The World Methodist Council, in partnership with the host church (Uniting Church in Sweden), is planning the organization of the 22nd World Methodist Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, to take place from 13-18 August 2024. The Conference takes place every 5 years.
The World Methodist Peace Award was established in 1976 at the WMC in Dublin, Ireland. This year, the recipient is Rev. Dr. Jo Anne Lyon. Dr. Lyon is the general superintendent of the Wesleyan Church. Besides leading the Wesleyan Church, Dr. Lyon is the founder of World Hope International, a relief and development organization that seeks to alleviate suffering and injustice in 30 countries.
The criteria for determining who should receive the World Methodist Peace Award are: Courage, Creativity, and Consistency.
With regard to COURAGE, this may relate to either the facing of physical danger, or putting one’s personal interests at risk. This would include disruption to one’s personal and family life, and the possibility of misunderstandings and even rejection by the groups and organizations with which one ordinarily would desire to have association or fellowship.
CREATIVITY includes consideration whether or not activities open up new initiatives and new grounds for negotiations and progress, also whether the potential recipient attracts others to join in working for the cause of peace, and builds up an increasing body of committed opinion in favor of and working for the cause of peace.
CONSISTENCY is judged by whether the effort is sustained over a period of continuing intensity despite disappointments, frustrations and setbacks.
The recipient receives the sliver/gold gilt medallion, a citation and US$1,000 that is only symbolic of the larger recognition of what the person has done.
International Methodist Young Leaders Seminar reported a simple message: Empower youth to bring a new generation in the world and the World Methodist Conference. It is the young that are shaking up the world. Young Methodists can contribute if a space is created. They can compose liturgy that speaks to the world and provide leadership into the future.
Rev. Dr. Jo Anne Lyon asked the audience to reflect on John 14: 12-14.
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (NIV)
Dr. Lyon shared her experience of evil in Sierra Leone where she visited wards for victims of brutal attacks and amputations. She walked a street in Cambodia where children were being sold in the open. In both cases and many others like them, the evil was almost overwhelming.
She understands that often we feel that there is nothing we can do; the evil is too much to bear. She remembers Paul: “Do not be overcome with evil, overcome evil with good.” She exclaimed, “Things don’t have to be the way they are!” Through the power of the Spirit good can prevail. Change can come.
She related the experience of an amputee from the clinic that she had helped to establish to treat the amputees that she had encountered earlier. This amputee told that Dr. Lyon he had seen the former rebel soldier that had maimed him so horribly. He was frightened at first but “God put a rod up my back,” he said. He went up to the former soldier and held out his prosthetic hand to him. The soldier took his offered hand and kept holding on and when the man looked up into the soldier’s face, there were tears rolling down his checks. The soldier told him that he never thought he could be forgiven. The man told Dr. Lyon that before he had received the prosthesis he just wanted revenge but now he could forgive.
Change can happen. Jesus told Philip in John 14 to just ask. Dr. Lyon exhorted the gathering to ask, to ask right then and there. She prayed along with everyone, each silently for what God had put on his or her hearts that needed to change to transform the world.
- Bishop Ivan M. Abrahams, General Secretary, WMC, Methodist Church of Brazil,
- Gillian Kingston, Vice President, WMC, Methodist Church in Ireland,
- J.C. Park, President, WMC, Korean Methodist Church.
They each shared their background and experience with the Methodist church. The WMC was described as 80 denominations, 82 million members, and 134 countries. “The sun never sets on the Methodist movement,” added Rev. Kingston.
“We’ve come of age as this is the 21st Conference. What better place than Houston to celebrate, one of the most diverse cities in the world.”
“WMC has an important convening role in the Wesleyan family.”
“There is a place at the table for everyone.”
“Methodist can transform the world.”
“To stay together isn’t enough, we must move into the future with our shared mission.”
“We need to see the world as one with God and nature.”
“God’s mission is in our hands.”
“The local church must be the life and spiritual energy in its place.”
“Other religions are not our enemies.”
“We can collaborate with all groups.”
“We must step out in faith, love and hope with Jesus.”
“We are a people of hope.”
“Mr. Wesley: The best is yet to be.”
The proclamation concluded with a shout of “Lift Off” as the Apollo launch was shown on the screen indicating we are ready to move forward into the future together.
