Jesus Christ - for the Healing of the Nations

8/22/2011

2011 World Methodist Conference - Durban, South Africa

 

Representatives of the Methodist/Wesleyan family came together from 135 countries and every continent except Antarctica for the 20th gathering of the World Methodist Conference in Durban, South Africa, August 4-8, 2011. 

Twenty Methodists from the Texas Annual Conference joined two-thousand others Under the theme “Jesus Christ – for the Healing of the Nations,” to share resources, support, and accountability as United Methodists everywhere continue to focus on making disciples of Jesus Christ.

 

Here are insights from some Texas Annual Conference participants:

 

Bishop Janice Riggle Huie

Texas Annual Conference Bishop Janice Riggle Huie said they were warmly welcomed by the Methodist Church of Southern Africa - a 2.6 million member church that played a vital role in rejecting the policy of apartheid and promoting justice and reconciliation. “This conference was only the second time in 130 years that the World Methodist Conference has met in Africa,” Bishop Huie noted. “It was a family reunion spanning both time and space, embodying the profound influence of John and Charles Wesley around the world. Together, these denominations include more than 75 million members.”

 

“The Conference opened with soul-stirring music led by the Africa University Choir and a parade of banners from more than seventy denominations represented in the Conference” Huie said. “We sang in many languages and welcomed the three newest members into the council, one of which was the Salvation Army.  Many of us worshipped in area churches and participated in an evangelistic “parade” in downtown Durban.”

 

“We worshipped, heard Bible studies and lectures, greeted old friends and made new ones, and engaged in hands-on mission projects including packaging more than 100,000 meals for “Stop Hunger Now. A special highlight for me was a visit by four of us to Mokitimi Seminary in Pietermaritzburg.  Mokitimi Seminary is only three years old, built after the closing of the two previous seminaries.  All Methodist pastors must attend there.” 

 

The mission of the seminary is to “form transforming leaders for church and nation,” Huie continued. “All students are expected to spend at least one day a week for three years working in various community projects determined by the seminary such as the two HIV/AIDS community centers we visited.  They are expected to learn at least one new language so they can function in cross cultural contexts:  Zulu if they speak only English and English if they speak only Zulu or another traditional language.  Of course, they are expected to complete all the traditional theological and Biblical requirements. They are regularly evaluated on twenty-eight different values from personal spiritual development to interpersonal relationships to theology and preaching.  I’m not sure I could have passed their rigorous assessment! However, I was extraordinarily impressed with the preparation of their students.”

 

Robyn Bishop, Associate Pastor, Cypress, Good Shepherd UMC

Rev. Robyn Bishop went with expectations of meeting people from around the world and they were not only met, but lead to memorable experiences. “There was the laughter with new friends from Korea as we told them our last name was Bishop, but that was in no way our role. There was the look of appreciation in the eyes of the Pastor from Christ Church in New Zealand when I told him that his church had been in my prayers since the earthquakes had devastated their church and their region. I was touched when I heard people of South Africa say "thank you" for coming to their country, because it brought them hope. I'll never forget the tears that fell from the woman's eyes whom I prayed for her healing at the altar in the Wesley Center on that Sunday morning in worship… The World Conference truly broadened my love for our connectional system- we are one in Jesus Christ with many gifts and amazing stories to share! This was not merely a social gathering, but a conference that encourages us to share the tree of life!...

 

Stewart Bishop, Cypress, Good Shepherd UMC:

Stewart Bishop was unsure what to expect ahead of time, but said the conference turned out to be a life-changing experience. “Not only did it bring into perspective the current mission of the church around the world, but especially the difference in the Methodist Church of the southern hemisphere to that of ours in the north. Although we are working in our local communities every day, it was riveting to hear the stories, and see firsthand in South Africa, how the church is working actively in the community to support civil rights, end discrimination, and fight hunger right there and right now. The diversity of the attendees and their culture was eye opening and wonderful to experience personally.”

 

“Even though one can be told again and again that you have to actually experience something to understand it, I am falsely mislead that reading is enough. I learned once again that seeing and touching is believing, and as one of the speakers said: “When Jesus’ disciples began to feed, then their eyes were opened. This experience made me proud to be a Methodist…..sincerely.”

 

Chuck Huffman, Pastor, Mt. Pleasant, Tennison Memorial UMC

Rev. Chuck Huffman recounted his experiences at the World Methodist Conference, saying: “To assemble together with Methodists from all over the world – to share together in the worship of our awesome God, to sing God’s praises together in a variety of languages and musical styles, to spend time together in prayer - focused on the most serious concerns facing the world today, and even to work side-by-side with my sisters and brothers from around the globe in hands-on mission to Stop Hunger Now…” These all served to tangibly reinforce what he knew in his heart to be true: “That our loving God has called us together as a global, connectional church; and, united in Christ, and filled with His Spirit, we really are a powerful force to change the world with the love and grace of Jesus Christ!”

