October FFL 2023

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First Friday Letter

The World Methodist Council

Greetings from the General Secretary

Dear Siblings in Christ,



Warm Christian greetings from sunny South Africa, where spring, the bridesmaid of summer has eventually arrived bringing a patchwork of colour to the landscape.

It is so good to be at home after “being on the road” for the past few weeks with engagements in Nigeria, Sweden, Korea, the Philippines, and Poland where participated in the 13th General Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) I brought greetings on behalf of the World Methodist Council and shared in a lively panel discussion on the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine Justification (JDDJ), a historic agreement, signed by Lutherans and Catholics on 31 October 1999 in Augsburg Germany, resolving divisions on the “basic truths” that split the church for more than 500 years since the Reformation. The World Methodist Council, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the World Communion of Reformed Churches later signed the JDDJ.

The LWF met under a very appropriate theme; One Body, One Spirit, One Hope in a country with a rich tradition of unity, peaceful coexistence, and cooperation between different faiths and initiated steps toward unification between different Reformation denominations from as early as the 16th Century (1570 – the Sandomierz Agreement, and 1573 – the act of Warsaw Confederation) In my presentation, I offered six Methodist perspectives on the doctrine of Justification. (The full text is available on request).

Firstly, John Wesley was a practical theologian who responded to what God was doing in the context of his life and ministry. Methodists bring to the table an ability to adapt, grow, and transform our theological understanding in response to what God is doing. Secondly, Methodists offer an understanding that we are not called to agree on everything, but rather to take each other’s hand and walk this Christ-following journey together as we live lives of love toward God and neighbour. Thirdly, Methodists affirm that faith plays a central role in justification. While good works do not merit justification, they are the natural response of a transformed heart, evidence of our faith, and a means to demonstrate God’s love to the world. Fourthly, Wesley understood that orthodoxy and praxis go hand in hand. He was a Liberation Theologian long before the term was coined. Methodists understand that through our actions, we must identify with the poor and those on the margins of society. Fifthly, Salvation includes justification but is not a momentary event but a transformative journey, a journey toward Holiness or “Christian Perfection”. Lastly, Wesley was unequivocal that there is no holiness but Social Holiness. We are called to love our neighbour and not live secluded lives of piety (Matt 25:31-46).

As we approach the 25th anniversary of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, it is my hope and prayer that all World Communions will study the declaration through Bible Studies and in Home Groups. The declaration must be more than a doctrine, an intellectual assent but a vehicle for social transformation.

Happy reading as you are encourage by the stories of World Methodist Museum opening at Bridwell Library in Dallas, Texas, Women’s Month in Celebration in South Africa, Coming together of Australian cultures, and finalizing your plans to attend the World Methodist Conference in 2024 are all in this edition of the FFL.

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Bridwell Library opens World Methodist Council Museum collection

No museum collection is ever complete...yet what you will find here is an extraordinary sampling of some of the most important and historic items in Methodist-Wesleyan traditions that represent both the history of the Methodist church and the history of the Museum itself.

This is the start of an explanation regarding the collection at Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, and this and more information is the greeting as one enters the Museum collection. The Wesley Traveling Pulpil, death mask, paintings, letters, and more are displayed.

Former Museum Director and World Methodist Council Headquarters Director Jackie Bolden brought greetings to the Perkins Executive Board on behalf of its General Secretary, President, Council and the member churches.

Welcome by Director and J.S. Bridwell Foundation Endowed Librarian, Associate Dean for Special Collections and Academic Publishing Anthony Elia, who was the SMU representative that made the move of the extensive collection possible. Bolden thanked those present for keeping the collection alive so that it might continue to inspire and inform about Methodism, its founder John Wesley, and many other workers in the faith. After the Board meeting, the group toured the WMC Museum collection.

Opening on October 2, the current exhibits are a segment of the collection, which will be rotated. Additional items continue to be added, such as a St. John’s Bible and a 1789 John Wesley letter that was on display. It is believed that Bridwell has the largest collection of original John Wesley letter of any single collector.

