Culture Night

Culture Night

Friday night was “Texas Time” filled with Mariachis, Country Music, Dancing and Gospel Choir. The World Methodist Conference was treat to a solid line-up of the best Texas has to offer.

This was the lineup:

  • Mariachi Tradicion de Jalisco
  • Cowboy Church Band for First United Methodist Church, Pearland
  • Chara Christian Dance Studio
  • ReVision Hip Hop Dancers
  • 90 member Gospel Choir and Dancers from Windsor Village United Methodist Church, Houston
  • Gungor, including Michael Gungor – Grammy Nominee

Rev. Dr. Harold Good Delivers Plenary Friday Afternoon

presentationgoodRev. Dr. Harold Good, former president of the Methodist Church in Ireland and recipient of the World Methodist Peace Prize and co-recipient of the Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award, delivered his message of unity Friday afternoon.

Dr. Good sprinkled his message with humor and warmth that left the audience wanting more of his time and his wisdom. His experience in resolving conflict in Northern Ireland prepares him well to walk the church through this period of divisiveness within the United Methodist Church.

He reflected that Jesus told many stories of “Oneness” and the sin of exclusion.

The early church struggled with the issue of “who’s in and who’s out” just as we are today. God in a dream warned Peter not to call anything unclean that He had made. The message is God makes the call of “who’s in and who’s out.”

IMG_2955Mr. Wesley was deeply committed to hold the church together.  He wanted renewal not separation.  The Wesleyan connexion is about “Oneness.” Mr. Wesley made it clear in “Catholic Spirit” that he didn’t expect others to think like him but at least we can love the same.

Today, we are faced with how to deal with fear of terrorism and identification with Islam and be neighbors, friends and family to our Muslim brothers and sisters. How do we deal with the Book of Discipline’s statement on homosexuality and be neighbors, friends and family to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters?

Dr. Good shared his joy at inviting ALL to the Methodist communion table and implored the audience to cherish the gift of ALL that is so a part of our Wesleyan tradition. He questioned, “What do we have to offer the broken world?”


There are three restorative words that are especially Methodist:

  1. Confession
  2. Grace
  3. Forgiveness

This is what we have to offer the world.  The world needs confession, grace and forgiveness and so does our Church.

Christians and Muslims Working Together

IMG_0530The discussion was led by Bishop Dr. Sunday Onuoha, Bishop of the Methodist Church Nigeria, Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, Wisconsin (U.S.) of the United Methodist Church, Rev. Megan Dean, and Emmy Lou John.

Bishop Onuoha described his role in Nigeria in the fight against malaria. He was asked to lead the international effort to eradicate malaria in Nigeria where 300,000 people a year die from the disease. There are basically equal numbers of Muslims and Christians in his area of Nigeria so the balance facilitates a mutual working relationship. However, Bishop Onuoha has gone beyond that to a real friendship with the leader of Islam there. They recognized that citizens there trusted their religious leaders more than their doctors or their political leaders so they used churches and mosques to educate people about the importance of preventing malaria. Their efforts together were successful by decreasing incidence of malaria in Nigeria by 18% but their work and relationship continue.

IMG_0525-(2)Bishop Jung reported growing concern about the upcoming 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. orchestrated by al Queda leader Osama Bin Laden and coincidentally a Muslim holiday on the same day in 2016.  This is a quandary for Muslims who faithfully celebrate their religious holidays and for New York officials responsible for public safety and the protection of religious freedom.

He shared his experience in Chicago where a covenant relationship between 200 churches and local mosques to create common understanding.  He also helped organize a weekend of ecumenical sharing of services of many faiths.

Rev. Megan Dean and Emmy Lou John contributed their experience in the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church where Mosques and Christian churches are sharing duties and funding of facilities to feed the poor. They also suggested visiting two sites that will have aids for local churches to begin the process of developing dialogue with the Muslim community: go to and search Called to be Neighbors and they are developing resources at

For additional time for discussion and questions on this topic, interested persons may attend the workshop “Interreligious collaboration to Advance Peace and Development from 1:30 – 3:00 pm.

Changing Models of Family

IMG_2840Bishop Teresa Snorton, chair of the Family Life Committee and of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church began the first of three discussions in Friday’s afternoon workshop focused on changing dynamics of familial models and how the church should be prepared to respond to the needs of their community in a non-judgmental and context appropriate manner.

She first laid out traditional definitions of nuclear and extended family models and discussed Biblical and legal concepts of kinship before transitioning into a discussion on more modern and culturally sensitive definitions including consanguine (related by blood), conjugal (related by marriage), and what she deemed “affinity family” – relationship by choice.

“Affinity family is a great descriptor for us in the church,” Bishop Snorton said, “because we choose to be a part of the Methodist family by affiliation. We choose to be family through our baptism. We increasingly find that there are families who are simply choosing to be families without blood relationship or without benefit of marriage. Adoptive, blended, step, divorced parents that share custody with other children, foster families, unmarried families, single adults, same sex families – they all challenge us to realize that family relationships often simply exist by choice. No blood, legal, or religious relationship binds these persons together, but they make a choice to become family.”

Snorton added that bonds are formed in ways that cannot be simply described with common nomenclature. “In the church we must be prepared to embody family as family exists. It is not ours to define family but it ours to minister to families. To never deprive persons of a sense of family regardless of how that family is created or how it is defined… I tell my pastors if you’re unable to offer ministry to someone in need, the very least you can do is offer them a ministry of referral. You should go out of your way to find out and be prepared to tell them who they can go to in your community that can offer them a safe place to get help… May we the church lead the world in celebrating family.”


