Thursday morning worship

rudymain600bThe first full day of the World Methodist Conference began with beautiful music and a compelling message from Rev. Rudy Rasmus, of St. John’s United Methodist Church in Downtown Houston within the Texas Annual Conference.

Rev. Rasmus shared his story of being brought to the church as a non-believer by his wife, Rev. Juanita Rasmus.   Then, he was mentored by Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell and many others. As he put it, his church, Windsor Village United Methodist Church, “loved him into ministry.”

He shared his wish that John Wesley were here today to see his church and to remind us all of his Sermon 139 On Love.

“That sermon is why I am a Wesleyan. Love is the theological and ethical foundation of our faith,” shares Pastor Rudy. He pointed out the current divisions in our church and that the last time we divided was over slavery.  “Although, we divided we came together again through Jesus Christ.”

He repeated the parable of the Samaritan and pointed out that Jesus identified the most unlikely person to be the hero of that narrative. It was out of love that the Samaritan crossed the street to care for a man in need.  It is that love that the world hungers for today. He opines that some people were upset by the Samaritan’s actions because it was disruptive.

People are asking of the church, “do you love me,” not about our polity or rules. His question is, “Where can we as a church apply love as a disruptive force in our own communities.”

He moved from a call for the church to a call for personal accountability with the question, “What six words will be said about you in your eulogy.”

The Plenary Session on Thursday Afternoon

tedcampbell600Rev. Dr. Ted Campbell was the speaker at the Plenary Session on Thursday afternoon. He is a well-known authority on Christian history and a sought-after speaker on Wesleyan and Christian communities. Ted began his “Ted Talk” by describing the Methodist desire for unity and the belief that unity and diversity can harmoniously co-exist. Today, many United Methodists, particularly in the U.S., question that belief as they strain for unity around the issue of human sexuality.

He described the principle of “unity in essentials, diversity in non-essentials” and the current struggle to determine what is essential and what is non-essential.  What must United Methodists agree on to remain in connection and what divisive issues are so compelling that we can no longer remain bound together.

Ted offered “some insights about unity in the faith, insights that come from listening to our ancestors in the faith, from listening to Wesleyan communities today, from listening to others: to other Christian communities and perhaps to some interesting persons who have only recently become Wesleyan Christians and who may be gifted with privileged insights into our unity in the faith.”

In conclusion, he shared that for the United Methodist Church the question may not be if we divide but how we do it. Ted asked the World Methodist Conference “for prayers, for your counsel, and for your help.”

The Call to Holiness: Methodists and Roman Catholics in Dialogue

calltoholinesslgimage2Rev. Dr. David Chapman (WMC Ecumenical Relationships Committee) and Rev Fr Anthony Currer (PCPCU) presented the latest report from the Joint Commission for Dialogue between the World Methodist Council and the Roman Catholic Church, entitled The Call to Holiness: From Glory to Glory (2016). It was referred to as the “Houston Report” because of the location of the 2016 WMC.

Building on the fruits of 50 years of theological dialogue between Methodists and Roman Catholics at a world level, and the Methodist Statement of Association with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation (2006/1999), the report examines what Methodists and Roman Catholics can say together about God’s grace and holy living in God’s world.

The presenters outlined the report that is a result of 5 years of dialogue and collaborative study involving leaders from both the World Methodist Conference and the Catholic Church. Once the report was made the audience was encouraged to respond to a couple of questions about their experience between the Methodist and the Catholic and what they thought could be done to bring the two faiths closer together.

Some Methodists expressed dismay at the reluctance of the Catholic Church to allow open communion that is the tradition in most Wesleyan practices. Others in the audience related their experience in working closely with local Catholic and Protestant churches particularly in smaller communities. It was suggested by Prof. Robert Gribben that visitors to Catholic churches could go the communion rail and ask for a prayer as a way to be present and respectfully participate. Everyone in the session agreed that continued dialogue is constructive and should continue.

Bible Study Thursday AM

gracei600Rev. Dr. Grace Imathiu of Kenya led The Thursday morning Bible Study. Dr. Imathiu is an in-demand preacher and Bible study teacher who has preached and taught on six continents. Before she began her lesson on the “Parable of the Prodigal Son,” she shared a bit of her history with the World Methodist Conference. Her parents had each had profound experiences in at previous WMC meetings to the point that her family began to refer to the WMC gatherings as “dangerous places.”

She referred to the theme of the conference, One, and reminded the audience that Christ calls us to be one in Him.  John Wesley’s sermon on Catholic Spirit calls us to be one. Grace extolled that we are one not because we all agree but because we all have one Father.

The Bible study was of Luke 15. Eight readers joined Grace; each read a section of the text in their own language. Audience members were asked to stand as their language was spoken: German, Yoruba, Hindi, Spanish, Rumanian, Swahili, English and Kimeru.

Grace shared a poem from her friend who lamented the practice of labeling works with a title because the titles can limit our understanding of a piece of poetry, prose or art. Grace suggested the title, Parable of the Prodigal Son, leads to misinterpretation.

She declares the story is not about the son but about the father. Jesus is painting a picture of God for us:

  • God, the Father, who yearns for us,
  • A Father whose heart is broken when we separate from Him,
  • A Father who will run to us to protect us from harm,
  • A Father that will cover us in His best robe,
  • A Father who spreads an extravagant meal and invites us to the table.

WORKSHOP: Using Social Media for Evangelism and Global Outreach

websocialmedia600Two-thirds of the world’s population uses social media, however two-thirds of the world’s population do not attend church. This is where social media serves as a connector – on the worldwide web as well as in a classroom at the World Methodist Conference.