For more information or to read The Bridwell Quarterly

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Former Museum Director and World Methodist Council Headquarters Director Jackie Bolden touring The World Methodist Council Museum Collection at Bridwell Library in Dallas, Texas. Director and J.S. Bridwell Foundation Endowed Librarian Anthony Elia

Pray with us

Human rights abuses; violent conflicts between countries, terrorist groups, mobs and gangs, and partners; wars waged between countries and a long list of urgent needs require our prayers. The WMC ask that you pray diligently and work as if your life depended on it as it just might!

What the Voice means to me

This week we share two new messages of support for the Voice! Pacific Conference of Churches General Secretary Rev James Bhagwan calls on the Pacific diaspora in Australia to stand alongside First Nations people in their request for a Voice. Advocate of the Growing in Faith Circle Rev Liam Miller says he hopes the Voice is a first step to listen and learn from First Peoples, to reshape the nation and its identity and move us toward treaty and truth.

On October 14, all Australians will be invited to vote in a referendum that seeks to recognise and give voice to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia’s Constitution.

As we move towards the referendum, we have invited Uniting Church people to share what the Voice means to them and why they support this change.

Would you like to share a message? Email your video to comms@nat.uca.org.au

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Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC Pictured left to right: Pacific Conference of Churches General Secretary Rev James Bhagwan and Rev Liam Miller

Over 1600 attend Africa South Field Women’s Extravaganza

August was Women’s Month in South Africa, and the women in the Church of the Nazarene on the Africa South Field have always participated in the celebration. From 4-6 August 2023, at the South Africa Nazarene Theological College in Muldersdrift, just outside of Johannesburg, more than 1,600 women from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique gathered to experience fellowship, build relationships with other Nazarene women, uplift each other, and experience renewal and empowerment.

The theme “Revive Us Again” was explicitly chosen because the conference had been interrupted for three years due to the global pandemic. The organizers were asking the Lord to bring them back together and bring them back to Him. With the closing of churches and the cancellation of gatherings like this, they felt a need for the women to return to the Lord and to experience revival in their hearts.

As the weekend unfolded, the theme of “Revive us Again” was emphasized in their preaching, teaching, singing, dancing, and fellowship. There were bright smiles on the faces of the women that matched their colorful outfits from their respective districts.

The planning committee was encouraged by seeing so many women coming from all over Southern Africa for a time of renewal and fellowship. The women returned to their districts with the goal of igniting their districts with the same fire they received at the conference. They are being strengthened and encouraged to know they are part of a greater family and church.

The mission of the Women’s Extravaganza is to strengthen bonds among women for effective Kingdom building as well as striving to empower women to assume and uphold their Christian responsibilities to God and those around them.

Moreover, the women desire to have Bible-based teaching on the issue of sin and encourage one another to respond positively to challenges such as disease, poverty, violence, abuse, divorce, grief, cultural practices, and mental health issues. Finally, the Women’s Extravaganza strives to transform women through a paradigm shift from the “dependency syndrome” into a vibrant DIY—do it yourself—attitude to be proud of their church.

--Church of the Nazarene Africa Region

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Lutheran Assembly – One Body, One Spirit, One Hope

The 13th Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation was held on 13-19 September 2023 in Krakow, Poland. The Assembly theme “One Body, One Spirit, One Hope was drawn from Ephesians 4:4 (NRSV): “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling.” Approximately 1,000 people attended, including around 350 voting delegates; from across 150 member churches comprising over 77 million people. (To learn more, see https://2023.lwfassembly.org/ )

What was a highlight for you from the range of presenters?

A keynote speaker was Mons. Prof. Dr Tomáš Halík, a leading Catholic intellectual and author from the Czech Republic. His presentation was entitled “Christianity stands on threshold of new Reformation”. He commended a new reformation for the 21st century which must transcend the current forms and boundaries of Christianity, resist simplistic answers to contemporary challenges, and contribute to uniting into ‘One Body’ – not just all of humanity, but more critically in light of the climate changes and crisis, together with all of creation.

Halik suggested that the ecumenism of the 21st century must go much further than the ecumenism of the last century. Christianity today needs “to transcend existing mental and institutional, confessional, cultural and social boundaries in order to fulfil its universal mission.” This transformed mission also requires a new evangelization, he reflected, which “is not to recruit new church members, to squeeze them into the existing mental and institutional boundaries of our churches but to go beyond” to create a “mutually enriching dialogue” with those of other beliefs and none.

