Delegates offer proposal for church unity

General Conference delegates and other United Methodists from the central conferences — church regions in Africa, Europe and the Philippines — released Dec. 19 what they are calling "A Christmas Covenant: Our Gift of Hope."

The covenant deplores "calls to dissolve or dismember The United Methodist Church, to liquidate its assets and distribute them to the highest bidder."

"Such plans are harmful to the Body of Christ through whom people of faith seek to connect and live in gracious relationships," the covenant continues.

Instead, the covenant proposes the following actions:

  • Suspension of all actions furthering any dissolution or separation plans and liquidation and distribution of the assets of The United Methodist Church.
  • Formation of a U.S. regional conference.
  • Establishment of legislative equality for central conferences and U.S. jurisdictions.

"The Christmas Conference of 1784 gave birth to the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States," Ulanday, a General Conference delegate and pastor in the Philippines, said in a press release.

In addition to Ulanday, signers include two other 2020 General Conference delegates from Congo and Liberia as well as four reserve delegates, who hail from Norway, the Philippines and South Congo. The signers also include district superintendents, seminary faculty, conference staff and deaconesses.

The covenant comes as various proposals to separate or dissolve the multinational denomination head to General Conference. The church's top lawmaking body will next meet May 5-15, 2020, in Minneapolis.

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Ulanday, on behalf of a Filipino United Methodist group, has submitted legislation calling for unity and supporting the regional conference idea.

The Christmas Covenant makes no mention of the denominational divided issues, and the signers have a variety of perspectives. However, the covenant affirms the denomination's common ground in mission.

In making the case for church unity, the covenant cites both the African concept of ubuntu and the Filipino concept of bayanihan. Ubuntu refers to a way of life that recognizes human interdependence. Bayanihan refers to the community spirit and cooperation to achieve communal goals.

The Rev. Hilde Marie Movafagh, a reserve General Conference delegate and seminary professor from Norway, said the denomination's global connection is important — especially in contexts where United Methodists are very much the minority.

"Breaking that connection is unhealthy both for Americans and people from the central conferences," she said. "We need each other because we bring different perspectives to the table. We do ministry together (like Norway does with many African annual conferences), and we interpret what our Methodist heritage is in our different contexts, and therefore we form a Methodist identity together for our time."

excerpt from a story by Heather Hahn, multimedia news reporter, UMNS

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