The service continued with beautiful communion liturgy as people from across the globe shared God’s table. The final hymn of “Victoire, Alleluia” sent the worshippers forth to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Dr. Yoo described her excitement of responding to her call, completing seminary only to learn that Korea did not ordain women at that time. It was not until 1989 that women were allowed ordination. She has returned to Seoul, South Korea and teaches Old Testament at the Methodist Theological University there. Dr. Yoo shared that she read the Bible as one who “does not belong.” Understandably, that perspective creates openness to the Scripture that is calling us to be one with God, to belong as a child of God.
In reviewing I Kings 3:16-28, Dr. Yoo challenged the audience to open their minds to explore the ambiguities of the text. Those ambiguities raise questions that may have not been considered before by many attendees.
- Could the 2 women have resolved the issue on their own?
- They had many things in common. They were both prostitutes. They shared a home. They both had sons within days of each other. They were alone together so they probably were each other’s midwives. They were a “created” family that depended on each other for survival.
- Could they have shared their grief in the death of a child and raised the surviving child as a son and nephew?
- Why was there no punishment for the crime of stealing a child and lying to the King?
- There was no response from the women. Did the King have absolute power over the women, were they afraid of the King?
- What if the King did intend to split the child and the sword was not just a threat as some have suggested? Was the King wise or a cruel ruler?
- Why was there no effort to get to the truth, no examination of evidence or questioning by the King?
- Is it reasonable to believe that someone could take a baby from a sleeping mother’s arms without waking her?
- What was the purpose of the story – to praise the King for judging wisely or that the King was unilateral and dangerous?
- Was it a parody of the King? The King had no name so there could be no punishment to the writer.
Today, we need greater wisdom, wisdom that will allow us to live together in support of each other.
Rev. Dr. Joanne Cox-Darling led Saturday morning worship. She is a Presbyter in the British Methodist Conference. Her scripture was Isaiah: 61. She began by expressing her homesickness for her husband and child back in London. She related the story to God’s people in exile and the longing for home and “the way things used to be.”
She reminded the audience that exile could be a place of great creativity and surprise when things aren’t like they used to be. We must redefine our reality and recognize God in our midst now reinvigorating a movement that may have lost its way.
She shared a video of ping-pong balls and mousetraps to illustrate a chain reaction when one action can set off an explosion of activity and uncontrollable chaos. The Spirit of God is redemptive, creative and chaotic.
Dr. Cox-Darling suggested that some of us will view that chaos as breath taking and exciting and some may see it as overwhelming and exhausting. It’s the nature of our humanity that we are not always primed to respond to the Spirit’s call to chaos. We are exhausted and some view that as a merit or worthiness.
“Doing for” because we know best what a community needs isn’t mission. Mission happens when we work with someone and share his or her struggle and walk with Jesus together. Often using our own brokenness to open the door for God to heal others. There are many examples of former addicts, sufferers of ADHD, helpers who have experience that God can use to help others.
She expressed confidence that the Spirit of God was working in the room and around the world and we must choose to remain primed to fulfill God’s calling.
“God is not finished with us Wesleyans yet,” she assured.
She left the audience with a question: “How is God calling you to fulfill your potential for His work today?”
In every community, in every town and nation, there’s a secret. It’s not often talked about or acknowledged, but it’s there. You may not be aware, but hidden in the shadows in back alleys as well as displayed in broad daylight, in store fronts on main street and in nearby warehouses it’s presence is there. Its influence may even be in some of the products you bring into your home. Human trafficking, often referred to as modern slavery, has a face and a name even if we choose not to think about it.
Whether it’s an 8-year-old girl working to produce chocolate or shoes or cotton for pennies a day, forced to pay off her family’s debts at exorbitant interest rates instead of playing or going to school; or someone needing a fresh start, brought to an unfamiliar country with the promise of a good-paying job, only to be hidden away and forced to work for an abusive “employer” who never pays them; or a teenager, promised a better life by a suitor who grooms them with affection and then sells them into sex slavery. These stories are all too common to those who work with ministries and organizations focused on helping the proverbial least, last, and lost who are truly living on the margins of society and are, perhaps surprisingly, not all that far from our own communities.
Such stories represent a fraction of a collection of larger issues, as discussed in Saturday’s workshop on human trafficking led by Mark Kadel, Director of World Relief, Spokane. Sadly, Kadel says too much of today’s conversation, when it happens, isn’t focused on how to help, but rather whether slavery even exists today. “Today every country in the world has a law on the books outlawing slavery. Some countries just choose not to enforce it… There are more slaves that exist in the world today than at any time in human history.”
