First Friday Letter
The World Methodist Council January 2022
Greetings from the General Secretary 2022 – A year to Reset, Recalibrate and Repurpose for Mission I trust that you are ready to embrace the challenges and opportunities that the year 2022 holds. As we shut the door to 2021 and cautiously enter a new year, we need to ask; what lessons have we learned? How do we correct the setbacks of the past year to obtain a greater sense of inner peace and build a more inclusive, just, and sustainable global economy? Last year, we witnessed a siege on the United States capitol and attacks on democracy and civil rights in many countries. Despite the many signs of climate change like unseasonal weather patterns - floods, drought, and tornadoes, at the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow to deliberate on the theme of “People, Planet and Prosperity,” some nations seemed tone-deaf to the groans of creation and human need with little appetite to heal the planet. Covid-19 and new variants exposed the fault lines of global health. Vaccine equality is the only way to emerge from the global pandemic. At the World Methodist Council in Houston, we identified poverty and inequality, climate justice, and racial discrimination as the central themes for the quinquennium. Since then, we have worked with the New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA) https://www.oikoumene.org/events/nifea-e-conference-degrowth-living-sufficiently-and-sustainably, the Climate Justice for All (CJ4A) team and participated with other Christian World Communions to share in prayers https://www.wvi.org/emergencies/hunger-crisis/weekend-of-prayer, participate in seminars, webinars, and colloquiums on the significant themes as we prepare for the World Council of Churches General Assembly in 2022 and the World Methodist Conference in 2024. Six years ago, I presented the “New Patterns of Working Strategy Document,” and my mantra at every meeting of the Steering Committee has been, “it cannot be business as usual.” Since then, we have slowly transitioned to remote and hybrid work models to be more productive and reduce overhead costs. Last year, we could monetize our assets by selling our buildings at Lake Junaluska and relocating the World Methodist Museum to the Bridwell Library in Dallas, Texas. This year will see some significant changes in pursuit of our mission and vision. The new format of the First Friday Letter is the start of the renewal strategy. Whatever your circumstances, as you enter 2022, you can draw comfort from the words of the prophet Jeremiah; “I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.” (Jeremiah 29:11). These were words to people taken into captivity to serve as slaves to their Babylonian captors for seven decades. Amongst them were Daniel, Shadrack. Meshack and Abednigo, even Ezekiel, Ezra and Nehemiah, and Esther. Jeremiah goes further to encourage the people to turn to God,” Then you will call to me. You will come and pray to me, and I will answer you. You will seek me, and you will find me because you will seek me with all your heart.” (29;13, 14). Let us seek God with all our heart as we press the reset button to start the new year. Wishing you and those you love a peaceful and prosperous 2022, Ivan Illustration 34989864 © Helena Bilkova | Dreamstime.com
World Methodist Council
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The World Methodist Council mourns the loss of Archbishop Tutu With great sadness, the Officers and members of the World Methodist Council received the news about the passing away of Archbishop Emeritus Mpilo Desmond Tutu (7 October-26 December 2021). We extend our heartfelt condolences to Mama Leah, the entire Tutu family, and the global Anglican communion. We give thanks to God for the life and witness of Archbishop Tutu, a transformative leader, a priest, a prophet, and a pastor who listened to the voices of the marginalized and fearlessly spoke truth to power in apartheid South Africa and many other places around the globe where injustice prevailed. We were privileged to have “the Arch” as the keynote speaker at the Fifteenth World Methodist Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1986. We mourn the loss of this stalwart of justice, peace, and reconciliation, a global icon whose legacy lives on and leaves an indelible mark on the lives of many. May he rest in peace and rise with all the saints in Glory.
Photo 6002773 / Archbishop Tutu © Joshua Wanyama | Dreamstime.com
Ivan M Abrahams, General Secretary
Tribute to Archbishop Tutu from 15th Episcopal District There are those who seek greatness and others for whom greatness seeks. Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu of the Anglican Church is the latter. Born of humble but noble heritage of the Xhosa and Motswana people in the Northwest Province, South Africa, he became great. Archbishop Tutu was inquisitive about godly matters and the human condition from a young age. Therefore, the assaults of apartheid, racial subjugation, oppression, and crimes against humanity were disconcerting to him. This discontentment inspired his theological studies. The closer he grew to GOD, the deeper his theological studies, the more committed he became an advocate for the dismantling of apartheid and the evil it spawned.
