month mark but note that the United Nations listed 51 places in the world where wars and violence continue to rage. We remember all affected by climate change at this time, especially those who suffered flash floods in Kentucky. This edition also contains stories of hope in the Ukraine, Philippines and Southern Africa. Happy reading. Shalom Ivan

Bishop Ivan Abrahams pictured with The Right Revd. Dr. Vicentia Kgabe while attending the Lambeth Conference. World Methodist Council

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Ukrainian United Methodists care for fellow countrymen Oksana’s hands shake as she scrolls through her phone, looking for the photo. It’s an image familiar to the world by now: the ruined facade of a bombed building. This particular building is in Kharkiv. She points to an empty space a few floors from the top, saying, “We just bought this apartment. My home is destroyed.” Now, Oksana lives with about 40 others in a Soviet-era building that once housed a newspaper and book publisher, converted to a hostel operated by several religious organizations for Ukrainians displaced by the war. The United Methodist Church in Ukraine has liv- The Revs. Alla Vuksta (left) and Yulia Starodubets check on ing quarters on two floors and a clothes closet on the people displaced by the war in Ukraine who are staying in the ground floor. sanctuary at Kamyanitsa United Methodist Church in western Ukraine. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News

Uzhhorod, where the hostel is located, is a town in western Ukraine near the Hungarian and Slovakian borders. It has not seen any fighting since Russia invaded the country, making it a safe haven for people fleeing areas of conflict. Since the war began, the town’s population has roughly doubled. The Rev. Yulia Starodubets and her husband, the Rev. Oleg Starodubets, were serving The United Methodist Church in Kyiv when Russia invaded Ukraine. They are now working in western Ukraine to help evacuees. “From the first days of the war, it was our goal to find secure places for our people,” Rev. Starodubets said. She said before the church had any shelters set up — now there are three — members formed a network of people willing to take evacuees into their own homes or find places to house them. At first, they would go daily to the train station to meet incoming evacuees. Now, there are social media pages set up so people may learn about the United Methodist shelters before they even leave their area. “In first days of the war, we had about 200 people; now (it’s) about 100,” Yulia Starodubets said. “Many go back to places if the fighting has moved.” The Rev. Alla Vuksta, pastor of Kamyanitsa United Methodist Church near Uzhhorod, opened up her church and parsonage. “In our house, we give all the rooms to refugees,” she said. “Those people have nothing to go back to. They asked, ‘How long can we stay with you?’ and we said, ‘As long as you want.’” In addition to the hostel, the Ukrainian church operates a shelter in part of Onokivtsi Secondary School. Another Oksana from Kharkiv lives in a classroom with her husband and four of their five children. Their 18-year-old daughter stayed behind to care for Oksana’s father. Oksana said her house had not been harmed, but they left due to the constant bombings, which frightened her younger children. She said she’s thankful for the children’s programs offered by the shelter, such as physical activities and sightseeing. “The kids need comfort because they heard all the explosions,” she said. World Methodist Council

Alexandre fled the Danyesk region with his daughter and her four children. Due to a lost passport, he was unable to accompany the rest of the family, who wound up in the Netherlands. The family has no means to come back to get him, so the shelter has contacted the embassy and is trying to help him recover his documents. Most of the evacuees are mothers with children. Like Oksana’s husband, men with more than three children are excused from compulsory military service. “He is a man without a country. He has no one, so we help him best we can,” said Sergey Shvets, a church leader from Kyiv who now volunteers at both shelters. The Rev. Volodymyr Prokip, pastor of St. John’s United Methodist Church in Lviv, said he met his church’s first evacuees while running to a bomb shelter during shelling. In addition to aiding evacuees, many churches found ways to contribute to the fight. Prokip said people learned how to make Molotov cocktails, packed them in cars and sent them to the front lines, though he said his church did not participate. “We were fighting back, fighting for our freedom and surviving as a country. Every person started being involved somehow,” he said. “We knew if the Russians go further, there will be more death and destruction. We knew that we needed to stop them at any price.” The United Methodist Committee on Relief has provided the Ukraine Moldova Provisional Annual Conference with $10,000 solidarity grants to fund immediate needs and a third grant to help purchase a van to deliver humanitarian aid to other parts of the country. The denomination’s relief agency is also working with the conference on its long-term shelter project. UMCOR has funded 10 grants to partners in the UMC in Ukraine and other ecumenical organizations, and has additional grants in development. Read more of this story at First Friday Letter page 2

