|Church retains mission focus despite hard times (Pg. 2)|
Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (left) hugs United Methodist Bishop Gregory Palmer following the approval of a full communion agreement between the two denominations during the Lutheran body’s Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis. A UMNS photo ©2009 ELCA News Service.
In communion with others
On Aug. 20, the largest Lutheran body in the United States entered into full communion with The United Methodist Church, which had approved the agreement in 2008.
After the vote, Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America hugged Bishop Gregory Palmer, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, and thanked all who had labored in dialogue between the religious traditions founded by towering figures in Christian history—Martin Luther and John Wesley.
“You have taken up centuries of differences and found centuries of commonalities,” Hanson declared.
The two denominations also joined with Catholics at a spirit-filled Oct. 1 service in Chicago to celebrate an historic agreement on justification by faith—how individuals are forgiven and brought into a right relationship with God. The three groups vowed to move toward greater unity.
Bishop Minerva Carcaño marches Feb. 28
in Phoenix with demonstrators to protest crackdowns on illegal immigrants by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert.
United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño of Phoenix helped launch a national interfaith campaign for humane immigration reform, declaring at a Feb. 11 press conference in Washington that people of faith “cannot and will not stand by in silence while young people die, families are separated, individual freedoms are ignored, and the immigrant community in the U.S. is treated unjustly and inhumanely.
Prayer vigils on immigration reform followed across the country during the Feb. 13-22 Congressional recess. Later that month, Carcaño and other United Methodists joined in a solidarity march against alleged abuses of power by Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Phoenix related to the detention of immigrants.
In November and December, houses of worship in Arkansas, Iowa, Ohio and Texas were holding special prayer services to press Congress to pass immigration reform that keeps families together—part of a larger campaign sponsored by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition.
United Methodists were among the nearly 30 top leaders of Christian, Jewish and Islamic organizations who gathered July 7 at the U.S. Capitol for a day of dialogue and planning on health care reform. “We must speak on behalf of the poor and marginalized here in the halls of power,” said Jim Winkler, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, one of the event’s sponsors.
Three United Methodist pastors participated in an Aug. 19 live Webcast call-in forum on health care reform aimed at the faith community. The call, which featured President Obama and drew more than 140,000 listeners, launched a “40 Days for Health Reform” campaign to ask people of faith to press Congress to finish work on a health plan.
The denomination is embarking on a new campaign to fight malaria, Imagine No Malaria, with a public launch set for the next World Malaria Day—April 25, 2010. The fundraising goal of $75 million will expand grassroots programs like Nothing But Nets and develop more comprehensive efforts to promote prevention and education activities, strengthen health delivery systems and train health care workers to more effectively treat the disease.
Dealing with disaster
Floodwaters submerge homes in the Riverview section of Fargo, N.D. A UMNS photo by Patsy Lynch, FEMA.
In Africa, United Methodists continued to respond to the political, economic and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, keeping church-related hospitals and clinics open. The United Methodist Committee on Relief coordinated emergency relief efforts through The United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe and other groups.
In the United States, the swollen Red River left residents in the Dakotas and Minnesota scrambling to stop floodwaters in late March.
The Rev. Rich Zeck, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Fargo, N.D., was exhausted after spending 10 days bagging sand for the emergency dikes. “We are tired, but the saying here is ‘God is good and so is Advil,’” he said when reached by telephone. “Everyone is tired, but I am amazed that whenever a call is put out for volunteers, we have more than we need and we keep responding.”
People struggle over mattresses at a
camp for internally displaced people in northern Pakistan. A UMNS photo
courtesy of Church World Service.
UMCOR worked with Church World Service and Muslim Aid over the spring and summer to assist the 2 million Pakistanis who fled the Swat Valley during fighting there between government forces and the Taliban.
Those celebrating the July 24 grand opening of the UMCOR’s new office and resource warehouse in the Philippines, based on the campus of Union Theological Seminary in Cavite, did not know the office would soon be assisting Filipinos as they dealt with the consequences of multiple typhoons over the fall.
The United Methodist Council of Bishops issued a Churchwide Appeal for Philippines Disasters on Nov.19 in response to the multiple typhoons that have struck the country. UMCOR was distributing emergency supplies to more than 11,000 displaced families.
The United Methodist Church’s top court ruled in April that Southern Methodist University could lease campus property for the George W. Bush presidential library, museum and public policy institute, saying the agreement does not violate church law. Critics opposed to many policies of the Bush administration, including the war in Iraq, argued placing the institute on university property would be inconsistent with church teaching.
At its October meeting, the Judicial Council ruled that the Baltimore-Washington Annual (regional) Conference went too far in adopting its own sexuality statement, which declared “a more authentic and truthful representation of The United Methodist Church” is that “we disagree” on gay and lesbian issues.
The court said that while such statements can be “aspirational in nature,” an annual conference “may not negate, ignore or violate” the Book of Discipline, “even when the disagreements are based upon conscientious objections.
In the company of bishops
A new bishop—the Rev. Christian Alsted, 48, a pastor from Copenhagen, Denmark—was elected in February to succeed retiring Bishop Øystein Ølsen in the Nordic and Baltic Area.
Three retired bishops died in 2009: Bishop Melvin E. Wheatley, Jr., 93, of Laguna Woods, Calif., on March 1; Bishop Ole Edvard Borgen, 83, of Norway, on March 24; and Bishop Eugene M. Frank, 101, of Kansas City on Oct. 13.
Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster of Western North Carolina was elected in November as the next president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops and Bishop Rosemarie Wenner of Germany was designated as president-elect.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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