you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
In the crucible of the struggle, even under the threat of martyrdom, Archbishop Tutu never tired of raising his voice and challenging the South African government and proponents of the apartheid regime. He was keenly aware of the danger that accompanied his defiant posture. However, the task and the inviolability of the cause were his callings. He was never simply a cleric or parish priest but was an agent of the HOLY, working to usher in the Kingdom of GOD into a corrupt and morally bankrupt South African society. His voice of nonviolent, social, and spiritual protest echoed the truth in his homeland. Furthermore, it helped sensitize the global community regarding the crimes visited upon their brothers and sisters in the South African context. Bishop Tutu did not seek to be great; rather greatness sought him.
He became an unwittingly celebrated global figure. When the apartheid regime toppled, Bishop Tutu’s spirit, energy, and inscription were all over it. To African Methodists in South Africa and worldwide, Archbishop Tutu was an icon. Therefore, on behalf of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Faithful, Fearless, Future Focused Fifteenth Episcopal District (Namibia, Angola, Queenstown, Eastern Cape, Cape, Boland and Kalahari Conferences), we celebrate and pay homage to the venerable Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu. The Bishops of the AME Church, especially those who served with Archbishop Tutu, salute this former parish priest, preacher of the gospel, philosopher, theologian, Bishop, Archbishop, author, Nobel Laurate, and champion for humanity. Your impact upon the human condition places you among the pantheon of world changers: Bishop Richard Allen, Mother Charlotte Manye Maxeke, Mahatma Ghandi, Deaconness Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and our unnamed ancestors, who loved freedom, equality, and justice.
Archbishop Tutu embodied the best of humanity. His famous quote, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” typifies his innate tenacity. He further challenged everyone not enraged by the atrocities of apartheid, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and World Methodist Council
Bishop Tutu spoke, and the world listened and paid attention. He embodied the best of humanity. He possessed an innate quality to speak hope to the wounded, help to the sufferer, and justice to the oppressor simultaneously in the same sentence. As such, he encouraged each one that their healing was tied to the humanity of the other. He was fond of the Xhosa adage, “A person is a person through other persons.” This philosophy produced his ideology of “Truth and Reconciliation” that ushered in restoration and wholeness to a new South Africa.
Story by The Christian Recorder, AME Church, John Thomas III First Friday Letter page 2
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu Tribute It is a natural phenomenon that a plethora of stories that would emerge posthumously on the life, work and witness of an illustrious person such as Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu. So it is with this reflection. I was committed to youth and community work in the broader Cape Town City Bowl of District 6, Woodstock and Salt River in my late teenage years. One of the persons who assisted me in shaping my ministry of ecumenical resistance to Apartheid was the Christian Institute (CI) Director for the Western Cape, the Revd. Dr. Theo Kotze. The mid-70’s became a smouldering cauldron of youth and social riots as Apartheid regimes served banning orders on Black Community Organisations and leaders such as Steve Biko while also declaring the CI and SACC, amongst others, as “undesirable” and “affected” organisations. The sermons, eulogies and addresses by Bishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu were for me and others the most credible warnings for the churches to engage the church and community against the Apartheid social, economic and military onslaught. So, when I saw an advertisement by the SACC for a Youth Director/Coordinator I had no hesitation in applying. It was a leap in faith. A young parent with a three
year old daughter, and wife to support, having never been outside of the Western Cape in all my life. Only after the application receipt was acknowledged and I was invited to an interview did I realise that I was offering myself to life’s most dramatic opportunity of change. The positive side, however, was that I was offered an opportunity to meet and work with the Africa’s and the world’s most enigmatic change agent, Desmond, Mpilo Tutu! I will mention only two stories. I worked on the 4th Floor of Khotso House (the SACC Headquarters later bombed by the SA Apartheid regime). Other organisations such as the Trade Union, Cosatu, the SACC General Secretariat and Administration worked on the 3rd Floor. As we went to our offices after Chapel Eucharist, we would pass the usual office work banter. The Youth Desk had recently printed an occasional newsletter that was named “The SACC Youth Courant”. “Courant” or “Koerant” would best be known amongst the people of the Western Cape of Indigenous/Malaysian slave descent. In the packed lift, Bishop Desmond turns to me and exclaims: “Vermeulen, jy’s ‘n slim Boesman ne?” (Vermeulen, you’re a clever Indigenous (Bushman)!) I’ve treasured it always as an affirmation
