September 2022 First Friday Letter

Page 1

First Friday Letter The World Methodist Council

September 2022

Greetings from the General Secretary Dear Friends, We have just completed a very inspiring and productive Steering Committee Meeting in Stuttgart hosted by Bishop Rosemarie Wenner of the Evangelical Methodist Church in Germany. Many members of the Steering Committee then traveled to Karlsruhe, Germany, to participate in the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) under a timely and appropriate theme, “Christ’s loves moves the world to reconciliation and unity.” Reconciliation and Unity was very much the theme of our Steering Committee Meeting. In his opening address, President Dr. JC Park noted, “Since February 24, 2002, we have entered the era of a new Cold War in the midst of the unprecedented double jeopardy of the pandemic and climate change.” He further observed, “We are facing an unholy alliance of Christianity and political power in the context of nationalism, populism, and new forms of totalitarianism…” At the Steering Committee, we lamented that we were into the sixth month of the war in Ukraine but noted that the United Nations listed 51 places in the world where violence and war continue to rage. Despite the Korean armistice agreement signed 69 years ago, we acknowledged that the parties on the Korean Peninsula remain technically at war and, therefore, we endorsed the Korea Peace Appeal to collect 100 million signatures “calling for an end to the Korean War and a transition from armistice to peace” before the 70th Anniversary on July 27, 2023. The Rev. WP Ebenezer Joseph of the Methodist Church Sri Lanka was named as the 2023 Methodist Peace Award recipient. Read more about him in this edition. Highlights of the Steering Committee and the WCC will also feature in the upcoming editions of the First Friday Letter. Addressing the WCC Assembly, Moderator Dr. Agnes Abuom, reflecting on the churches’ mission, witness and unity, said, “Jesus’ compassion for stigmatized minorities, for those for whom little compassion is visible today, will challenge us and our churches to metanonia, to conversion, to the renewal of our minds and hearts so that we may become in tomorrow’s world a countercultural force driven by solidarity with the most vulnerable towards the survival of God’s creation, for which so many young people are anxiously struggling today in Germany and in many parts of the world.” In his report, the WCC Acting General Secretary identified three issues facing the world today, namely, Climate Justice and Racial Justice as well as the issue of Human Sexuality. He argued that while churches are deeply divided on the issue of human, “What we all can agree, however, is the need to respect the dignity of every human being, to defend and affirm human rights for all, to condemn any violence or verbal or physical aggression, and to affirm that every human being is created in God’s image.” The next WCC assembly in 2030 will coincide with the time left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The WCC renewed its pledge to work with governments and civil society to see that these goals are achieved. On September 1, 250 Methodist delegates to the WCC met at a Confessional meeting. Here the words of Wesley, “the world is my parish” took on new meaning as we heard the hopes, dreams and aspiration of Methodists from across the globe. Bishop Christian Alsted also took the opportunity to invite delegates to the WMC Conference22 in Gothenburg, Sweden. These are exciting times for the World Methodist Council and Global Methodism. I trust that our best days are ahead of us. Strong leadership and new energy combined with the guiding hand of God will provide us with a bright future. Grace and Peace Ivan Abrahams World Methodist Council

First Friday Letter page 1


Steering Committee plans for 2024 The World Methodist Council Steering Committee met in Stuttgart, Germany at the UMC Center for its annual meeting in August 2022. The program of work included continuing planning for the 2024 Conference to be held in Gothenburg Sweden with the theme on the move. And members of the Steering Committee were joined by the host/program committee. The nine Standing Committees and three Affiliate Chairs reported on accomplishments and plans for the future. Special attention was paid to upcoming nominations, new patterns of working, the importance of continuity as new leadership will begin in the next quinquennium and a number of urgent issues were addressed.

Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett (left) leads morning worship. President J.C. Park (right) chairs the work of the group. Steering Committee (bottom) learns about local Stuttgart church’s program emphases.