Make This Year Count Recently, people from California to Abuja, New Orleans to London, Accra to Harrisburg, and Rome to Jerusalem, gathered in a global moment of silence to watch the Climate Clock tick over from 7 years 0 days 00:00:00 to 6 years 364 days 23:59:59 commemorating the first Climate Emergency Day. People filled the first moments of the “Climate New Year” with climate resolutions— personal declarations to continue the fight for people and planet.

Will you join the Climate Clock community in shaping change this year? Make your own #ClimateResolution on instagram. The Climate Clock continues to tick down and we are planning the next big moment. To learn more about what we’re up to and how you can use the Climate Clock to fight for climate justice, RSVP to the Climate Emergency Teach In happening Tuesday, August 9 at 7 pm ET. We will share key lessons and meet climate leaders from around the world. See you there.

Teachers in Italy committed to climate education programs, teens in New York dedicated themselves to call their elected representatives, mothers pledged to protect their children. Climate leaders joined in; journalist Bill McKibben committed to pushing everyone he knows to move their money out of the four biggest banks funding the fossil fuel industry and pop star Okyeame Kwame committed to shouting out for climate justice until he loses his voice.

Photo from

“Our Planet, Our Collections” Conference: Call for Proposals On November 14th and 15th, 2022, the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts will present a virtual two-day conference exploring the intersection of collections care and environmental science. How do collecting institutions preserve evidence of an ever-changing natural world? And how does a changing world and climate impact those preservation efforts? Conference topics will address actions, responsibilities, and outcomes in the care of collections through a holistic lens, including documentation of the natural environment now and in the future, and the role cultural organizations have to play in advancing sustainability efforts. CCAHA’s aim is to convene experts in the field of conservation, collections care, environmental science and more, to offer perspectives on the imminent impact of their work on preservation practice. CCAHA is seeking proposals from the community of sessions that highlight a project, initiative, or practice exemplifying the challenges and opportunities of documenting the natural world amidst a climate crisis. How has your institutional or professional approach to this work impacted the practice of preservation, conservation treatment, exhibit design, or documentation within a framework of sustainability? Presentation topics may include, but are not limited to: •

The importance of not depleting natural resources while caring for collections

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Measuring the impact of storage solutions on collections of the natural world

Caring for documentation of the natural world in field notes, herbaria, maps, living matter, etc.

CCAHA’s goal for this virtual event is to create a space where many diverse voices can share their perspectives and experiences related to these topics. We encourage proposals from speakers that represent diverse backgrounds and of sessions that address diverse/non-traditional collections and approaches to their care. These sessions will be 30 minutes each, including 20 minutes to present and 10 minutes of Q&A. All selected presenters will receive an honorarium payment for their participation and have access to technical support in advance of and during this virtual event. Use the form below to submit a proposal. You will be asked to provide either a 300-world abstract or short 3-to-5-minute video outlining your proposed session. The deadline to submit is Tuesday, September 1st.

SESSION PROPOSAL FORM This program of the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts is generously supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, with additional support from the William Penn Foundation and Independence Foundation. First Friday Letter page 3

Youth Work & Witness team helps build church in Philippines

Youth from the Philippines-Micronesia Field partnered with Peace Church of the Nazarene in Antipolo City, Philippines, to help construct its church building.

ing as well. The local members invited people in their community to the church for a time of worship and testimonies.

Eleven young people from five districts worked together for two weeks on the project. This is the second time that the field Nazarene Youth International mobilized young people for ministry through Work & Witness. It was an opportunity for these young people to reach others and assist the local church in ministry to the community.

The next afternoon, the team also ministered to 70 children for a time of worship, singing, dancing, and games. Jeca, one of the team members, shared the story of the Good Samaritan. Through this story, the children learned that Jesus wants everyone to love their neighbors.

