Methodism by its very nature is a movement, one that promotes personal and social holiness and extends the community of Christian faith through local and regional mission. Activating this combination of evangelism, church development, and social service defines a part of the work of The United Methodist Church through the General Board of Global Ministries. Over the past three decades, we have engaged in new or renewed mission initiatives in Africa, Asia, Eurasia, and Latin America.
Efforts and outcomes
The marks of the Methodist movement were etched into our experience by John Wesley more than 250 years ago, and we see their strengthens in the initiatives included here: class (small group) meetings, lay leadership, Bible study, partnership in action, general and Christian education, attention to physical and spiritual health, and inclusive outreach, including ministry with the poor. Such a holistic approach from the inception of new mission initiatives produces mature, asset-based churches that are locally led and financially self-supporting.
Through the Mission Initiatives, 574 new faith communities were planted in the four years from 2009–2012; the goal was 400. The goal for 2013–2016 is 600 with 215 started by December 31, 2014. These movements are taking increasing responsibility for their leadership and governance. Vietnam has 14 local elders; Cambodia has transitioned to an all-indigenous cabinet (superintendents); and Honduras, Vietnam, Cameroon, and Senegal have partnerships with boards of ordained ministries in existing annual conferences so that clergy can be ordained locally. Missionaries are still essential in a range of roles, primarily as trainers, facilitators, and specialists.
Some initiatives have matured to the point of becoming parts of the regular United Methodist connection. Annual conferences have been established in Russia and other parts of Eurasia. Malawi is now a provisional annual conference, and Lithuania and Latvia are districts of the Estonia Annual Conference.
We are seeking to identify in the existing initiatives those common values and guiding principles that are most conducive to effective mission—lessons for future efforts. We asked individuals from the 12 initiatives to share their perceptions. Points they made include:
- Prayer must support strategy, vision, and development.
- Empowered laypersons are essential in planting new small groups/faith communities and growing the movement.
- Where Methodism is entirely new, the capacity of the mission sponsor to work with the civil government keeps the new faith communities from being seen as “cults.”
- Using local assets and labor in church projects both increases capacity to give to the new community and builds a sense of ownership and stability.
- Self-sufficiency builds confidence, while ongoing reliance on outside support weakens the movement.
- International partners add value through listening, training, and strategic financial support.
- The Methodist connection provides a sense of belonging, increases access to training, and helps with the credentialing of clergy, such as through conference boards of ordained ministry.
New initiatives and partnerships
The Central African Republic was named as a Mission Initiative at the October 2015 Board of Directors meeting. Additional requests have been received from several countries including French Guiana, and for a renewal of work in Nepal. These requests will require further investigation.
Mission Initiative Countries and Regions
Central Asia (Kazakhstan
, and Uzbekistan