Relationship Matters:  Methodist churches around the world in search for unity

“Our unity makes us strong,” said Peter Cibuabua from Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo at the Young People’s Address.

Here at the General Conference, The United Methodist Church is experiencing differences in our expression of faith, so we need to make real healing and unity happen.

What makes our unity possible?  Healing and unity happen when we build relationships with one another with mutual respect as partners in ministry.  

Affiliated Autonomous Methodist, Affiliated United Churches and Concordat Churches around the world came to the General Conference affirming the need of mutual acceptance and respect as part of the Wesley Methodist family.

Delegates and Representatives from Affiliated Autonomous Methodist Church

Thirty some delegates and other representatives from the Affiliated Autonomous Methodist churches are present here in Portland as part of the General Conference, which is meeting from May 10 through May 20.

These are the churches located outside the boundaries of the jurisdictional conferences and which have entered into relationship with or have agreements with The United Methodist Church (The 2012 Book of Discipline Paragraph 570).  They are churches with Concordat agreements (the Caribbean and the Americas, Great Britain, Mexico and Puerto Rico), Affiliated Autonomous Churches, including churches from Latin America and Asia, and Affiliated United Churches, including the United Church in Japan (Kyodan).

Pre-General Conference Consultation on Methodist Relationships

In fact, these churches gathered over the weekend before the General Conference started.  At the gathering, they prayed, “We come with a daring hope before God. We pray for the Spirit of God to make us one.”  This Pre-General Conference Consultation on Methodist Relationships was jointly sponsored by the Council of Bishops Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships (OCUIR) and General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM).

Bishop Mary Ann Swenson sees this pre-conference as a beginning to discuss a new way to work together and strengthen our Methodist relationships.  She says, “The Council of Bishops Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships will work together with these churches to build stronger relationships in the future.”

Tracy Merrick, who helped organize the consultation, says that as a result of the consultation the Affiliated Autonomous Methodist and United Churches are expecting there will be an appropriate way to build deeper relationships over the next quadrennium.

Common Wesleyan heritage

These churches share a common Wesleyan heritage with The United Methodist Church.  We share our Christian belief in grace, justification, assurance, and sanctification.  

The Wesleyan Methodism demonstrates a powerful and distinctive way of living the Christian life. We are a people of personal holiness and social holiness. Personal holiness and social holiness are not two but one.   Prayer and politics are not two but one.   Faith and works are one. Inward journey and outward journey are one.

Methodist partners hear a search for unity

Teruki Takada, first-time delegate from the United Church of Christ in Japan (UCCJ), talks about his learning about The United Methodist Church. “I’ve learned quite a few things about The United Methodist Church while I am attending the General Conference this time.  I am impressed with the emphasis on discipleship as stated in the mission statement of the UMC.”  He also said he appreciated the UMC being a global church and its effort to accommodate the language needs of the delegates from other continents -- Africa, Europe and Asia -- by providing interpreters

The Rev. Samuel Aguilar Curi, bishop of the Methodist Church of Peru, shares his observation of the 2016 General Conference. “It is good to be here to participate in listen to each other.”  He continues, “The way of doing things at the plenary and legislative committees may be different, but I hear the common expression of Methodism. I hear all express hope in search for unity.”

A common expression of Methodism is grace.  The grace of God is undivided.  It is one.

“There is one body and one spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. “(Ephesians 4:4-6, NRSV)

Youngsook Charlene Kang, is director of Mission and Ministry for the Rocky Mountain Conference. Contact her at Youngsook@rmcumc.com.

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