World Methodist Council

First Friday Letter page 2


2023 Peace Award goes to Sri Lankan Methodist The Rev W. P. Ebenezer Joseph of the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka was named as the World Methodist 2023 Peace Award Recipient at its Steering Committee Meeting by the World Methodist Council. Rev Joseph’s (Ebey, as he is known to family and friends) life and ministry has been, and consistently continues to be a journey of courage and creativity. For many years, and at great personal cost he has called out injustice and been on side of the oppressed and marginalized in Sri Lanka. He is a fearless advocate f or justice and continues to work relentlessly to bring people together for peace. He has worked across religion, race and ethnicity.

The Rev. W. P. Ebenezer Joseph named 2023 Peace Award Winner

“Life is fragile and trust is broken in so many areas of our world,” said WMC General Secretary Ivan Abrahams in announcing Rev. Joseph. “It is in these places that the voice and leadership of those like Rev. Joseph are so important. It is an honor to announce him as this year’s recipient. Work such as this inspires us all as we struggle to be the voice of the speechless.”

For Ebey, courage and creativity have gone hand in hand. Over many years, in a highly complex and fragile political situation he has needed to find imaginative ways to build peace; using his skills as a peace maker and diplomat he has sought to create unlikely alliances and to build relationships across formerly conflicted divides. Often at great personal risk, he has sought to be a voice for peace and a creative activist drawing fractured communities together. 1983 saw horrendous race riots in Sri Lanka and many minority Tamils were mercilessly murdered, their property looted and destroyed. Ebey had to endure the indignity of being confined in a burning building for two hours and thereafter living in a refugee camp for nearly three weeks. Rather than taking the opportunity to leave the country like many Sri Lankans, Ebey chose to remain in Sri Lanka and work for peace and reconciliation. He restored the work at Colombo City Mission, which was also burnt down during the riots, and continued to Work for Integration of the Sinhala and Tamil Communities in the slums around Pettah from While the dates move forward, his leadership and voice never wavered but continue to be strong. As tensions between the Muslim and Tamil communities were high, and confrontations between the militants and the military had disrupted normal life, Ebey facilitated local religious leaders to form the Kalmunai peace foundation, which successfully built trust and understanding among the different communities. His efforts continue! The criteria of the Peace Award calls on the nominees to address the courage, creativity and consistency of the person they are proposing. In all cases, continuing and active involving others as well as oneself must be displayed to be considered for the Award. The recipients of the World Methodist Council Peace Prize can be found on www.worldmethodistcouncil. org. These people give witness to a global network of peacemakers. None of these persons worked alone. They were and are all part of a community of saints that inspired, nourished, and supported them, as much as they encouraged others. Let us follow their examples as we follow Christ Jesus, for “he is our peace; in his flesh he has…broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.” In Christ, we are “no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2, 14 and 19, NRSV)

World Methodist Council

First Friday Letter page 3


WFMUCW holds 14th Assembly The 14th World Assembly of the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women (WFMUCW) took place virtually over a period of six days 9th to 14th August 2022 exploring the theme ‘Go and bear fruit, fruit that will last’ (John 15:16). Each day, women from each of the nine geographical Areas met individually or in groups to connect online via Zoom. Devotions and reports were provided by each Area, bible study was led by Jill Baker from Britain and our keynote address was from Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, currently based in Lesotho, Southern Africa. We were greatly encouraged to meet the new Helen Kim Memorial Scholars, two young women from each Area, who have been given leadership training and are committed to engaging fully in the life of the World Federation for the next four years at least. While our online Assembly precluded the opportunity for physical meeting, we took advantage of gathering in virtual breakout rooms several times during the week. A team of translators coordinated by Don Reasoner enabled participation in six languages in addition to English. The technical requirements were

