June First Friday Letter 2023

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First Friday Letter

The World Methodist Council

Greetings from the General Secretary

Dear sisters and brothers,

June 2023

Greetings after celebrating the glorious Feast of Pentecost, which marks the birth of the church!

At Pentecost, the frightened disciples who met behind closed doors were transformed by the Holy Spirit from victims to victors. The Apostle Peter, yes the one who denied the Lord three times on the night Jesus was arrested, became their spokesperson. He shared the good news that Jesus is Lord, not just of the Jews but the cosmic Christ for and of ALL. (Acts 2:14-42)

Peter claimed that the great and glorious day of Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled:

I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.

The outpouring of the Spirit was not just for a few prophets or chosen ones but for ALL. Joel’s vision is an inclusive message of grace for everyone – nobody is excluded. We are called to be a church of ALL for ALL.

When we invoke the power of the Holy Spirit, it cannot be business as usual. Like Peter and the rest of the disciples, shame and guilt will lose their hold over us, and God will find in us a witness to bring healing and transformation to our bruised and broken world.

On behalf of the President and Officers of the World Methodist Council, I share our congratulations and best wishes to Bishop McKenzie for her election as General Secretary of the National Council of Churches (USA). We also wish to assure General-elect Lydon and Commissioner Bronwyn Buckingham of our prayers after their election at the High Council to lead the Salvation Army.

In this edition of the First Friday Letter, find information about ZacTax Campaign relaunched in Africa, Partnership In Mission with Mutual Respect And Accountability, WMC continues relationship with The Salvation Army and more.

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Grace and Peace, Ivan Photo 277217731 © Omer Sahin | Dreamstime.com

Bishop McKenzie Named NCC President and General Secretary

The Governing Board of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) is pleased to announce that Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie has been elected to serve as President and General Secretary of the ecumenical organization. She is the first African American woman to serve as both President and General Secretary of the organization. The Governing Board made the announcement during its annual Spring meeting, held in Washington, DC, May 15–16.

Bishop McKenzie has served in the position as interim since April 1, 2022, and immersed herself in the work of the organization without delay. During her year as interim, she led an extensive review of NCC’s foundational documents, initiated Voter Empowerment 2022: A Church-Based Action Plan campaign, testified on Capitol Hill on behalf of low wage earners and poor children, and served as keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast.

She has also represented NCC internationally at the World Council of Churches’ Regional Ecumenical Officers annual meeting at the Ecumenical Center in Bossey, Switzerland as well as attended the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Germany.

Bishop McKenzie has reinstituted the NCC’s Health and Wellness Taskforce to dive deeper into health and healthcare priorities that impact persons of all races, ethnicities, and socio-economic and geographic status. As part of the taskforce relaunch, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy was the keynote speaker at the recent Governing Board Health and Wellness Taskforce Luncheon.

She also has initiated a new Policy Roundtable to create space for NCC’s communions and partners to speak to and with each other and hear from policy experts on critical issues that strengthen its impact on public policy.

“The National Council of Churches is excited that Bishop McKenzie has agreed to serve in this pivotal leadership role. She brings the necessary insight, expertise, and ecumenical commitment to the Council to lead us into the future,” said Board Chair Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, who is also the Ecumenical Officer of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

“The entire Board is excited about Bishop McKenzie’s vision and leadership. We are grateful for her willingness to use the full vessel of her ministerial gifts to lead the NCC,” added Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and NCC Governing Board Vice Chair.

“I am honored to serve the National Council of Churches and I look forward to building upon the strong foundation laid by the men and women who have led the way in ecumenism and advocacy work for more than seven decades. I look forward to engaging every communion within this great collaborative to serve the 100,000 congregations and the more than 30 million members that fall under its ecumenical umbrella,” said Bishop McKenzie, who has been active in social justice issues for more than three decades.

