News Archives

Unity commission to help United Methodists discuss future

 


Unity commission to help United Methodists discuss future

Sept. 29, 2004

By Linda Bloom*

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (UMNS) - United Methodists shouldn’t focus on debates over single issues, such as the status of homosexuals in the church or atonement for past sins of racism.

Instead, argues the Rev. Larry Pickens, all issues must be considered together in the context "of how we ought to live together and structure our church for the future."

As the new chief executive of the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, he hopes his agency can take a lead role in fostering such discussions.

In his report during the commission’s Sept. 22-24 organizing meeting in Daytona Beach, Pickens recommended the agency create a "long-range planning and vision committee" to assist the denomination with dialogue and theological reflection on its future.

Theological discussion also is needed on the global nature of the church-a concept that United Methodists still struggle with, he told commission members, "because we are primarily locked into our role of status as North Americans." Such a role, he added, "creates a reality in which United Methodists in the United States are oftentimes adverse to sharing power with … the central conferences (outside the United States)."

As an example, he cited the process of the 2004 General Conference, the church’s top legislative body, in accepting the million-member Methodist Church of Cote d’Ivoire into the denomination. Concerns arose over how that membership would affect the church’s system of assigning greater voting power to geographic areas with more members and local churches.

Pickens noted that the denomination often rushes to make financial decisions without fully weighing the impact on churches in Africa, Europe and the Philippines. "Part of it, for me, is creating an awareness of what is at stake for us," he told United Methodist News Service. "Frankly, the growth of the church is in the central conferences.

"We need to create a culture, or at least a counterculture, in the church that continues to lift up that we are a global church," he said.

Pickens said he also does not want to ignore conservative doctrinal agendas and would consider establishing dialogues with unofficial groups such as Good News, an evangelical renewal organization. "A nation can decide not to have diplomatic relations with another country, but in this context, we should at least agree to have conversations."

He called for "significant inroads for unity" with the historic African-American Methodist denominations through the Commission on Pan-Methodism and for the planning of a Pan-Methodist youth event.

Outside the denomination, the commission faces the challenge of providing "an ecumenical and interfaith witness that is becoming ever more difficult in the face of shrinking resources." He paid tribute to the contributions of his predecessors-the Rev. Robert Huston, the Rev. Bruce Robbins and Bishop Melvin Talbert-and noted that Talbert’s "courageous advocacy has made an indelible mark upon the landscape of the modern-day ecumenical movement."

Pickens considers the current ecumenical climate, although somewhat chaotic, to offer "a time of tremendous opportunity." One opportunity, as well as a challenge, is to address "the issues of brokenness and unity in our church and world." Those issues include societal problems, such as poverty and the AIDS crisis.

On the grass-roots level, he said he wants to improve relationships with annual conferences and local churches. "Ecumenical formation, the need to develop future generations of ecumenical leadership, will continue to be a top priority of our commission," he said. "What we must do is work to develop a cadre of youth and young adult leadership who will become the heirs of the ecumenical movement."

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Ask Now

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.

First Name:*
Last Name:*
Email:*
ZIP/Postal Code:*
Question:*

*InfoServ ( about ) is a service of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add this address to your list of approved senders.

Would you like to ask any questions about this story?ASK US NOW


Contact Us

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.

Phone
(optional)

*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add InfoServ@umcom.org to your list of approved senders.