of my mixed race heritage. Others might not have understood. The second is I will forever remember Bishop Desmond’s insistence that all who are called to work within the SACC commit to knowing what God’s call meant for us and our work! Much to the chagrin of lay staff Bishop Desmond called for a 7 day (silent) retreat at St. Joseph’s Retreat Centre in what was then known as the “Independent” homeland of Bophutatswana! I recall that this seven day retreat shaped and confirmed my life’s and ministry calling. Sadly, one of my close colleagues confirmed his calling as being “The Lord’s Donkey.” I was perplexed that Bishop Desmond did not intervene and merely shook his head. Many months later, my young colleague disappeared only for his body to be discovered in the shell of a burnt out taxi. Bishop Desmond was wiser than some might have admitted. The words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer were never clearer for many South Africans under Apartheid: “When Jesus calls you to follow him, he bids you come ...and die” Story written by Keith Vermeulen, WMC Researcher
Active Faith: Wesleyan Practices That Make a Difference An online course, taught by Paul Wesley Chilcote—a Methodist theologian and Director of the Centre for Global Wesleyan Theology at Wesley House, Cambridge—is based on the four major themes in his book, Active Faith. Topics include: •
Truth and the Practice of Humility
Joy and the Practice of Hospitality
Peace and the Practice of Healing
Love and the Practice of Holiness
This four-week course helps participants learn how to resist the dangerous ideologies and toxic forms of faith in our age that sap energy and create barriers between God and people. It introduces four Wesleyan practices that help renew and restore truth, joy, peace, and love to the soul. Classes are Thursdays beginning 10 March through 31 March 2022 and online registration is required. Follow the link to register today https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/active-faith-wesleyan-practices-that-make-a-difference-tickets-223392040607 Dr Fernand de Varennes World Methodist Council
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Bishop Byfield tours Kentucky with delegation led by President Biden Earlier today, African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Bishop E. Anne Henning Byfield, Presiding Prelate of the 13th Episcopal District and President of the Council of Bishops accompanied a delegation of public officials and community leaders led by US President Joseph Biden to visit Mayfield, Kentucky, and other areas impacted by last week’s tornado. Bishop Byfield stated, “We talked about the impact in the poor, Black and Latino communities. There is a need for support and financial and emotional well-being. In the midst of the street, I was asked to pray.” St. James AME Church in Mayfield was completely destroyed and one member died. For an update on tornado recovery efforts, watch this video. Story and photo by The Christian Recorder, AME Church, John Thomas III
Kentucky churches serve in aftermath of tornado outbreaks An outbreak of tornadoes plowed through five states on 10 December, killing dozens and leaving thousands without water, heat, or electricity. In Kentucky—the state hit hardest—more than 1,000 homes have been destroyed. As search and recovery efforts continue there, officials have reported 74 dead and 109 unaccounted. In all five states, at least 88 people have been killed by the impact of the storm.
Owners are still returning to their properties, and with their return comes the realization that residents of damaged areas face a long season of recovery. While many have been quick to respond, organizers have begun to think in terms of the weeks and months ahead. For now, McCabe has asked for a slight delay in the shipment of relief items.
The scope of the damage in Kentucky has created ongoing problems for residents. One twister leveled all buildings, trees, and entire towns in its 200-mile path. Massive clean-up and rebuilding efforts are required for residents to resume normal life; however, internet, power, and cell phone outages, as well as boil-water advisories, remain for portions of the state.
Pray for those who have lost loved ones, possessions, and livelihoods. Pray for those still unaccounted for and for their relatives and friends who grieve not knowing if they have survived. Pray for those vulnerable to additional crises in the midst of their displacement and dislocation. Pray for responders equipped to serve the devastated communities with compassion. To send a prayer or note of encouragement, go to ncm.org/pray.