 

Jeff McDonald, Pastor, Chandler, First UMC

Rev. Jeff McDonald described the opportunity to attend as an amazing experience for himself, his wife Lenee and their daughter Bailey. McDonald said the speakers and worship services all moved the participants to have a better understanding of our role in bringing about the healing of the nations. “The conference also made the importance of our connection as Methodist even more real and vibrant,” he continued. “To stand in the International Conference Center in Durban, South Africa and sing O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing or say the Lord’s prayer while hearing it in the languages of so many nations was inspirational.”

 

“The educational opportunities were equally inspiring, McDonald Continued.” He and his family shared a meal prepared by Stop Hunger Now with students at the Addington School before working to bag meals that afternoon. During the conference, 101,000 meals were assembled. “It was a blessing to visit with those children and see how the church is reaching out to the community,” McDonald added. “We will always remember the warmth of the South African people and the positive impact that Methodist have on the world.”

 

 

Diane McGehee, Director of Texas Annual Conference Center for Missional Excellence

Days before the conference, Rev. Diane McGehee spent time travelling through poverty stricken regions in Africa – including parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa. She noted “we have addressed issues of ending hunger - something the church universal could do - if we made it a priority; addressing issues of injustice; furthering our ecumenical work. We had a historical visit with representatives of the African Muslim League, as well as reports from the ongoing dialogue between the Methodist World Council and Catholic Church; and a discussion of how we as Methodists might better offer Christ to the world.”

 

McGehee said it was inspiring, seeing everyone together sharing their stories and challenges. “Worship focused on our unity and the urgent call to offer Christ unconditionally to all the nations so that they are invited into the abundance of God's grace, not only in spirit, but also in body, mind, and the environment. In other words, to bring the whole Gospel to whole persons and communities until they all are fully welcomed to the table of God's plenty.”

 

Leah Taylor, Conference Lay Leader, Katy, St. Peter’s UMC

Conference Lay Leader Leah Taylor shared from the trip what she describes as a powerful lesson for herself and others who experienced it. “As part of our visit to the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary, we stopped in at two ministries which the seminary works with as field training for its seminarians. The community of Mpophomeni, KwaZulu-Natal buries between 120-150 people each week, almost all of whom die from some type of complications from HIV/AIDS.”

 

“It was a rainy, cold morning when we stepped off our bus and met a group of children at the Masibumbane Mission. Happy voices, raised in song, greeted us as we stepped into the craft room. Little girls helped us twist and twirl thin strips of paper to decorate greeting cards which will be sold as part of the support for care for many of the women in the community. In the midst of poverty we have a hard time picturing, children see hope for the future working with their hands and hearts. Methodist seminarians are learning theology, polity and tradition at the seminary. But most importantly they are learning how to care for and with God's children outside of the walls of any church building.”

 

Johanne and Christian Washington, Houston, Chapelwood UMC

Johanne and Christian Washington said being exposed to far-reaching Methodist efforts to be the “salt and light” of the world changed their perspective on the missional space the UM connection occupies globally. 

 

“The trip was life changing for me and my wife Johanne;” Christian added. “I was especially moved by the major investments being made to develop young indigenous leaders on global basis and enthusiastically support those continuing initiatives. As a part of our Texas Annual Conference “delegation”, our experience with the Stop Hunger Now (www.stophungernow.org) project was both meaningful and rewarding as part of a team of volunteers who bagged over 20,000 meals in less than 3 hours.  While the need for food in Africa is God-sized to be sure, it felt good and important to make a contribution.” 

 

“We also had the privilege of attending a worship service in the Kwa-Mashu township that we will never forget…  We will never view “worship” quite the same after our time in Durban. Seeing (and feeling) people who have virtually nothing praise God with their entire being illuminated the very tangible grace I have received and enjoy. I frankly felt great personal conviction for taking God’s unmerited favor for granted, and was moved to repentance that evening,” Christian continued. “We are called to embody that same grace and praise the “Grace Giver” with all of our hearts, minds, soul, strength, and body. I witnessed that kind of praise first-hand in that township church, and left more “grateful” to God than ever. I also departed with a profound sense of accountability to Christ to live, lead, and serve with a “grateful” lifestyle.   

 

Robin Williamson, Houston, St. Paul’s UMC

Robin Williamson said “it was a privilege to attend a world-wide Methodist ecumenical event dedicated to healing the nations of the world – spiritually, physically, culturally and psychologically. Packaging food for the disadvantaged was an especially meaningful experience as were many outstanding speakers from all continents.”

 

Learn more about the World Methodist Conference at: http://worldmethodistcouncil.org

 

See additional information here

 

You can read first hand accounts of Rev. Diane McGehee’s travels through the Missional Excellence blog at: http://www.txcumc.org/missionalexcellenceblog