Were there any particularly poignant moments?

The whole Assembly spent an afternoon at the Auschwitz-Birkenau former concentration camps, where over a million people were murdered, mainly Jews alongside others deemed dangerous or undesirable by the Nazi regime. This visit was on the eve of the Jewish New Year, Rosh HaShanah.

We concluded with small groups participating in a ‘prayer path’ infused with the words ‘How long, O Lord?’ (Psalm 13). We were given dried flowers to crush and scatter on the sandy ground, before singing a prayer of lament: “Out of the depths we cry to you, O Lord. Hear our voice. Hear our speechless cry.”

The following day, the Assembly heard a moving appeal from Polish Holocaust survivor Marian Turski, who urged church leaders to combat hate speech and xenophobia, wherever it is found.

How were ecumenical relationships highlighted?

I was excited by the wide range of ecumenical partners at the Assembly. Many represented inter- communion relationships, such as ourselves from WMC; as well as the World Council of Churches and the Global Christian Forum. With LWF’s longstanding commitment to addressing the plight of refugees, representatives of mission partnerships came from ACT Alliance and Caritas International.

During final morning worship service, the LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Anne Burghardt led part of the service alongside Cardinal Kurt Koch from the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity; and prayers were led by the Mennonite and Salvation Army representatives.

This was followed by a panel discussion with leaders from the five world communions (Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Reformed and Roman Catholic) associated with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ). WMC General Secretary Bishop Ivan Abrahams attended part of the Assembly to offer WMC’s greetings, and to participate in the panel presentation. Justification, he commended, is not “an isolated event, but a journey towards holiness” invoking the service of neighbour through social transformation. Burghardt stressed that “the doctrine of justification is [the] touchstone for the Christian faith”; and affirmed “justified by God through faith alone” is a message of reconciliation that “must come alive for people today.”

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Submitted by Rev Tony Franklin-Ross, Chairperson of the WMC Ecumenical Relationships Committee, who attended as an ecumenical guest.

Governance, Economics and Management for Economy of Life

Who Are We?

On a recent morning walk right before dawn, I could still see the stars. I saw the Polaris Star, or North Star which is the brightest star in its constellation. It reminded me of the underground railroad and the network of people in North America who led Black people from Southern bondage to Northern freedom by following the North Star. From August 21 to September 21 23, 2023 a committed group of twenty-three persons gathered for the Ecumenical School on Governance, Economics and Management for an Economy of Life in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We were searching for the North Star of economic justice centered in human happiness and wellbeing, a responsible stewardship of our world and a theology that speaks of God’s commitment to reordering structures for just relationships and the liberation of Creation. We came from Asia, the Pacific, Europe, the Caribbean, South America, the Middle East, and North America. We engaged in a vast conversation that merged our commitments to creating just economic structures, affirming the role of labor, and engaging economic analysis through the eyes of the poor and marginalized.

The Role of the Church

We were committed to doing economic analysis through the prism of our Christian faith. Particularly, our aim was to engage our Christian ethical mandate to advocate for just and sustainable economic structures. Our strategy for change includes ecumenical and interfaith partners. Our work crosses regional and global boundaries. Our faith drew us to this moment; we searched for ways to transform our own national economic structures, as we promote environmentally sustainable development. Colleagues Ampri Samosir, Patricia Mungcal, Rev Chi-Kang Chiang, and Rev Vavauni Ljalgajean who came to GEM awed us by forming a community, and presenting a joint project focusing on network building, regional sharing and advocacy in climate and economic justice in Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan. We saw the world through the eyes and experiences of our brothers and sisters. Their leadership provided a tangible example of the way in which our churches can lead in changing our societies by transforming economic structures to promote healing and communities of justice.


Our immersion experiences in Malaysia exposed us to the plight of migrants. Their stories spoke to the inequality of their existence as they now live in a new land. This inequality is caused by policy, governmental strictures, and judicial inequity. We visited the Parastoo Theater a “Refugee Problem Solving & Com-

munity Dialogue Theater of the Oppressed Troupe in Malaysia.” We heard women and men sharing their stories of escaping war and its trauma only to become oppressed refugees in another nation. This was a moving encounter as we learned the dual oppression experienced by refugees and women. We grieved the exploitation, exclusion and marginalization expe-

where the first become last and the last become first. Reparations is a commitment to repairing communities that have been devastated by economic injustice and exploitation. The Zac Tax is a global effort to transform international tax rules and procedures and equipping churches to advocate for more just societies.