In the midst of the devastation, Nazarenes have responded with compassion. The First Church of the Nazarene in Mayfield served as a storm shelter the night of the tornadoes and has since become a Red Cross shelter for residents impacted by the storm. Kentucky District Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, led by Bob McCabe, has begun organizing several groups that will travel to affected areas to assist with clean up. The network of Nazarene churches from neighboring communities offers a support system for hosting relief efforts that will last for several months to come. Churches in Bowling Green, Madisonville, and Paducah will be housing Work & Witness teams that will assist the hard-hit areas of Mayfield, Dawson Springs, and Bowling Green. The South Carolina District Disaster Response Team is delivering a brand-new shower trailer to Paducah in support of relief operations there. Due to the high volume of donations already contributed, workers on the ground have expressed concern with storage. Story and photo by Nazarene News World Methodist Council
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Family throws surprise Christmas party for 250 women With joy and jubilation, the Mutoko East 2 United Methodist women’s in Zimbabwe received an early Christmas surprise from the Mukandi family. During the Nov. 27 festivities at Bwanya United Methodist Church, the family thanked God for protection and healing from COVID-19 and shared their joy with 250 United Methodists from six local churches. Each member of the women’s group Rukwadzano RweWadzimani received church clothing, lunch and a food basket. “It is our hope,” Charity Mukandi said, “that as we give, someone will be inspired and reciprocate. Love is not love until you give it away. As a family, we have a lot to be thankful for and share our joy.” When Charity’s mother was hospitalized in intensive care with COVID-19, Charity asked the Mutoko Mudzi District to join her in prayer for healing. “God was faithful,” Charity said. “He answered our prayers, and she is alive. I have every reason to thank him and celebrate our joy with others.” She noted that the family’s company, Bokwest Investments, was not affected during the pandemic, and none of the 85 employees succumbed to COVID-19. “For this reason and more,” Charity Mukandi said, “we agreed to give 70% of our profit to charity. We have completed the Bwanya sanctuary, the parsonage is under construction and we have started another sanctuary in Chitungwiza Marondera District.
2 United Methodist Church, expressed gratitude. “Here, in rural areas,” he said, “people can lack even salt. Such a program restores the faith of members in prayer. Giving is a sermon on its own and can be a vehicle to win souls to Christ because here all were given indiscriminately. The first thing was to remove barriers, and everyone was given new clothes.” Through giving, Siyakurima said, people share God’s word. As people became sick with COVID-19 and lost loved ones to the virus, they often had no one to console them. Some became bitter. “Many were suffering quietly without being able to seek counseling,” he said. “The coming together of different local churches created a platform to socialize and unite as one family. This strengthened the circuit.” Faith Siyakurima, who chairs Rukwadzano RweWadzimai, explained that women often bear the load of meeting household challenges. “We thank God for being remembered,” she said. “This generous giving of grocery items has reduced that burden. Through this Christmas party, we have managed to fellowship together, console each other, and shake off stress as we dance, mingle and socialize. More so, everyone was branded the same by the outfits given.” Many communities and church members had doubts about their ability to celebrate Christmas this season, said Rosah Chapakama, women’s organization advisor. “Mary never expected to give birth to Jesus Christ, but it happened. God is faithful, and here we are today,” she said. Cathrine Chiripanyanga, 78, from Tibu village, was thrilled with the food baskets. “This is a sermon on its own,” she said. “We had not prepared anything for Christmas. What is important was life. COVID-19 destroyed our culture of celebrating events.” “The sermon was very powerful,” said Bwanya village head Zvikomborero Muchemwa. “This is a celebration after a sorrowful journey as many people passed on due to COVID-19. God saved us; hence, this celebration.” Theresa Mashero, a women’s group member, said, “Blessed is the hand that gives, rather than receives. Blessed are those who give to their neighbors. (Blessed are) those who, when asked for a plate of meal, will give without demanding it back. “Some people curse widows and single mothers, but the Mukandi family loves and encompasses everyone. May God bless them.” Beneficiary Theodora Nyikayaramba said it is a blessing to wear something new. “It is like a wedding day,” she said.
Tsitsi Katsande (left) celebrates after receiving a food parcel at Bwanya United Methodist Church at a surprise Christmas party hosted by a local family. Photo by Kudzai Chingwe, UM News. Some of the company’s employees accompanied the family during the distributions.
Virginia Chabvamuperu, a Chatiza local church member, said, “I came thinking there is a revival, not knowing that there is a revival of giving. “I am very happy with what I have received. My heart has been revived spiritually, socially and physically.” Kudzai Chingwe is a communicator for the Zimbabwe East Conference. Story by UM News.