Kadel offered a definition of human trafficking as “organized criminal activity in which human beings are treated as possessions to be controlled and exploited through forced labor or through the commercialized sex industry. It is modern slavery.” He went on to explain that “human trafficking doesn’t necessarily involve the movement of people – it could involve anything related to the exploitation of people,” and it is the number 2 criminal industry after the drug trade.
His hope and prayer are that the church becomes a leader in every community helping and protecting those caught up in modern slavery and works to fight these injustices.
Ways You Can Help
There are many resources available. World Relief offers this guide on where to find additional information and how to offer support.
Report Cases of Slavery or Trafficking
If you think you have encountered a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, 1-888-373-7888, open 24 hours a day/7 days a week. In cases of emergency, call 911.
The workshop was led by Steve Ybarrola, professor of cultural anthropology at Asbury Theological Seminary, and Zach Szmara, lead pastor of The Bridge Community Church in Logansport, Indiana. Zach is also an accredited immigration legal representative and a director for Immigrant Connection, a grassroots network of Wesleyans envisioning the Spirit of God bringing immigrants and churches together to cultivate relationships, share resources and provide legal resources.
The statistics are staggering. The 2015 United Nations’ estimate of individuals living outside their countries of origin is 244 million, with 1/7 of the world’s population considered migrants.
Steve and Zach asked workshop attendees to divide into small groups and discuss key points that are important when trying to influence change in churches:
- Who are your Samaritans (maybe one specific group or several)?
- How does the surrounding culture feel, think, say and act toward this people/group?
- How does your local church community feel, think, say and act toward this people/group?
- What specific actions might you take to learn from, listen to and missionally serve this people/group?
Steve acknowledged that we are all dealing with global migration and described it as a major movement of people “we need to think about missionally and determine how we as a local church can serve these communities. Human beings migrate, that’s what we do. Jesus was a refugee and he had to flee because of infanticide. When we look at the scriptures we see that participation in God’s mission usually involves movement or migration.”
Zach has been in Logansport since 2012 and since then the focus has shifted from closing the church to creating a multi-ethnic one. “We now serve people from all over the world and we have a direct impact on their lives. We must consider how local churches can serve the needs of refugees and reach out to the Samaritans among us. The process starts with teaching and those of you who have a pulpit can use it more effectively. Remember this is not a political issue, it is a Jesus issue. “
Zach described the success of the unique dinners his church initiated. “We invite small groups of influential people, including community leaders and immigrants. We call it speed dating across cultures. Immigrants hear stories of our mayor and pastors and we hear stories of what it is like in a refugee camp and what it is like to leave family behind to come to the United States. These dinners are very popular now and we have a waiting list to attend. We see there is great value in learning and listening.”
Adds Steve: “We are called to love others but how can we love them when we don’t know them? It is important we show that we are interested in them and we don’t just want them to be like us. Sadly, we are comfortable with Samaritans after they do become like us.”
Both speakers agreed that churches need to see migrants as an opportunity and that God is bringing people into our midst from countries where we cannot go.
I was most impressed with the organization of the program. The Spirit of God is felt.
I would like to come to the next WMC in Sweden, God being my helper!
I felt the arrangement of the conference was so superb. The speakers in all the programs did very well. The atmosphere was conducive.
By the grace of God, I want to come to the next one
I most appreciated seeing all the diversity of the Wesleyan sisters and brothers. One family with so many different gifts. I would love to come again.
The best pat for me is the opportunity to know the diversity of the church and how big it is in the world. I want to come again.
Bishop William Mwonga, Uganda
Bishop Alice Mwila, Kenya
They unanimously agreed that the World Methodist Conference has been very informative, educational, and spiritual!
This is my 5th WMC and 3rd Assembly and I am loving it. The Wednesday night presentation changed everything for me. I am in awe of the expanse and magnificence of God.
I came to see God’s power in creating the world…as we experience another continent. The conference is interesting. It’s amazing. It’s encouraging. I am excited to see that we continue to spread the good news.
I came because primarily I’m a delegate for the Methodist Church in Nigeria.
I’m also a member of the nominations committee and was recently elected as chair of social and international affairs. I’m a Methodist. I’m a son of Wesley.