supplied by PH Productions based in Britain. We were greatly blessed throughout the Assembly by the ministry of Rev Dr Amelia Koh-Butler, as music director, who with Bishop Rosemarie Wenner led our closing worship at which we commissioned our new World and Area Officers. They will serve in their roles until the end of our 15th World Assembly in 2026. Our new World President is Mrs Sipiwe Chisvo from Methodist Church in Zimbabwe; World Vice-President Mrs Ivonne Pereira Diaz from Chile; World Secretary Mrs Louise Wilson from Ireland; World Treasurer Mrs Ngui Ting from Hong Kong. Please continue to support us with your prayers as we pursue our action plan based on the Sustainable Development Goals. All 14th World Assembly sessions and workshop videos can be viewed on our dedicated YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/WFMUCW Please also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Submitted by Alison Judd, President Emerita 20222026

Sipiwe Chisvo was blessed by her Presiding Bishop, her Superintendent minister and others as she was commissioned as the new World President.

World Methodist Council

First Friday Letter page 4


Prevenient Grace at work in Romania As Wesleyan Methodist people, we know it is by God’s grace that we recognize our brokenness, long for something more, and learn from Christians who show us God’s love by word and example. John Wesley called this prevenient grace. When Ukraine was attacked, the world watched in horror as communities were destroyed, innocent people were injured and killed, and thousands sought refuge. As people fled their war-torn country, the church was there to receive them. Rev. Cristian Istrate along with members of Light From Light Methodist Church in Sibiu and others in the Romanian Methodist Church, are working to help families and orphaned children who have escaped the war. Rev. Cristian and so many others are walking beside the Ukrainian people, sheltering them, befriending them, helping them navigate a different language, trying to bring peace and understanding, and lovingly caring for them during this tragic time. And they will continue to do so for the days and months ahead. This is our calling from Christ. Recently these partners participated in one of the biggest humanitarian aid operations yet, and in the midst of the war zone. Here is the testimony of a team that risked their lives delivering aid “It was a very difficult trip to the city of Nykovaiv, due to constant shelling, but thank God everything is fine! We were able to touch about 3000 people with our help! Thanks to the pastors and ministers of Nikolaev churches for the organization and the warm welcome! Thanks to our church brothers and sisters for your ministry! Thank you to our partners! God bless Ukraine!” Rev. Cristian Istrate is on the team of Regional Secretaries with World Methodist Evangelism. To read about all the happenings, follow Light From Light Methodist Church in Sibiu, Romania and UMC Romania on Facebook. To support the Together For Ukraine efforts through World Methodist Evangelism, click here (Here is the link – https://worldmethodist.org/donate/ukraine/)

Rev. Cristian Istrate worshipping to children. World Methodist Council

First Friday Letter page 5


IAMSCU Human Rights Network Meets in Sweden The Human Rights Network of the International Association of Methodist Scholls, Colleges, and Universities (IAMSCU) brings together various scholars and institutions working on issues such as human rights, conflict resolution, peace, and social justice. Scholars from institutions such as Universidad del Centro Latinoamericano – UCEL – (Argentina), Southlands College/Roehampton University (England), Soochow University (Taiwan), Emory University (United States), Africa University (Zimbabwe), and many other schools, colleges, and universities are part of this network. IAMSCU and its Human Rights Network were part of the conversations to prepare the World Methodist Council’s Conference planned for Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2021. With the postponement of the WMC Conference, the IAMSCU Board of Directors and the IAMSCU Human Rights Network decided to maintain the idea of meeting in Sweden and planned an in-person meeting in Stockholm, Sweden, hosted by the University College Stockholm (UCS), which is related to the United Church of Sweden. The event will be held on September 8-10, 2022, and will include presentations and discussions on Human Rights in the Wesleyan tradition, the rights of indigenous peoples in Scandinavia with a special focus on the Sámi Peoples, war and conflict resolution in Europe, and applications of Human Rights to contemporary environmental issues, especially the challenges of global anthropogenic climate change. The University College Stockholm / Enskilda Högskolan Stockholm (UCS) is one of the leading institutions of higher education in Northern Europe, focusing on the domains of theology and human rights. It consists of Stockholm School of Theology and Stockholm School of Human Rights and Democracy. UCS offers degrees both at undergraduate and graduate levels (B.A./B.Th, M.A./M.Th., Th.D.) and courses in Swedish and English. For more information on UCS and the International Seminar on Human Rights, please contact Prof. Dr. Kjell-Åke Nordquist (kjell-ake.nordquist@ths.se).