Bishop McKenzie served as the 117th elected and consecrated bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and was the first female elected to episcopal office in the AME Church’s two centuries of operation. She is the first female to serve as President of the Council of Bishops and President of the General Board and has served as presiding bishop in Southern Africa—Botswana, Swaziland, Mozambique, and Lesotho—and in the United States in Tennessee, Kentucky and Texas.

Bishop McKenzie is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, and Howard University School of Divinity, and has an earned doctorate from United Theological Seminary. She was appointed in 2009 by President Barack Obama to serve on the inaugural White House Commission of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. This group worked on behalf of Americans committed to improving their communities, regardless of religious or political beliefs. In 2014, she was named one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Religious Life in the World by Huffington Post. She is the author of six books, including Not Without a Struggle, Journey to the Well, and The Big Deal: Taking Small Steps to Move Closer to God.

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ZacTax Campaign relaunched in Africa

“Tax justice is a matter of faith,” said Suzanne Matale. “By faith, [all] are entitled to abundant life. Ordinary people have a right to know and to participate in decision-making tables that affect our own God-given dignity.”

Matale, of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and Oikotree, was the keynote speaker at the relaunch of the ZacTax Campaign in Africa, held on 20 May, at the Mannah Conference Center in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The event offered faith-rooted African perspectives on just taxation and reparations; and shared concrete proposals to advance corporate and wealth taxation as well as social and ecological reparations.

“Taxation is a tool for enacting the conversion of Zacchaeus in our financial systems which till now funnels resources to the most powerful and wealthy,” said Athena Peralta, programme executive for economic and ecological justice at the World Council of Churches. “It is the most effective way to raise resources to respond to today’s polycrises – not least climate change – which disproportionately hurt the poor and vulnerable.”

“The point is: the Earth belongs to God, and we are simply stewards. We believe that economic policies should foster sustainability,” said Mandla Mbongeni Hadebe, of the Economic Justice Network of FOCCISA.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars are lost each year by mining companies’ avoidance and evasion in sub-Saharan Africa,” Hadebe said. “As churches, we must make it our duty to follow the money and know detailed information about mining contracts, including their true costs and benefits. Through the ZacTax campaign I hope we will be able to do this.”

“Tax policies are not gender-neutral—they are biased toward men. In Africa, most of the women work in the informal economy, but they pay taxes in a lot of ways,

mostly in consumption taxes,” said Riska Leandre Koopman of the Global Alliance for Tax Justice.

“Our resources need to start working for us. We need to ensure that tax is addressing inequality issues, including gender,” said Francis Kairu of the Tax Justice Network - Africa. “If tax justice will work in our century, it must do one thing: it must address the mismatch of power between developing and developed countries.”

African nations lost between US $597-1.4 trillion in illicit financial flows – nearly equivalent to the entire continent’s current GDP – in the last three decades. “Just imagine if the government can counter these illicit financial flows and channel them into other areas,” said M. Ganief Hendricks, a member of the South African Parliament.

“These are global challenges and need global solutions. We are in this together. It is time to ask the faith movement to come in and amplify the voices [calling for fair global tax rules and a United Nations tax convention],” said Silje Ander of Norwegian ChurchAid.

The ZacTax Campaign is a part of the New International Financial and Economic Architecture advocacy platform sponsored by the World Council of Churches, Council for World Mission, Lutheran World Federation, World Communion of Reformed Churches, and World Methodist Council. The All Africa Conference of Churches co-organised the relaunch event and now promotes the ZacTax the campaign in the African region.

Read more at https://www.oikoumene.org/news/ zactax-campaign-relaunched-in-africa

World Methodist Council First Friday
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Deadline Announced for Peace Award Nominees

Applications submitted by 15 July will be considered for this year. Any application received after 15 July will be reviewed later for 2024. All supporting documents must be included at the time of submission. The nominee should show courage in regard to physical danger or putting personal interest at risk. Creativity should include opening new initiatives and attracting others in working for the cause of peace. Consistency is judged by effort over a period of time and intensity, despite setbacks. Here is the link to read the full criteria: http://worldmethodistcouncil.org/whatwedo/ world-methodist-peace-award/

Nominate someone who exemplifies Courage, Creativity, and Consistency for the World Methodist Peace Award.