This is a place you connect people. Have fresh expressions of our faith. Share Ideas. Share common challenges so we can effectively minister the gospel with people not just within the 4 walls of the church, but also in the margins of society.
I just finished the clergywomen’s collective and I wanted to stay and learn more about the global church. My home church doesn’t have a lot of connection to the global church so I wanted to bring back some connections for them. It gives me hope and energy to see the bigger picture. Sometimes we see the little bit we’re doing and we think we’re never going to make a difference but we will because it’s not just us in our little place. It is everyone working together.
I was a councilmember as the youth chair many years ago. I’m coming back to speak at the event I started back in 2001.
This conference is really a great time of fellowship and bringing people together from all over the world. I come for the opportunity to learn from my Methodist brothers and sisters.
I brought almost 100 colleagues to celebrate the unity of the Methodist Church, to learn from the many speakers and to grow spiritually during this conference.
I’m a pastor and I’m attending the World Assembly while wearing a “why wear black on Thursdays t-shirt” to participate in a form of peaceful protest against rape and violence – especially taking place during wars and conflicts. The campaign focuses on ways through which individuals may challenge attitudes that cause rape and violence. “Thursdays in Black” is a global expression of the desire for safe communities where we can all walk safely without fear of being raped, shot at, beaten up, verbally abused and discriminated against due to one’s gender or sexual orientation.
Mario Martinez, Originally From El Salvador, Currently in Tennessee at Martin Methodist College
I hope to meet a lot of new people and to learn the different ways they view ministry and how they engage in ministry and see their perspective. So far I’ve learned a lot from them and they’ve been really affirming in everything that I’ve done.
“When women gather they have good ideas to share and to learn form each other.
I hope to gain ideas that bring positive changes in my continent and country. What I am learning will be of great importance to young people in Africa.”
Helen Ma, Hong Kong, President of the Hong Kong Women’s Association
“I am happy to be here to represent the 600 members of my Association.
I want to meet sisters from other countries and to learn more through plenary sessions and workshops.”
“I look forward to the things God has been doing in the Methodist Church all over the world. I hope to take home the challenges and relationships with one another for the extensions of God’s kingdom. I want the Methodist church to become more vibrant with the spirit of the Wesleyans.”
Rev. Eteuati Tuioti, Samoa Methodist Church
I’ve been part of the theological education dialogue for years and I’m interested in Methodist subjects of all kinds, especially university, teaching and carrying that forward from generation to generation. It’s about fellowship. It’s about learning. You learn every day. You listen, you see, you meet, you exchange ideas, we are here to learn from others, as well as share your own perspective. How we interpret Christianity and teachings in our own respective culture.
Tinuwola Bademosi, Nigeria
I’m a Methodist and a lay preacher in my church in Nigeria. It’s wonderful to meet so many people – and learn from them and they can learn from us. In Nigeria, we have lots of youth, so we’re trying to learn what to do to bring them in. We’re looking for ways to improve and bring our ideas together.
She gave examples of what love looks like from others including the tragedy in Charleston and the forgiveness given by family and members of the congregation that endured that unimaginable loss. She declared “God’s love will change your mind about people and change your mind about God.”
The Scripture for study was Mark 2: 1-11. She reflected on the conflict of those who thought they knew Jesus and who Jesus really was. She brought that idea forward to praise God for people who can see beyond our pain to who God would have us be. The 4 helpers saw beyond the incapacity of the invalid and stopped at nothing to bring him to Jesus. They found a way despite the crowds, they were creative, they did something they probably had never done before to get to Jesus. Bishop extolled the audience to do the same, do something new, creative to get to Jesus and to bring others to Him. “We can’t keep doing the same old thing ‘cause it’s not working!”
She reminded us that Jesus not only healed in the story but He forgave the invalid’s sins. And, those who saw the miracle changed their minds about people and changed their minds about God. She urged the audience to use this example to break through the roof, get out of house, to get to where the people are.
“Praise God for people who understand that love is a verb, an action word.”
“Let us abound in the supernatural love of God. “
“Love is the Bible in a nutshell.”
“Love of God will make you do strange and wonderful things.”
It will make you love regardless of social class, race, gender, education or anything else that could divide you from your brothers and sisters. Love can make you advocate for the poor, stop abuse and violence against women, even make you civil towards those who don’t share your views on many things.
To conclude, Bishop Murphy McKenzie had everyone up, holding hands, dancing and singing “Love Train.”