Edwin Cabatingan, senior pastor of Peace Church of the Nazarene, has been praying that God would provide the church with a building on its property. Last year, the congregation pulled their resources together to pay off the loan on the property, and this year, they become a recipient of Alabaster funds that allowed them to start construction. Peace Church is the second local Work & Witness project in the Philippines, and it will not be the last. As young people hear about the ministry, many are responding, desiring to be part of future local teams. The team members went out of their comfort zones by learning new skills like cement work and preparing the wall for skim coating and painting. It was also an opportunity for the team to build relationships with the local members as they work alongside them. On Friday night, long after the team had gone for dinner, the local church members stayed to prepare the room for a ministry event the following day. In addition to construction, the team did the witnessWorld Methodist Council

On 5 June 2022, the church celebrated the completion and dedication of their new church building with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. District Superintendent Ryan Cardinal led the dedication service while Elsid Paragas, NYI coordinator for the Philippines-Micronesia Field, gave the message on “Why we go on Mission.” Although it was an exhausting week, the team was blessed with the opportunity to work and minister to the people in the local church and in the community. “For more than 10 years, I have had a desire to be on the mission field and to be used by the Lord to preach His word,” said Mark Ezekiel Nepacina, a student on the team. While serving on the Peace church project, Nepacina says that God spoke to him in many ways. “God has confirmed my calling to be a missionary,” Nepacina said. “There are doubts and fears, but I take courage knowing this is what the Lord wants me to do. I am realizing when the Lord wants you to go, just go!” --Church of the Nazarene Asia-Pacific First Friday Letter page 4

Asian Ecumenical Institute (AEI)–2022 to offer training for prospective ecumenical leaders The month-long ecumenical course Asian Ecumenical Institute (AEI), designed to train prospective young Asian ecumenists and church leaders, will be held from 19 September to 14 October 2022 on the Payap University campus in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Organised annually by the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), the AEI has been providing opportunities for young people across Asia since 2016 to learn about ecumenism and the ecumenical movement. More than 150 young people sponsored and recommended by their respective churches and ecumenical councils have been trained as ecumenical enablers during the last six annual sessions. The theme of AEI–2022 is ‘God of Hope, Sustain Your Creation in Harmony’. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, the AEI sessions were held virtually. However, this year, AEI–2022 will be conducted as an in-person training course at the CCA headquarters in Payap University, Chiang Mai, Thailand. Admissions to AEI–2022 will be limited to 20 participants between the ages of 25 and 35. Internationally acclaimed ecumenists, theologians, biblical scholars, and social scientists will be the resource persons facilitating the training. The deadline for receiving applications is 12 August 2022. For more details and the Application Form of AEI–2022, please click here: 1. Application Form AEI–2022 2. Background Information AEI–2022 For queries, please write to

Apply for Youth and Young Adult Scholarship Scholarship opportunities for the 22nd World Methodist Council Conference are open now. Register by clicking on the link below. youthandyoung-adult-scholarship/

1,000 US Dollars available for Conference lodging. World Methodist Council

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Transforming Ecumenism, listen to the Spirit The 5th International Conference on Receptive Ecumenism gathered in June, hosted at the Sigtuna Foundation’s ecumenical centre in Sweden. The Conference offered a wealth of reflections, learnings and offerings across plenary sessions, and presentations.

who calls us to be one – it cannot be manufactured; it requires a pathway of interior conversion. The primary relationship is not between Christians, but between us and Christ. The true friendship is between us and God.”

Rev. Dr. Sofia Camnerin (Uniting Church & Christian Council) of Sweden introduced the theme of listening to what the Spirit is saying to the churches (Revelations 2:7): to be attentive and hear the silenced voices, the cracked voices, and what is silent within ourselves.

And so Receptive Ecumenism offers a spirituality, an encouragement for learning within traditions from observing other traditions. This does not seek the reduction of the traditions or a bland uniformity, rather through mutual learning nurture greater flourishing and fulfilment. Receptive Ecumenism does not promote a one-size-fits-all approach - it works in different ways in different contexts, and engaged by grass-roots of local church communities, ecumenical practitioners and academics.