Education Committee Partners Meet 2022 is an important year for Methodist Education! At the invitation of The Rev. Dr. Greg Bergquist, General Secretary of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM), various organizations will be meeting together in Nashville, TN, in the United States during the week of October 1-7, 2022 to mark the importance of this year. During this week, they will be celebrating a series of important dates and achievements: GBHEM’s 50th anniversary, the Black College Fund’s 50th Anniversary, IAMSCU’s 30th Anniversary, and the WMC Education Committee’s 30th Anniversary. GBHEM was founded as the Methodist Board of Education in 1866, but then in 1972 it became the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church. Thus, this year “GBHEM” is celebrating its Semicentennial. The Black College Fund build on a long tradition as well, inheriting the legacy of the Freedmen’s Aid Society, which was established in 1866. This organization has been transformed along with other historical processes such as Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights Movement; so after 1968, this initiative was changed once again, leading to the establishment of BCF in 1972 to serve 11 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Building on activities it has been promoting since 2016, EduC will also promote a special session discussing the importance of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the United States. Professor Dennis Dickerson will speak on his new book, The African Methodist Episcopal Church: A History and focus on the educational contribution the AME through institutions such as Wilberforce University, Payne College, and others. This event will take place on October 3, 2022. The AME Christian Education Department is also headquartered in Nashville, TN, USA. We hope to continue the work it initiated under the leadership of Dr. Daryl Ingram, long-term member of EduC. The World Methodist Council (WMC) was established in 1881 and its Education Committee was created in 1991, during the WMC World Conference held in Singapore. IAMSCU was founded in 1991 as well and has extended the celebrations of its 30th anniversary between 2021 and 2023, culminating with its international conference to be held at Kingswood School. For more details on these events to be held in Nashville, TN on October 1-7, 2022, please contact Amos Nascimento: anascimento@gbhem.org World Methodist Council

First Friday Letter page 6


Wesley House Appoints Editor Wesley House Cambridge is pleased to announce the appointment of Joseph Powell as the Editor of our free online journal, Holiness. The Principal of Wesley House, The Revd Dr Jane Leach, said of the appointment: “We are delighted that Joseph will be joining the team in succession to The Revd Dr Richard Clutterbuck. We look forward to seeing Joseph build on the journal’s success and taking it forward and deepening connections with individuals and communities the world over.” Joseph is in the finishing stages of PhD within the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge where his research primarily explores Rastafarian spirituality, theology and ecotheology. Joseph has had several articles been published in international journals including an examination of Rastafari dietary practices in Black Theology and an exploration of Rastafari attitudes towards Covid-19 in the Caribbean Studies Association Journal. During his time in Cambridge he also served as editor for the Faculty journal Noesis.

Joseph Powell Editor of the Holiness Journal

As well as his research Joseph serves as a disability mentor at Cambridge’s Disability Resource Centre, a supervisor on several undergraduate theology papers at the University and also lectures at Newman University in Birmingham.

Joseph said, “I’m thrilled to be joining Holiness at such an important juncture in the journal’s development and can’t wait to get started aiding the world leading research within it reach as many as possible. The immediately warm and welcoming community within Wesley House I’ve had the privilege of experiencing thus far has made this all the more delightful!” Wesley House is a community of Methodist scholars and students at the heart of the University city of Cambridge that was founded 100 years ago. It was a founding member of the Cambridge Theological Federation, an ecumenical grouping of 12 theological institutes in Cambridge.