Some awardees have been world figures; others may be little known beyond their immediate communities. Their stories are recorded here: https://worldmethodistcouncil.org/recipients/

The recipient receives a medallion, citation and US $1,000 which is symbolic of the larger recognition achieved in working for peace, justice and reconciliation. Their bio and photo are included in the World Methodist Council Peace Award booklet and a featured article in WMC and Wesleyan/ Methodist publications. Go to worldmethodistcouncil.org and click on the “What We Do” tab, then click on the “World Methodist Peace Award” tab to complete the online application. Please send all nomination forms to Bishop Ivan Abrahams at info@worldmethodistcouncil.org

Teresa E. Jefferson-Snorton, Ecumenical Bishop and Development Officer, was the 2023 Commencement Speaker at Payne Theological Seminary and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary

The 2023 Louisville Presbyterian Commencement Commencement Ceremony can be viewed here: https://www.lpts.edu/watchlive/

MWRC Annual Lecture

This year’s annual lecture will be given by Dr Cheryl J. Sanders, Professor of Christian Ethics at Howard University School of Divinity, on Tuesday 20 June 2023 at 5pm UK time (find the time where you are here). The title of the lecture is ‘Holiness and Black Consciousness: The Social Witness of Black Saints, Shepherds, and Sages’. This event will be both in person and online (via Zoom). If you plan to attend online, registration is required here.

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Cambodia’s early Christian leader Pastor Sim Ten passes away

Chiang Mai, Thailand: The Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) mourns the passing away of Pastor Sim Ten, an early Christian leader in Cambodia who survived the Khmer Rouge genocide era in the country. He passed away on Sunday, 7 May 2023, at his residence in Kompong Cham province. He was 76 years old.

The CCA General Secretary Dr Mathews George Chunakara expressed deep condolences on the demise of Pastor Sim Ten, who was one of the early Christian leaders in Cambodia, and who actively participated in church unity initiatives and ecumenical activities facilitated by the CCA and the World Council of Churches (WCC) since the 1990s.

Sim Ten, who was a government employee before the Khmer Rouge period, converted to the Christian faith in the mid-1970s and then had to leave his home like many others who were forced to wander in different places, including inside forests, during that traumatic era of genocide. He returned to Kompong Cham province after 1976 and secretly continued in his Christian faith during the new Communist rule that began in 1976. He gave up his government job and became actively involved in propagating the gospel in Kompong Cham province after an UN-brokered election in the country installed a democratic government in 1992.

He was able to revive the shattered old house church on his own property adjacent to his village house in his native Mohaleap village in Koh Sotin District. The church in which he was serving as a pastor was originally founded by French-speaking missionaries who were active in Kompong Cham province before the Khmer Rouge era; the church Pastor Sim Ten was heading was known as Methodist Church in Kompong Cham. In Cambodia, most house church leaders are known as pastors and they did not have opportunities for any formal theological education for a long time.

Pastor Sim Ten lived with his daughter, Da Ly, in Sunnyvale, California, USA, for a few years, but he returned to his native village in Cambodia to continue his local ministry.

“I have known Pastor Sim Ten since 1994 as a very committed Christian who was proud of his faith and his role as a local church leader, being engaged in church ministry. He used to narrate to me several stories about how he managed to escape from the deadly attacks of the Khmer Rouge soldiers during the Pol Pot era,” recollected Dr Mathews George Chunakara, who was responsible for coordinating the ecumenical programmes in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia on behalf of the CCA and WCC through the Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia Ecumenical Forum in the 1990s.

The CCA General Secretary further added that Pastor Sim Ten was one of those very few church leaders working at the grassroots in the provinces in the early 1990s, who realised the need for sustained unity efforts among the splintered groups of Cambodian churches where freelance missionaries were competing thirty years ago.

