Friday, April 15, 2011

Methodists in Mission & Some Questions

The General Board of Global Ministries General Secretary, Thomas Kemper, offers an interesting spring report to GBGM. He makes note of doctoral research out of The School of Theology at Boston University which will soon be released in The Methodist Review. Professor Dana Robert and PhD candidate David Scott have done a comparative study of Methodism and sister denominations in various countries. Sadly the word "anemic" pops up and a number of questions and conclusions are developed. See the link below for the full report from Kemper, and ponder the section of his report that includes the Robert/Scott material. I've copied this section as it offers some strong observations and questions for GBGM and the UMC.

"In looking at their statistical data, Robert and Scott reflect on ecclesiological, structural,sociological, cultural, and theological reasons for the anemia; they raise several 'tough' but highly relevant questions for United Methodism and this agency. I want to cite just four of these questions, making minimal comments. You as mission board directors will get the points. Remember that these questions are in relation to comparative growth rates alongside sister denominations in various broadly scattered countries:

 Do 'bureaucratic, unwieldy, outdated structures' hinder the 'type of flexibility and indigenous initiatives necessary for strong growth?' I simply note that at Global
Ministries we observe greater growth in Mission Initiatives where the forms of
mission are most closely aligned with indigenous social and cultural structures.

 What about the efficacy of 'one size fits all' theories and practices 'in which
North American middle-class culture is a normative value imposed on United
Methodism outside the US?' I ask: Do we need to look again at the vitality of
mission-founded, now-autonomous Methodist churches that have modified
American and European norms? I am thinking especially of Latin America.

 Has a culture of dependency created 'over-reliance on American resources' by
some parts of the church and 'neo-colonial attitudes on the parts of others?' May
I point here to the impressive struggle of our congregations and annual
conferences in Eurasia to achieve both spiritual and organizational maturity,
including an increasing degree of financial self-sufficiency? In his leadership in
this pilgrimage, Bishop Hans Växby is a missionary pioneer and prophet.

 'Could it be possible that the efforts of leadership elites to create a so-called
'global' United Methodism are wasting energy and resources that could be better
spent in paying more attention to local needs, lay mobilization and regional
partnerships?' This is a question with which we as a denomination have
struggled for years and will again in Tampa.

In summing up their questions, Robert and Scott asked whether it might be that the
United Methodist culture is inadequate for the challenges of the 21st century. They
wonder, 'Have we made a decision as a denomination to sacrifice church growth in
order to maintain other important commitments? Or is it the case that holistic ministry (including numerical growth) gushes from a deep well of confident faith that United Methodists lack, relative to the stronger theological or liturgical identities of sister denominations?'"

GBGM Spring 2011 Report

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