The World Council of Churches 11th Assembly has begun in Karlsruhe, Germany with a number of World Methodist Council representatives involved, including Bishop Ivan Abrahams and President Rev. Dr. J.C. Park.

Pictured at the 11th World Council of Churches Assembly are Bishop Rosemarie Wenner - WMC Geneva Secretary, Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay - WCC newly elected General Secretary, Bishop Ivan Abrahams - WMC General Secretary, Bishop Mary Ann Swenson - WCC Central Committee (left to right) World Methodist Council

First Friday Letter page 7


CCA trains leaders as Young Ambassadors of Peace The week-long training programme, Young Ambassadors of Peace in Asia (YAPA), organised by the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), was held from 7 to 14 August 2022 at the CCA Headquarters, in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The focus of the YAPA–2022 was ‘Youth as Catalysts for Peace with Justice in Asia’. Twenty-six prospective young peace activists from various faith traditions across Asia who aspire to build just, peaceful, and harmonious communities attended the training. The interactive sessions and thematic presentations were designed to enable the young participants to take the role as positive actors and catalysts of change in peacebuilding processes, while also strengthening their engagement in peacebuilding amidst conflicts, violence, and human rights violations in Asia. The issues and themes covered during the weeklong training included ‘Religious and Cultural Identities: The Roots of Ethnoreligious Conflicts in Asia’, ‘Peace and Reconciliation: Religious and Ethnic Intersections’, ‘Peace and Reconciliation: Communal and Geopolitical Intersections’, ‘Peacebuilding: Concepts, Principles, Framework’, ‘Conflict Mediation: Dialogue, Collaboration, and Resolution’, ‘Conflict Prevention: Early Warning and Prevention Mechanisms’, ‘Conflict Transformation: Post Conflict Trauma Healing, Reconciliation, and Rebuilding Community Trust’, ‘Non-violence: Ontological, Epistemological, and Ethical Dimensions’, ‘Non-Violence as Spirituality in Action’, Education for Peace’, ‘Organising Locally for Peacebuilding: Potentials for Civil Society Organisations’, ‘ Interfaith Perspectives on Peace and Harmony’, ‘Emerging Geopolitical Tensions in Asia: Pathways to Peacebuilding’, and ‘Ambassadors of Peacebuilding in Asia: Towards a New Culture of Peace among Asian Youth’. Among the resource persons for YAPA–2022 were Lian Gogali (Indonesia), Dr M.P. Mathai (India), Dr Rey-

naldo Racaza Ty (The Philippines), Dr Le Ly (Vietnam), Venerable Dr Thippanakorn Lee (Thailand), and Dr Mathews George Chunakara, CCA General Secretary. The visit to the Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University (MCU) Campus in Chiang Mai and the dialogue with Venerable Dr Thippanakorn Lee, of MCU, offered the participants an opportunity to learn about Buddhist principles of peace and a way of living that promotes harmony with oneself and the environment— rather than a religion. A statement prepared by the participants and presented at the valedictory session of the programme affirmed: “We express our commitment to work for building and living in a peaceful, diverse, multilingual, and multi-religious Asia and the world. We resolve to educate ourselves with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to promote peace and be nonviolent in all approaches, be active actors in peacebuilding in ways that prioritise community needs and perspectives and use ‘do no harm’ principles, to work for peace, justice, and inclusion of the many…”. “We work towards a long-term process to eliminate structural violence; promote equality and justice, focus on education for peace that will encourage independent thinking, open its doors to new ideas for peace with justice, and holistically engage with dignified human beings in all their local wisdom for global peace…”, the statement continued. YAPA is an annual programme initiated by CCA in 2016 to train young peace activists in an interfaith perspective. The YAPA–2022 was attended by young people belonging to Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu religions. The full text of the YAPA–2022 statement prepared by the students can be found here: YAPA–2022 Students’ Declaration

YAPA-2022 participants on the Payap University Campus, the venue of the programme World Methodist Council