It was an honor to be a part of GEM. This enriching experience will enable all of us to become even stronger advocates for economic justice, labor rights and the wellbeing of Creation. I encourage both laity and clergy to participate in this annual program.

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Story Submitted by The Rev. Dr. Larry D. Pickens, executive director of the Pennsylvania Council of Churches.

Register NOW for WMC 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.

Worship will feature world renowned speakers. Choose your program from the many academic sessions, seminars, meetings, receptions and tours as you complete the registration form. The exhibit hall will feature a variety of displays from around the world or you can choose to have a booth and pitch your own ideas.

Register NOW to receive the best attendee rate and hotel room choices.

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

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Participants Except Youth YYA - Young Adults Age of 18 - 35 Early Bird Until January 31, 2024 $349 $99 Super Saver February 1June 15, 2024 $449 $115 Regular June 16, 2024Conference $499 $135
Photo 34659486 | Sweden © Scanrail | Dreamstime.com

Official Tours/Cruise of the 22nd World Methodist Conference

Looking to make the most of your travel to Sweden for the 22nd World Methodist Conference? Look no further! There are five amazing trip options available to all Conference attendees with two Pre-Conference Tours, two Post-Conference Tours, and one Post-Conference Cruise!

Click on the individual tour/cruise links below to view detailed itineraries, or click HERE to view the main 22nd WMC Pre- & Post-Conference Tours & Cruise website.

Post-Conference Tours/Cruise

SilverSea Cruise & Tour | 18 August – 26 August 2024

Escorted by Bill Haire, Travelink Managing Partner

10-Day Sweden & Norway Tour | 18 August – 27 August 2024

8-Day Norway Tour | 19 August – 26 August 2024

Pre-Conference Tours

10-Day Sweden & Norway Tour | 03 August – 12 August 2024

8-Day Norway Tour | 05 August – 12 August 2024

The World Methodist Council has worked with Travelink to provide these exclusive travel offers for Conference registrants. They are similar to the travel offerings provided for previous World Methodist Conferences (i.e. Seoul, Brighton, Rio de Janeiro).

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On The Move

Second Consultation on Migration provides stories of struggle and survival

On September 4-7, 2023, a group of about 25 people representing various member churches of the World Methodist Council (WMC) and all the world regions gathered in Manila, Philippines. Hosted by the Global Ministries Regional Office and The United Methodist Church in the Philippines and meeting in Shalom Hotel in Malate, Manila, owned by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, also a member church of the WMC, the participants engaged in migration matters in preparation for the World Methodist Conference August 13-18, 2024, in Gothenburg, Sweden under the theme “On The Move.”

WMC President Rev Dr Jong Chun “JC” Park stated in his welcome speech: “The World Methodist Conference will gather next year with the theme ‘On the Move: Migration, Pilgrimage and Guiding Lights.’ Many people from the global South have been already crossing the abyssal line dividing metropolitan and colonial societies. They are on the move. Therefore, God is on the move with the people of God. Yes, the Church has to be on the move, too. This is the Kairos moment for a call to be the Church in a new way.”

Discussions at the Consultation were grounded in prayer, bible studies and theological reflections. In an interactive learning environment, participants listened to migrants and shared experiences of ministries with migrants and refugees in various parts of the world. Meeting in Asia, reports of advocacy and accompaniment of Filipino migrant workers, information on a Christian presence in the Middle East, on the tripartite network Churches Witnessing with Migrants and the situation of North Korean Refugees were received. An interactive map was created to capture challenges and opportunities for cooperation. Reports dealt with root causes like climate change, economic injustice, and armed conflicts.

WMC General Secretary Bishop Ivan M. Abraham summarizes his experiences: “The second consultation on Migration once again reaffirmed the people called Methodists were “on the move” in their response to migration wherever it occurs as a result of food insecurity, drought, violence or climate change. It was inspiring to hear what is happening in the ‘global parish’ - stories of struggle as well as some victories. The most heart rendering was listening to Methodists from the small island states who are not able to mitigate the effects of climate change and are forced to migrate.