The Rev. Agasha Siyakurima, pastor-in-charge of Mutoko East World Methodist Council
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COP26 enters new phase
For the past 18 months we have been working together on the Climate Justice for All campaign, alongside a network of volunteers from the global Methodist family. This month we hand over our leadership of the campaign to these volunteers, as CJ4A enters its next phase. We would like to take this opportunity to thank once again everyone who was involved in the journey of CJ4A, from helping us to develop our resources, to tuning into our live events at COP26. We want to thank the Methodist Church in Britain, OPCEMI (the Methodist Church in Italy), The Methodist Church in Uruguay, the United Church of Zambia, and the Pacific Conference of Churches for giving us this life-changing opportunity. Our resources will continue to be available to use on the World Methodist Council website: https://worldmethodistcouncil.org/cj4a/ as will the blog: http://climatejustice4all.com/ The global network of volunteers from Methodist and United churches will remain in communication over the next year with occasional meetings to keep each other up to date on their activities in their local contexts. See updates on: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Photo 165750082 / Water © Nitsuki | Dreamstime.com
Story by CJ4A Team
Nazarene church celebrates 100 years in Middle East 2021 marked the 100th anniversary of the Church of the Nazarene in the Middle East, which began in Palestine and Syria in 1921. When asked whether compassion is part of the Nazarene identity in the Middle East, one pastor, Pastor Boulos, was clear. “Absolutely, this is our identity, 100 percent,” he says. “This is the heart of our mission, and I believe it is linked with the heart of Jesus. In Matthew 25, [Jesus says], when I was hungry you fed me, when I am thirsty, you give me water, when I am in prison you come and visit me … when you do it for these people, you are doing it for me.” The very first Nazarene churches in the Middle East were comprised of refugees and those living in poverty, and the early ministry of the church consisted of food relief, care for orphans and vulnerable people, and education for children through Nazarene schools. Now, 100 years later, Nazarene churches continue this legacy. “I believe this is the heart of Jesus: to see the compassionate ministry in every heart, every church, every servant, to serve people—especially those who are passing through a hard time,” Boulos shares. Boulos recalls how, during the first Gulf War in 1991, Iraqis were fleeing to Jordan as they had nowhere to stay. At that time, the Nazarene school opened its doors, and 30 families were given a classroom each as shelter. The church was a sanctuary in the truest sense of the word. “To be frank, I am so proud,” Boulos shares. “I am so happy to be part of the kingdom of God through the Church of the Nazarene, because when I see pastors, they are doing the best with limited resources, just to serve and support those in need. I am really proud… the situation is really hard... Let us receive them. Let us World Methodist Council
serve their kids. Let us share our heart, our love, our resources with them. This gives me joy…” The churches in the Middle East are full of stories of transformation. One young Iraqi woman fled the war with her family. “They are down, they are afraid,” Boulos says of those living as refugees. “They cannot even walk on the street. All these things are in their mind, and they are isolated.” The young woman was 18, pregnant, and without support. Then, she began to get involved in the youth group, and the youth loved her and supported her. Over the years, she has grown immensely in her faith. Now, she is a preacher. Boulos explains how her story began with fleeing, but now she stands strong in her faith. “When she stands on the platform, she is like a lion, full of boldness and charisma,” Boulos says. In one Nazarene church, a woman named Anna leads the refugee work for children. Anna is a recent refugee herself. She too has her own story of fleeing violence and starting all over again in a new country. “100 years ago, there was tragedy, but now we see the hope,” Boulos says. “Right now, we see tragedy, but maybe after 100 years we will see the light is shining.” This story is adapted from an article that was published in the most recent version of NCM Magazine. To view that issue, click here. Story by Nazarene News First Friday Letter page 6
Follow the link below to watch The World Methodist Council New Year Greeting from President JC Park. https://youtu.be/6sKaEzLm8II Photo 103483355 © Splank | Dreamstime.com
May God’s love light your way
and lead you into a new year
that shires with His special joy Photo 108826566 / Bridge Water © | Dreamstime.com
World Methodist Council
Happy New Year! First Friday Letter page 7
Photo credits: Perkins School of Theology/ R. Hipps
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About the First Friday Letter
This and past First Friday Letters can be found online at FirstFridayLetter.worldmethodistcouncil.org.
The First Friday Newsletter is a monthly publication of the World Methodist Council.
The World Methodist Council’s website may be found at worldmethodistcouncil.org.
Publisher: Bishop Ivan Abrahams, General Secretary
The World Methodist Council’s Conference website is at worldmethodistconference.org.
Communications: Michaela Bryson
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