First Friday Letter page 8


Connection is key in Kentucky Disaster Response Throughout the August 5 tour of flood-ravaged Eastern Kentucky, Bishop Leonard Fairley and Disaster Response Coordinator Jim Morse stressed the importance and advantages of the connectional nature of the United Methodist Church. But it goes way beyond the UMC. Morse and his various district coordinators who comprise the Kentucky Annual Conference’s Disaster Response Ministry are part of VOAD, the Volunteers Active in Natural Disasters. That means that during a disaster, United Methodists led by UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, end up serving closely with 60 other organizations, among them the International Red Cross, the Southern Baptist Convention, Mennonite Disaster Service, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Catholic Charities USA, and Latter-Day Saint Charities. And that doesn’t even include the various local, state and national government agencies and emergency responders. During stops at the Methodist Mountain Mission and several UMC churches, Morse and Fairley reinforced the importance of both communication and the importance of coming together during an emergency. UMCOR strongly believes that cooperation is a crucial part of a successful response to a disaster. “That takes on a difference face with different disasters,” Morse said in an interview, adding that no one group is going to be able to do everything. “In disaster response, we can’t afford to be a silo.” One of the stories he related at different stops on August 5 was a request from Clay County Emergency Management for 500 flood buckets. Methodist Mountain Mission didn’t have enough, but through VOAD, Morse knew that the Latter-Day Saints had delivered 2,000 buckets to the Community Center in Prestonsburg, which the Christian Appalachian Project was operating. The Mountain Mission provided a truck, and they got the 500 buckets delivered. (Hindman UMC also initially received some LDS flood buckets, church member-volunteer Linda Gayheart said. Fairley’s group brought about three dozen on August 5, then as promised, Mountain Mission delivered another 300 on August 6.) Morse said he believes the Conference is gradually getting better at responding to disasters, partly by planning for them before they happen. Things go much more smoothly if local churches establish their own disaster response ministry, which includes forging relationships with local first responders. “I like to think that we’re getting better,” he said, adding that one big reason is because churches recognize that disaster response is not just a response – it’s also a ministry.

Bishop Leonard Fairley helping unload flood buckets at Hindman UMC, Hindman, KY - By Connie Offutt World Methodist Council

Methodist Mountain Mission, Jackson, KY - By Connie Offutt First Friday Letter page 9


SCRAP Weapons’ Global Conference

SCRAP Weapons, a disarmament project housed at SOAS University of London, and the Inter-Parliamentary Union invite you to a Conference on Activating a United Nations Special Session on Disarmament, taking place on 6th September 2022 at SOAS University, as well as via zoom. Join governments and United Nations officials, international disarmament organisations, religious institutions and women leaders and peacebuilders in forming a global movement that requests the UN to start effectively advancing the agenda of general and complete disarmament. Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and use of nuclear threats have horrified the world, and emphasised the risks inherent to proliferation of conventional arms and nuclear weapons. Before this, the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that governments have failed to invest sufficiently in public health infrastructure, while prioritising spending on military World Methodist Council

modernisation, procurement and operations. We are requesting the UN General Assembly to bring forward a resolution with the objective of convening a UN Special Session on Disarmament and appealing to states to harness their capabilities to achieve sustainable, verified and irreversible disarmament. Sign here our Call for Action. For further information on the hybrid conference and to see the programme, visit SCRAP Weapons’ Register to attend in person: https://www.eventbrite. com/e/activating-a-un-special-session-on-disarmament-tickets-361820564047 Register to attend via zoom: https://soas-ac-uk.zoom. us/webinar/register/WN_V2cmiI0ATKK0nvoXa2a0HA First Friday Letter page 10


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, 19 September 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

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. The World Methodist Council’s Conference website is at worldmethodistconference.org. To subscribe to this newsletter, please email communications@worldmethodistcouncil.org.

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.

Follow the Council on social media!! Twitter @WMCouncil

World Methodist Council

Facebook @World Methodist Council

Instagram @wmcouncil

First Friday Letter page 11