What emerged from the consultation following the global pandemic is that everything in the world is interrelated; ‘if one nation sneezes we are all bound to catch a cold’. For this reason, ‘we must act and we must act now’”. In a statement, the Consultation urges the World Methodist Council and its member churches to dismantle past and present complicity in causing forced migration, to reimagine the Scriptural calling in which all welcomed as strangers, to live in solidarity with migrants and refugees and to actively engage in prayer and discernment in preparation for the 2024 World Methodist Conference. The Consultation also sends a resolution to the World Methodist Council, to keep global migration as a primary focus of learning, reflection, and action during the coming quinquennium.

Nussloch, Germany, September 18,2023

Story submitted by Rosemarie Wenner, World Methodist Council - Geneva Secretary

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Irish Pioneering spirit takes Methodism to America

The man described as “the founder of American Methodism” was Co Limerick-born Philip Embury, who died 250 years ago this month (the exact date is unknown). He was the main driving force behind the building of the first Wesleyan church in North America.

He was one of at least five children of Andreas Imberger, He was one of at least five children of

Andreas Imberger, who was a German Palatine immigrant into Limerick in 1709 (Sir Thomas Southwell settled substantial numbers of German Protestants from the German Palatinate on his Limerick estates), and was baptised on September 29th, 1728, into the Church of Ireland in Ballingrane, Co Limerick. He was educated in German in the Palatine community there and afterwards probably attended an English school in Rathkeale town, eventually becoming a carpenter by trade.

Philip Guier, the burgomaster (mayor) of Ballingrane, established a Methodist society there in 1749, which might have been Embury’s introduction to the teachings of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. In any event, he converted to that religion on Christmas Day 1752 and became a Methodist lay preacher in 1758. By then a Methodist chapel had been built in the centre of Courtmatrix village, one of the three original Southwell Palatine settlements near Rathkeale, and Embury most likely did the carpentry work

for this building.

He married Margaret Switzer at Halloween, 1758, when he was 30 and she 16 (her parents were Palatine tenant farmers at Courtmatrix). They were to have six children, only two of whom survived into adulthood: Samuel and Catherine.

Various reasons have been given for the Emburys’ decision to emigrate to America, such as rising rents and land scarcity, but the most plausible seems to be that they were part of a group of young Palatines who decided to establish a linen company there.

In June 1760, they sailed for New York on board the Pery, a voyage that took nine weeks. It’s said that Philip had to be carried ashore on arrival, due to illness, and there’s a chair in John Street Methodist Church in New York that tradition says was the one he was carried ashore on.

At first, he worked as a teacher while the group petitioned for land on which to build a factory for their linen and hempen business, and he and Margaret worshipped at Lutheran Church, Rector Street (now Cliff Street), where three of their children were baptised between 1761 and 1765.

Portraits of Philip and Margaret Embury, dated 1773, can be found at John Street United Methodist Church in New York.

Read more at here.

Story submitted by Vice President Gillian Kingston

World Methodist Council seeks General Secretary

The World Methodist Council is seeking a General Secretary to serve as the Chief Executive Officer for a five-year term commencing in August 2024.

The General Secretary and the Council President are the Principal Officers of the Council.

The General Secretary will promote the Vision and Mission of the World Methodist Council and maintain a focus for the Council in fulfilling its purposes as described in the Constitution; to encourage new initiatives and, with the Officers of the Council, to provide strong and effective leadership of the Methodist Council’s activities.

Applicants may be Lay or Ordained and will be a member in good standing with their respective

Church, which is a member Church of the Council. It is envisioned that the General Secretary will work from an office established in the Conference and/ or Church where they currently reside.

To request a copy of the Job Description, please e-mail office@worldmethodistcouncil.org

Applications Close on Friday, 1 December 2023

Council First Friday
Letter page

22nd World Methodist Conference

Gothenburg, Sweden 13-19 August

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 Monday, 23 October at communications@worldmethodistcouncil.org if you would like your story to be included in the October 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.

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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