|Proposed Social Creed seeks global acceptance|
The Rev. Grace Cajiuat leads singing of the musical version of the proposed new United Methodist Social Creed during an Aug. 9-11 consultation in Tagaytay City, Philippines. UMNS photos by Kathy L. Gilbert.
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Sept. 20, 2007 | WASHINGTON (UMNS)
Fresh off its world tour, a "user-friendly" United Methodist Social Creed faces its biggest audience next spring in its bid to become the church's "roadmap to making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."
A small task force of six under the leadership of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society has been working on a 2008 Social Creed to replace the revised 1972 version.
The original creed was written in 1908 as a denominational statement decrying child labor and supporting the economic rights of workers, better workplace conditions, better wages and worker safety.
The 2004 United Methodist General Conference designated the period of 2005-2008 as a time of celebration, education and study of the Social Creed and Social Principles leading up to the 100th anniversary of the 1908 Social Creed.
As part of that celebration, the Board of Church and Society took on the task of writing a contemporary, timeless version to offer for future generations.
Lizette Tapia-Raquel sings a musical version of the creed composed by Carol Simpson, a seminary student in California.
The final document was presented and approved at the directors meeting of the Board of Church and Society held Sept. 13-16. The creed now goes to the 2008 General Conference, the denomination's top legislative body, which meets April 23-May 2 in Fort Worth, Texas.
The Book of Discipline, the denomination's book of law, recommends the Social Creed be emphasized regularly in every congregation and used frequently in Sunday worship.
However, even Bishop Susan Morrison acknowledged that she wasn't sure what the creed said or where it could be found when she was asked to chair the task force.
"My experience is that is what has happened to the Social Creed. I have used it, but it wasn't part of me," she said. "One of the first decisions we made as a task force was to make it user-friendly."
On the road
Another priority was to make sure a new Social Creed reflects the global nature of the church. The task force took a draft to Europe, Africa and the Philippines for feedback and suggestions.
The first stop was last March in Oslo, Norway. The five European United Methodist bishops chose 12 delegates to attend.
"There were moments when I literally felt a chill at the joy of being in a setting with our sisters and brothers from across Europe and Euro-Asia and hearing them dialogue about this Social Creed," said Bishop Jane Allen Middleton, who began chairing the task force when Morrison retired in 2006.
"To be given the opportunity to discuss the Social Creed from a European perspective was both useful and interesting," said Bishop Øystein Olsen, episcopal leader for the Nordic and Baltic Area. "I was inspired by the level of enthusiasm and the knowledge among the participants, and look forward to seeing a global perspective in the final draft."
The second consultation was held May 25-26 in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, where 36 participants from across the African Central Conferences gathered to review the text.
The Rev. Alan Delamater recites the contemporary version of the Social Creed before its approval by the church's social advocacy agency.
The consultation so inspired Albert Tyre that the composer and organist from Sierra Leone stayed up all night to compose an accompanying musical arrangement.
"It was a great encounter we all had in Kinshasa, and that has made a lot of difference in our lives," Tyre said. "We Africans have been so excited about the Social Creed more especially as it has been put into a song we could be singing."
Nathanael Arnel De Pano, a songwriter and musical director at Kamuning First United Methodist Church, Quezon City, Philippines, said he liked the idea of a more "reader-friendly, easier-to-digest" Social Creed.
"I like the collegial and consistent building style the participants have taken," he said of the Aug. 9-11 consultation held in Tagaytay City, Philippines. "Everyone is prepared to put forth a draft that is representative of the general disposition of the Philippines conference."
"At the three consultations, every time we got to the music was the most exciting time," said the Rev. Grace Cajiuat, a musician, conductor and associate pastor at Appleton (Wis.) First United Methodist Church. "Everyone got more excited about the Social Creed after experiencing it set to music."
The musical version, which was presented to the group in the Philippines and the directors meeting in Washington, was written by Carol Simpson, a 23-year-old music graduate attending Claremont School of Theology and serving as director of contemporary music and outreach ministries at Glendora (Calif.) United Methodist Church.
Her version is written in a "call and response" style. "I have attempted to create unity by choosing a melody and rhythm that all cultures can embrace," she said.
Bishop Jane Middleton presents the revised creed to directors of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society
The task force will send the creed to other musicians in hopes of receiving different arrangements in a variety of genres including jazz, hip-hop, gospel and rock 'n' roll.
The United Methodist Social Creed has been the inspiration for other faith traditions to develop their own creeds including the National Council of Churches, according to Morrison.
The new creed is poetic and follows the sequence of the Social Principles from the natural community to the world community.
"It is written as marching orders for social holiness," said Rev. Mike McKee, a task force member. "If you read the document closely, you will see some phrases that are familiar to you from great hymns and Scripture."
The ending phrases are from Jesus' first public sermon in the Book of Luke. McKee notes that those same verses also were used by Methodism founder John Wesley to describe the character of the itinerant pastor.
"I can't tell you how profoundly we have felt the movement of the Holy Spirit in our midst," Middleton said. "Obviously we had a lot of choices from many recommendations over the last few years. But as we worked with the final language, it truly felt it was coming together as a wonderful whole."
Morrison said approving a new creed could be an important milestone at the upcoming General Conference.
"... If in the end we can approve a Social Creed that becomes part of the DNA of the future generations' faith stories, praise the Lord," she said.
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
Bishop Susan Morrison on her dream for the proposed Social Creed
Nathanel Arnel DePano on a revised creed's possible uses
Philippine participants singing the proposed creed
A Social Creed you can sing? Revision aims for broad usage
Social Creed gets European flavor at consultation
General Conference 2004, Part 3: Our Social Creed's Centennial
Social Principles: Our Prophetic Voice
Proposed Social Creed
Our Social Creed
1908 Methodist Social Creed
Board of Church and Society
2008 General Conference