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United Methodists to join 3,000 at 2006 WCC assembly

 


United Methodists to join 3,000 at 2006 WCC assembly

March 2, 2005

A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*

How the world’s churches deal with the issues that both unite and divide them will be a focus of the World Council of Churches’ ninth assembly in 2006.

More than 3,000 people, including a United Methodist delegation, are expected to attend the Feb. 14-23 meeting at the Pontifical Catholic University in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The theme is “God in your grace, transform the world.”

The tension among God’s people, even when it comes to worshipping together, is a reality, according to the Rev. Larry Pickens, chief executive of the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns. But he believes the recent decision to use the model of consensus as a decision-making process for the assembly is a “landmark development” for the council and helps address past complaints by Orthodox members.

The consensus process “provides the Orthodox with a significant structural development within the life of the WCC which enables their voices to be heard,” he explained. “The creation of a permanent committee representing the interests of the Orthodox will play a significant role in the assembly and in the life of the WCC in the future.”

Pickens said that under the leadership of the Rev. Samuel Kobia, a Methodist from Kenya, “the WCC also will be more intentional about entering into significant dialogue with evangelicals and Pentecostals.”

Kobia is pleased that the organization is having its first assembly in Latin America. “The testimonies of the churches and the challenges faced by the societies throughout the continent will inform our work in Brazil,” he told the WCC Central Committee in February.

The assembly’s location also reflects the realities of today’s world as the growth in church membership shifts to countries of the south, according to Pickens.

“This will be a significant opportunity to interact with the issues of Latin America and, particularly, Brazil,” he said. “Brazil has an Afro-Latin population of over 70 million people. This community carries the history and tradition of the African diaspora experience and will serve as a significant backdrop to the assembly.”

Assembly delegates will further refine a “reconfiguration” effort to prepare the council for the future. “The result of this reconfiguration should create a more streamlined and effective ecumenical movement that relates to local levels with more precision and direction,” Pickens added.

New program features at the assembly will include a series of “ecumenical conversations” to allow debate on crucial issues and a “mutirao”—a Portuguese word that means coming together for a common purpose—outside the formal portions of the assembly.

The assembly, which functions as the council’s top legislative body, meets every seven years. The last assembly was in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1998.

Member churches select 85 percent of the assembly delegates, with the remaining 15 percent named by the council to balance factors such as female and youth participation. The official United Methodist delegation to the 2006 assembly was selected by the commission, in consultation with the denomination’s Council of Bishops.

Besides Pickens, those delegates include Bishop William B. Oden of Dallas, ecumenical officer for the Council of Bishops; Bishop Ann Sherer, president, Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns; and Bishop B. Michael Watson of Macon, Ga.

Other delegates include the Rev. R. Randy Day, chief executive, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries; Jan Love, chief executive, and Lois Dauway, staff executive, Women’s Division, Board of Global Ministries; and the Rev. Chester Aumua of Tacoma, Wash., Pacific Islander National Caucus of United Methodists.

Young adult delegates are Jennifer Irvine Goto of San Ramon, Calif., Jay Williams of New York, Christine Danielle Reyna of San Antonio, Tara Fitzpatrick of Norman, Okla., and Motoe Yamada of Almeda, Calif.

Central Conference delegates are the Rev. Forbes Matonga of Harare, Zimbabwe, Jonathan Ulanday of Tagum City, Philippines, a director of the Commission on Christian Unity, and Ulla Skodlt Jonsson of Emmaboda, Sweden.

Bishop Sally Dyck of Minneapolis is serving as the delegation’s adviser. Alternate delegates are Elizabeth Quick of Oneida, N.Y., a director of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society; and the Rev. Paul Barton, assistant professor of Hispanic studies, Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas.

*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.

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