IMG_2743Quiet Zones – Prayer Spaces

The second part of the workshop was led by Rev. Suva Catford who serves in the Darlington District of the British Methodist Church. Her contribution was focused on family in congregational life, and centered on setting up quiet zones, a special prayer ministry involving creating a space in a community for meditation and reflection. The zones within the space are designed as stations, some  with tactile items such as a tray of sand in which to write names you’ve been called then to wipe them away, writing the name you prefer to be called or a prayer labyrinth or prayer wall.

“It’s really hard to describe, because the experience for everybody is so different. At face value there are lights, and curtains, and cushions, and sand. But people who come into the quiet zones get a deeper experience of themselves and also a deeper experience of faith… It’s just a space set aside and in each of the zones there’s a very simple activity which allows time for people to sit and think and pray.”

IMG_2812Creating Community for Family Engagement

The third part of the workshop was offered by Mrs. Josefa Bethea Wall, Director of Development for Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR) and Methodists Associated Representing the Cause for Hispanic Americans (MARCHA). She focused on creating community for family engagement and centered on a concept called asset-based community development.

“As people of Wesleyan heritage we are called to community,” Wall noted, adding: “Created in the image of God, we are bound together. So, how do we connect to the community of the church in an effort to engage the changing family of today and beyond?”

She went on to lay out a model on how to identify assets in a community including “individuals, community associations, networks and institutions.”


In putting the concept to work in churches, she suggested asking people in your community the following questions:

  • What three things do you do well enough to teach someone else?
  • What three things do you want to learn?
  • Who besides God and me is taking this journey with you?

Finally, she read from Wesley’s secrets to community building from 1725. “To be continuously effective try new things, see what works, abandon things that fail, and innovate.”

Freestyle Faith

IMG_3470 While leading a peace rally in Dallas, Texas, Rev. Michael Waters had to run for his life when gunfire broke out. He later visited the hospital where the majority of the wounded were being sent. Sharing this reality with surgeons who pronounced the first two officers dead and others at the hospital, he said, “I don‘t want a hope that does not acknowledge pain; I want one that looks pain in the eye and says even in the midst of pain I still believe.”

Waters, author of a book called FREESTYLE: Reflections on faith, family, justice and pop culture, led an afternoon workshop Friday that acknowledged the importance of bringing hope to a culture embattled with a never-ending cycle of violence. “Hip hop lyrics these days sound a lot like the prophets of the old testament commenting on the unfairness of suffering,” he shares. He reminded the audience of the importance of bringing a message of hope to the world. Among several stark realities mentioned:

  • Some 925 million people across the globe go hungry each day
  • 98% of the human trafficking victims are women and children, and
  • A staggering 1.2 billion live on less than $1 day

“My experience in Dallas involved pain mounting on pain and sorrow on top of sorrow, but the question today is how can we remain hopeful and committed to God in the midst of mounting difficulties? I’m confident that no matter where you have come from geographically, if you serve in God’s church you are asking these same questions. How do we remain encouraged in light of violence, suffering, in light of situations and budget challenges and other difficulties in our churches? How can we stay encouraged to continue the fight?”

IMG_3476He shared the ray of hope he received through the Dallas tragedy. “I was able to find joy in the midst of sorrow when my mind was drawn to a picture of me on a hill, addressing the crowd. I had a tremendous vantage point in downtown Dallas with all races and colors and ages. I saw rich and poor, teachers and children and I saw this as a picture of the kingdom of God. In that picture I found comfort in realizing there were more of us committed to peace and justice than terror.


That’s where freestyle faith comes in,” he adds. “Begin to find hope and joy in creative ways. Even if you don’t have all you think you might need, you have enough to be creative and lift up the gifts you possess. What you do have is a voice and commitment to God. What the world needs is a new generation of leadership that committed to freestyle faith, who will faithfully face the pain in the world and commit to eradicate it every day. There’s far too much pain in the world for our churches to only be active one day a week. Those who are committed to freestyle faith must use it each and every day and in every circle of influence. Freestyle flows from the heart.”


Waters drew a parallel to hip-hop, saying, “Something happens when people get into a circle facing each other. It becomes a listening space where others bear witness to what is said. When we work together we can become one body with one spirit called to a glorious future. We are anointed to set captives free by the God of second chances.”

IMG_3472At the conclusion of the session workshop attendees gathered together with colored markers and mural paper to then experience and create  “Graffiti of Hope.” They were encouraged by Michael Waters to paint a new image of possibilities. Time is of the essence. We can’t wait for new church buildings, the church must be life support to resuscitate communities and help them rise again. Start now to live and say words that will help save a generation.”

Friday AM Bible Study

bishopjuancarlos600web Bishop Joao Carlos Lopes of the Brazilian Methodist Church led the Bible study for Friday morning. He is the president of the Council of Bishops of the Council of the Evangelical Methodist Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Bishop Lopes spoke of the challenge of being “One” in conflicting times. His lesson was from Matthew 10: 1-4 and Ephesians 4:1-6.

Bishop pointed out that belonging is the most important need of every human being.

Each of us fills that need by our “tribes.” His include his family, his soccer team, his country and Methodists. When he was growing up in Brazil, the church provided a space for him to develop his gifts and his skills. His father said that the Sunday school was like a second mother to his children.

He suggested that being in a tribe requires loyalty and exposes our differences therefore leading sometimes to conflict. Jesus called different people from different tribes to be witnesses of God and He did it on purpose. God’s purpose: to unite the whole of creation under the leadership of Christ.

He reminds us that we can maintain and preserve that unity but it will not be of our creation. The Holy Spirit creates unity. As we seek unity through the Holy Spirit, we must look at both our shared roots and our shared mission.  Only looking at our roots is a look to the past and we must look to our mission for a shared future.

In the life of the church, it has always been important to discern what is negotiable vs. non-negotiable. We are faced that that question today and we must decide that through discernment of the Holy Spirit.