“Pastor Sim Ten was one of the prominent leaders who was keen to form the Kampuchea Christian Council (KCC) which was founded in 1998 with the support and accompaniment of CCA and WCC,” Dr Chunakara recalled.

While recollecting his long association with Pastor Sim Ten since his school days, Pastor Eang Chhun of the Praiklong Church in Phnom Penh and a founder of the KCC along with Sim Ten, said he became a Christian about forty years ago through the influence of Sim Ten who gave him a copy of a New Testament in the Khmer language, which he was always hiding while they both were wandering around during the period of the genocide.

Read more at https://cca.org.hk/

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Pastor Sim Ten, surviver of the Khmer Rouge genocide era.

Partnership In Mission with Mutual Respect And Accountability

Global Ministries recently hosted an Africa Mission Partners Consultation in Maputo, Mozambique, April 17-19. This was the first event of its type held in Africa in several decades and brought together African United Methodist leadership, including bishops and representatives from each of the African UMC annual conferences, representing 17 countries and even more unique cultures. These dedicated leaders were joined in worship and conversation by Global Ministries’ executive committee board members and senior staff, and representatives from other United Methodist agencies, among other guests. It was a long-awaited and welcome reunion for so many of us.

Over the course of three days, we gathered to sing praises to God and pray together. We sang familiar hymns and other songs in many languages, which reminded me of the diversity of God’s people and that we are one in Christ. We also used this time together to do the important work of listening to our partners in Africa. The intention of Global Ministries for this event was to intensely listen and learn about our partners’ contexts, priorities and vision for God’s mission in Africa. It was a tangible expression of our Theology of Mission, which calls us to witness 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” (to seek to hear God’s voice and bear witness to God’s activity in every local setting).

At the beginning of the gathering, Bishop Nhanala arranged a meeting for United Methodist leaders present at the conference with the president of Mozambique, Filipe Nyusi. We were all impressed at the depth of the president’s knowledge of The United Methodist Church, as well as key areas of environmental shifts and disaster response.

It was a remarkable event in many ways. I was especially impressed by the level of commitment from all participants. The engagement of the bishops, in particular, was impressive and vitally critical. All those attending dedicated themselves to reflecting deeply on questions related to evangelism, health, agriculture, humanitarian relief and missionaries as it applied to their own contexts. These leaders thoughtfully shared their perspectives on mutual partnership as well as assets their conferences bring to that partnership.

Our Africa partners are very interested in developing new and strengthened partnerships that recognize and utilize African assets, build capacity and develop leadership within African conferences. Their desire is to move the church in Africa toward greater self-sustenance based on mutual respect and accountability. One of our partners in mission shared: “We have to rethink how to be in mission in a healthy and supportive way. There are areas where we can get expertise (from Global Ministries). However, people in our conferences are trained and have great capacity. We have to rethink how we approach mission today and build interdependence.”

We also heard some very honest and open feedback from our partners. Some of it affirmed the work we are doing, especially in agriculture and health. Some of it was critical of how mission is done now or has been done in the past, especially those instances in which Global Ministries has come in with an attitude of superior knowledge. However, there was a clear awareness that we did not come to the consultation to impart knowledge or give direction. We knew it would be very important to approach this consultation with a spirit of mutuality and a posture of listening.

Read more of this article here.

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WMC continues relationship with The Salvation Army

General Brian Peddle retires this year as the international leader of The Salvation Army, and Commissioner Lyndon Buckingham begins his service as the 22nd General. Commissioner Rosalie Peddle will step down as World President of Women’s Ministries and Commissioner Bronwyn Buckingham will assume the role of World President.

Serving originally in their home country of Canada, and later New Zealand and the United Kingdom, in 2018 Brian was elected as the General in 2018 General of The Salvation Army.