An international medley of participants from as far away as Canada, South Africa, Norway and the Bahamas bonded quickly around the ever-expanding topic of social media in the afternoon workshop led by author, consultant and speaker LaKesha Womack.  One District Superintendent introduced herself as “Techie Becky,” admitting that technology is challenging to keep up with these days, while another attendee described the social media platform as the “marketplace of the gospel.”

“I would select the verses of the great commission as our text for today,” shares LaKesha, “because social media helps us accelerate taking the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth – once we know how.” She acknowledges the importance of balancing social media with face-to-face personal connections, but urges all organizations using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and the like to strategically pursue ways to begin conversations. “In church, pastors are accustomed to bringing a message and considering it done, but social media provides the opportunity to respond and engage in a dialogue. Yes, that can be time consuming, so I would suggest only asking a probing question when you have time to interact. That is the beauty of social media when you can share a conversation with people wherever they are geographically and spiritually.”

socialmedia600webStrategic aspects of social media

While LaKesha recommends having a presence on Facebook and Twitter as a starting point due to their popularity, she is also seeing churches and faith-based organizations use Google Hangout and Skype to connect students or others in various locations into a common Bible Study. Others are using Periscope when a short-term video feed is needed to an event or learning opportunity that someone might not otherwise be able to access. “Not that many churches pursue a presence on LinkedIn,” she adds, “but it really could be a useful resource to connect members who might be looking for a job, who might offer a service other members need, and to locate certain skill sets needed by an organization or church.” “Pinterest is so popular with females,” adds one of the participants, “I would think women’s ministries would seriously consider having ideas and curriculum and spiritual resources there for those audiences.”

“Just as a helpful hint to those just starting out into the social media waters, there are basically three options with Facebook,” adds LaKesha. “You can (1) have a personal page and up to 5000 friends, (2) you can start a “group” and an infinite number of people can ‘like it’ or (3) you can create a business page which allows you to have ads, see insights on your visitor demographics, and boost posts that can be targeted to certain ages, times or areas.”

socialmedia600webshot2Bottom line, she recommends organizations mix up the content to include links to sermons or other messages, video, articles, questions, and pictures.  Consistency and clarity are important when placing content on social media outlets. “Another idea is to schedule some content posts through Hootsuite so there will be fresh content around the clock for global audiences to discover when they are awake and you are asleep.”

In a discussion about Twitter, LaKesha explained the use of the hash tag to social media newbies. “The hash tag, or pound sign, followed by onewmc2016 is the one we are using for this event,” she shares, “and these serve as an aggregator of all postings under a certain topic. Event planners – and attendees — can review what all is being said about the event in entries that feature 140 characters or less. It is important to pick a hash tag phrase that is easy to remember and follow.”

Adds LaKesha, “I always recommend organizations have a web presence in addition to social media, if possible, because you will own that in the event the social media platforms go away for some reason. The social media outlets should always serve as a feeder to your website.”

LaKesha, who also has a blog talk radio show, enthusiastically encourages others to connect with her: or or

Wesley Men: A New Wesleyan 100

There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them, except in the form of bread.

– Charles Dickens

hickle600web3Rev. Steve Hickle shared a vision during his workshop Thursday afternoon titled: Wesley Men: A New Wesleyan 100. As Faith Outreach Director of Stop Hunger Now, he’s working with others to build a movement to end hunger in our lifetime. “We’re going to discover that there is enough food in the world to feed everyone” he said. And his organization has been building coalitions toward that end for the past 10 years.

They’ve engaged nearly two million volunteers in packaging meals over that decade, and have delivered about 275 million meals in that time, distributing them to 1,500 places in over 70 countries. “Every place that receives these meals is a partner of ours and they take a lot of responsibility in getting those meals to where they need to go…  I’m a United Methodist, and I have been acquainted with what is now the Wesley Men’s group” (until recently they were called World Fellowship of Methodist and Uniting Church Men.) They’ve been working side-by-side for 4 years toward this moment. “We’re able to say to the whole Methodist family here in Houston that we can build a Wesleyan movement to end hunger.”

They’re calling this initiative Fast, Pray, Give.

Andy Morris, the Executive Director of Fast, Pray, Give referenced a resolution passed at the World Methodist Conference in 2006 saying we need to fast, pray, and give to end world hunger. “The men’s affiliate took that charge on as something they needed to do and when we started to look at how to achieve those goals we needed a partner.” Stop Hunger Now was the obvious choice. “It was started by a Methodist minister,” Morris continued. “They do a lot of what we need to do to attack the systemic causes of hunger by feeding children in schools so they can learn, can finish their education and earn a better income. They are then able to become self-sustaining. We’re breaking the systemic causes of hunger.” Their organization is now, for the first time, asking people to sign up at to help. “Our goal is to reach 5 million Methodists in the next five years.”

WT_3RectangleFPGHickle said Fast, Pray, Give “is this remarkable, accessible, grass roots way for many, many, people to be engaged in ways that will enrich their spirits and enrich their sense of how important it is to share food with hungry people. We see a lot of spiritual health and vitality coming out of this as we see people moving beyond their concerns for their own places and stretch around the world.”

Individuals can give directly through, but if your church would like to do something hands-on, Stop Hunger Now may be the answer. “We have locations in 21 locations around the U.S. to be able to bring a mobile meal packaging experience to your church,” Hickle continued. “Anything within 2 hours of our many locations is doable. If it’s further than that, we can talk.”

For Hickle, this is only the beginning. They are also looking into clean water initiatives and sustainable agriculture projects. “There’s much we can do together, but as long as we’re disconnected we’ll never be able to get it done.”