Camnerin referenced Nathan Söderblom from Sweden, who was an important leader in the ecumenical movement and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1930. Söderblom believed that peace could only be achieved by overcoming ‘the ancient Adam within each of us’. He saw the ecumenical movement as a revival movement, applied to nothing less than the saving of the whole world. She asked if the challenge remains: do we still believe visible unity is that crucial? Receptive Ecumenism is offered as a strategy and place of transformative imagination for contemporary ecumenism, and offered as a spirituality. “It needs to be understood as the initiative of the moving Spirit of Christ. It has the feel of the stirring of the Spirit,” offered Prof Paul Murray (University of Durham, UK). Murray suggests Receptive Ecumenism encompasses ‘discerning what might be’ and ‘enacting a future in love’. But first is ‘attending to what is’ - taking our lived reality seriously (the good and the messy) and “to step away from ecclesial defensiveness and sense of completeness in ourselves”. He moots the transformative potential of our healing; as a conversion, growing into the fullness of Christ and flourishing in the communion of God. Dr. Antonia Pizzey (Australian Catholic University) suggested metaphors for Receptive Ecumenism: the receiving of gifts, a school of learning, a healing ministry, a pilgrimage. Pizzey suggested the most important image is ‘friendship’. This exhibits confidence in intrusting your thoughts, being able to speak frankly with each other, of praying for each other, and working to preserve and nurture the friendship. “It is God

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An example was shared from a journey of relationships between the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden and Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania. The mutual learning within the Tanzanian church, which was formed from seven missionary organisation origins, has been an important journey as it reflected on its own diversity of inherited traditions and theologies. Further, the increasingly liberal Swedish church and the more traditional Tanzanian church have consciously embarked on intentional mutual learning and sharing; not to teach or instruct the other but to trust, listen and comprehend. WMC Ecumenical Relationships chairperson Rev Tony Franklin-Ross presented a short paper on Receptive Ecumenism in the international multilateral dialogue of the five communions formally associated with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Anglican and Reformed). Tony looks forward to a 6th Conference, hoping for further explorations offered from indigenous and non-Western contexts – such as in Africa, Asia and the Pacific. As for the Wesleyan/Methodist family, Receptive Ecumenism resonates with John Wesley’s ‘Sermon on a Catholic Spirit’ and lends itself to WMC’s ecumenical engagement. Article submitted by Rev. Tony Franklin-Ross (WMC Ecumenical Relationships, Chairperson)

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Africa Methodist Council Heads of Conferences Summit “To make Africa work is something that we as Africans cannot abandon. It is not enough to lament, to critique, or to intellectualize about Africa, but more than that we must act”. Prof PLO Lumumba Assembled in Johannesburg for the Africa Methodist Council Heads of Conferences Summit, under the theme: Raising a Transformed Methodist Movement for the Healing of Africa the conference accepted that although Africa is riddled with challenges and ‘the darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, there is hope because the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Responding to the theme of transforming and healing Africa, the meetings attention was drawn to the major problems of divisions and self- hate leading to conflict and wars; migration and refugees; patriarchy, racism, ageism, classism, gender-based violence, ethnocentrism and discrimination. In her Keynote Address, Bishop Purity Malinga, the Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA) challenged the gathering on the theme of the meeting to move from naval gazing; from being a church that is concerned about itself and just talks to itself about itself! Bishop Malinga further challenged the Heads of Churches to introspect because there is no way that a divided church can transform a divided world. There is no way corrupt church leaders can heal corrupt leaders of the world. There is no way the church whose leaders fight for positions of power – has a transforming message for the power hungry politicians. The Heads of churches were urged to reclaim their Wesleyan identity of a Methodist movement- raised by God “to spread Scriptural holiness throughout the land and as true Wesleyans, live out the mantra that “knows of no religion but social, no holiness but social holiness”.

Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former United Nations Under- Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women and former deputy President of SA, a guest speaker at the summit challenged church leaders to break the stranglehold of patriarchy on our communities which leads to pervasive gender-based violence, femicide and cultural practices that adversely affect mainly women and girls. She urged the leaders to join hands in challenging and changing toxic masculinities and through comprehensive programmes from Sunday school up, to mainstream teaching transformative masculinities. She also challenged the church to use life-giving language that does not accord blame to the victims e.g. 20 men raped rather than 20 women were raped! It’s not about the number of women who are raped but the number of men who rape! The President of the AMC, Bishop Joseph Ntombura, Presiding Bishop, Methodist Church in Kenya, identified three issues that Africa would need to address in order to transform and heal Africa. Breaking free from the shackles of the legacies of slavery and colonialism and then being intentional about the development of generational thinkers whose thought leadership can be sustained over generations. The Meeting received the General Secretaries report and commended the work covered to this point including membership to the All Africa Council of Churches. The second AMC Conference will be held in Benin in March 2023. More information will be released in due time. The meeting adjourned strengthened by the steadfast belief that if God be for us, who can be against us- and best of all God is with us! Article submitted by Bonginkosi Moyo-Bango Communications Director for the Methodist Connexional Office

Africa Methodist Council Head of Conferences Summit, Johannesburg 18-22 July World Methodist Council

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Living In the Tension Over the years, I’ve observed that many of the problems we have in mission and ministry stem from our confusion between two similar yet distinct things: Conflict and Tension. Now, since these are pretty common words, it might be helpful to offer definitions for the sake of this conversation: Conflict: An incompatibility between two or more opinions, principles, or interests. Tension: A relationship between ideas or qual ities with differing demands or implications. The differences are subtle, yet the implications of failing to recognize them can have devastating effects in our communities. The question is how we deal with each one. Conflict demands resolution. It exposes inconsistencies and problems within groups. So, the group MUST find answers and apply them. In church history, there are many examples of conflict. One of the greatest ones revolved around the divinity of Christ. Left unchecked, that disagreement would have defined the witness of the church for future generations because it questioned the core of why the Church exists. Conflicts must be resolved. Tension, on the other hand, can’t be resolved, only managed. Tension typically exists because there is something in between those involved, pulling them back together like an elastic band. In this analogy, resolving tension would be like cutting the elastic band. The result is the loss of a common core. Some of our greatest troubles arise when we decide to flip the script by managing conflicts and resolving tensions. The same happens with tension. I’d like to point to one in particular which has existed for as long as the Church: The tension between OLD and YOUNG. I have yet to see a community that has not dealt with this tension. I have seen many churches make the mistake of trying to resolve the tension instead of managing it. In some places, this might look like separate worship services for the old and the young. In the U.S., a common choice is to hire a youth worker to care for the needs of teenagers while the “grown-up pastor” cares for the adults (note that I’m not opposed to the employment of youth workers, but rather a specific motive often behind it).

groundedness, and memory, of the old. The results are catastrophic! As leaders, we must resist the temporary comforts of creating ministry siloes for leaders of different ages. Instead, we must learn to live in the tension. Yesterday, World Methodist Evangelism launched a cohort of emerging pastors who will spend 10 months learning from each other, from a coach, and from experienced leaders who will provide much-needed wisdom and grounding for them. We wouldn’t have it any other way! The health of our churches and our capacity to reach the next generations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ depends on our ability to live in the tension between young and old. The fruit of this is a church that is exciting and vibrant, full of new ideas and innovation, yet grounded in the “faith once delivered to the saints” and steeped in wisdom. This is the kind of church the world needs today. I’ll leave you with a selection of Scripture passages challenging us to live in this tension. “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” (Joel 2:28) “One generation shall praise your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.” (Psalm 145:4) “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:7-8) “Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” (Isaiah 58:12) To learn more about the ways we are investing in emerging leaders through World Methodist Evangelism, visit us at, or follow us on social media @worldmethodist Paulo Lopes serves as Director of Emerging Leadership for World Methodist Evangelism. He can be reached at paulo@

When we resolve the tension between old and young, the old miss out on the vibrancy and innovation of the young, while the young are left without the wisdom, World Methodist Council

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Photo credits: Perkins School of Theology/ R. Hipps

Please send press releases, articles and resources! Submissions should be a page or less (450-550 words), edited and ready to publish. Contact us by Monday, 22 August at communications@worldmethodistcouncil. org if you would like your story to be included in the September edition of the First Friday Letter, which will be 9 September, due to the WMC Steering Committee Meeting in Germany.

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