The formal farewell to the General and Commissioner was held on 20 May 2023 at the Methodist Central Hall, in London. Rev Tony Franklin-Ross, chairperson of the WMC Ecumenical Relationships, participated in the service.

missioners globally from across the Salvation Army who serve as national, regional and international senior leaders. The purpose of the High Council is to elect a new General, for which the members were charged with this task during the General’s farewell service, and who then met over the following week.

This resulted in the election announced on 27 May 2023 of the Buckinghams. Both have been serving at the International Headquarters in London, with Lyndon as the Chief of Staff, and Bronwyn as World Secretary for Spiritual Life Development. Lyndon and Bronwyn are New Zealanders, therefore their first blessing and prayer shared in te reo Māori (the indigenous language of Aotearoa New Zealand) in the High Council chamber.

The official transition to the new General elect occurs in August 2023.

“Having had the pleasure of meeting my fellow-Kiwis General-elect Lyndon and Commissioner Bronwyn, I am sure of the wonderful worldwide inclusive servant ministry that will be reflected in their leadership. Tony commented, “where the Gospel is witnessed to in their actions, I know the WMC’s warm ecumenical relationships with The Salvation Army will continue to be fostered. Korāria ki a koe e te Atua (Glory to you O God).”

The service celebrated of the leadership provided by General Brian and Commissioner Rosalie. Tony recalled, among the tributes given to Brian and Rosalie, as their leadership during the COVID pandemic; ‘a pastor for the time – like an uncle and aunt to the international Salvationist family’ and of being ‘adaptive – becoming the first digital General’. Their ministry was described as ‘humble and appreciative in their visits around the globe’ and ‘witnessing to service without discrimination’ where they ‘let Jesus shine through them for being a kingdom difference’.

Family members also gave an emotional tribute to their parents, as ‘people who while in leadership kept a teaching posture’; and that ‘who they are in ministry is who they are in the family life’.

A High Council is called when the current General announces their retirement. This gathers the Com-

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Article provided by WMC Ecumenical Chair Tony Franklin-Ross Recently retired General Brian Peddle (right) with WMC Ecumenical Chair Tony Franklin-Ross. New TSA General Lyndon Buckingham

Leader Remebered Upon His Death

See the recent statement from The World Methodist Council regarding His Eminence Sunday Coffie Mbang.

A big tree has fallen in the Methodist forest!

It was with sadness that the President and Officers of the World Methodist Council learned of the passing of His Eminence Sunday Coffie Mbang on 16th May 2023 at the age of 86.

Sunday Mbang was a man of unusual courage and steadfast principles. His visionary leadership gifts and skills were recognized very early in his ministry, and it came as no surprise when he was elected as the second Prelate of the Methodist Church Nigeria, an office he held for two decades. He was also elected as the second African President of the World Methodist Council.

His Eminence Mbang worked tirelessly for justice, peace, and reconciliation in the church and society. He was honored by many organizations, including the World Methodist Council Peace Award, the Order of Niger, and Honorary Doctorates from the Baptist Seminary Ogbomosho, Oyo State, and the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Nsakka, Enugu State.

His Eminence provided courageous leadership as President of the Christian Association of Nigeria during the dark days of Military dictatorship. He also worked with the Muslim leadership to ensure religious harmony and peaceful coexistence of people of different faiths.

World Methodist Council General Secretary commenting on the passing of Sunday Mbang said, “He was an iconic leader of immense compassion, integrity, and wisdom, a role model for a younger generation of ministers like myself. We all drew inspiration, confidence, and hope from our ‘father in the faith’ who was unwilling to settle for nothing less than our full potential in exercising the gifts God gave us.”

Even in his retirement, His Eminence Sunday Mbang contributed significantly to support colleagues through his wise counsel, advancing mission and development.

The WMC passes sincere condolences to the Mbang family during their time of bereavement. We owe the family a great debt of gratitude for sharing a father, uncle, and grandfather with us. Our lives are much richer because of him.

We will miss his bright smile, his impish laughter, his big heart, his magnanimous spirit, and his warm friendship. We give thanks to God for his life and ministry.

Sleep well, dear father. Sleep well in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection.

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Pain Of Division Must Push Christians To Seek Unity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — After receiving the gift of a chalice from leaders of the Lutheran World Federation, Pope Francis said divided Christians should suffer because they cannot share the Eucharist, but that suffering should spur them to work and pray harder for Christian unity.

As the formal Catholic-Lutheran dialogue proceeds, “it will be important to examine with spiritual and theological humility the circumstances that led to the divisions, trusting that, although it is impossible to undo the sad events of the past, it is possible to reinterpret them as part of a reconciled history,” Pope Francis said June 25 as he welcomed the LWF delegation to the library of the Apostolic Palace.

Nigerian Archbishop Panti Filibus Musa, president of the LWF, told Pope Francis that 2021 “is marked by one of those difficult memories: the 500 years of the excommunication of Martin Luther. We cannot change history, but we can retell it in a way that it carries the promise of a better future, thus becoming our story of reconciliation.”

And, presenting Pope Francis with the chalice and a paten, he explained that the gifts were made by members of the ecumenical Community of Taizé in France and that the glaze used was made from the sand taken from the refugee camp in Zaatari, Jordan, the world’s largest camp for Syrian refugees.

“Sharing the Lord’s Supper together is also bearing the burdens of all those who have lost everything,” the archbishop told the pope. The solidarity shared at the altar “shapes who we are and ought to become: a people who, seeing the transfigured face of Christ, walk into the valley to see Christ in the disfigured faces of the exploited, the hungry and the poor. In this journey, we become fully church, together. Let us act together now, deepening into visible solidarity our union in prayer.”

Pope Francis described the five centuries of Catholic-Lutheran division as a “journey from conflict to communion.”

Progress requires real motivation and passion, he said, in other words, a sense of crisis, “the crisis that helps us mature in what we are seeking. From the conflict we have lived for centuries and centuries to the communion we desire — for that, we put ourselves in crisis, a crisis which is a blessing from the Lord.”

The Lutherans’ meeting with the pope took place on the anniversary of the publication of the “Augsburg Confession,” which is now seen as a key summary of Lutheran faith. But it was presented in Augsburg,

Germany, on June 25, 1530, as, Pope Francis said, “a document of intra-Catholic reconciliation” in the hopes of repairing the growing rupture among Christians in Western Europe.

“In its first article, the Augsburg Confession professes faith in the Triune God, expressly referring to the Council of Nicaea,” the pope noted. “The Nicene Creed is a binding expression of faith, not only for Catholics and Lutherans, but also for our Orthodox brothers and sisters and for many other Christian communities. It is a treasure we hold in common. Let us make every effort to ensure that the 1700th anniversary of that great council, to be celebrated in 2025, will give new impulse to the ecumenical journey, which is God’s gift and for us an irreversible commitment.”

The document also stresses the importance of baptism, which the pope called “the primordial divine gift at the basis of all our religious efforts and our commitment to the achievement of full unity.”

“Ecumenism is not an exercise of ecclesial diplomacy but a journey of grace,” he said. “It depends not on human negotiations and agreements, but on the grace of God, which purifies memories and hearts, overcomes attitudes of inflexibility and directs toward renewed communion: not toward reductive agreements or forms of irenic syncretism, but toward a reconciled unity amid differences.”

“In this light,” he said, “I would like to encourage all those engaged in the Catholic-Lutheran dialogue to persevere with confidence, in constant prayer, in the exercise of mutual charity and in passionate efforts to achieve greater unity between the different members of the body of Christ.”

Read more at https://www.eriercd.org

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CNS photo/Vatican Media
Pope Francis greets Archbishop Panti Filibus Musa, president of the Lutheran World Federation, during an audience with members of the federation at the Vatican on June 25, 2021.

22nd World Methodist Conference

Gothenburg, Sweden 13-18 August

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About the First Friday Letter

The 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.

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