Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

Thomas Kemper

General Secretary,
General Board of Global Ministries

Thomas KemperThomas Kemper is the top executive of the General Board of Global Ministries. From 1986-1994, he served as a missionary in Brazil before returning to his native Germany to lead ecumenical learning at the Lippische Landeskirche, a regional church of the Association of Protestant Churches. From 1998-2010 he served as mission leader for the United Methodist German Central Conference. Prior to his current role as General Secretary he was a member of the Global Ministries Board of Directors. He is married to Barbara Hüfner-Kemper and the father of three children: Ana, 20, Lena, 19, and Joshua, 15.

Thomas enjoys preaching and is becoming known here at Global Ministries for his good sense of humor. Those who come by the Office of the General Secretary find that his door is open and all are always warmly welcomed.

Email: tkemper@umcmission.org
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Read Thomas Kemper’s Mission Musings.

General Secretary’s Report: God’s Mission and Human Rights

Report to the Board of Directors. New York, NY, April 10, 2014

With a focus on human rights in mission, Thomas Kemper’s semiannual report to the Global Ministries’ directors highlighted one of the mission goals of the agency, to “seek justice, freedom and peace.”

Noting the frequency with which he is asked to issue statements on human rights violations as well his involvement in the Task Force on Human Rights and Investment Ethics, Kemper discussed the importance of promoting human rights as a mission responsibility. While the United Methodist Social Principles and General Conference resolutions offer guidance, he explained that complexities “take us into a maze of often competing historical interpretation, theological perspectives and practical implications involving Christian promotion of full and equal rights among all people.”

Kemper shared three lessons he has learned from exploring the philosophy and application of the assertion that “every human being has the right to justice, freedom and peace.” 

  1. While the importance of human rights has a Biblical basis, the concept and consciousness have evolved over time. For John Wesley, Kemper said, “rights were not based solely in theological perspective on the image of God in the human creature; he went another step: dignity and rights are inherent because of the creative and creating love of God.”
  2. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not entirely secular but was written in large part by theologians and lay statesmen with strong ecumenical connections.  Observing how the declaration connects human rights with religious conviction, Kemper challenged directors to question, “just how do we treat one another when we believe that we all belong together through divine creation and God’s affection?”
  3. The global church strives to be faithful in God’s mission, however human rights are not universally observed. Kemper said that “culture often dictates what is considered a ‘right’ and what is considered unacceptable behavior.” Emphasizing concern for religious liberty for people of all faiths, he indicated a special solidarity with Christians who face barriers and persecution in many parts of the world. Noting the situation in Pakistan, including its blasphemy laws, Kemper said, “I have learned that the denial of rights, the failure to realize that we belong together, kills people, ends the dreams of children, and disrupts families.”

At the heart of his third point was the story of a couple, who lost their two children and the wife's mother when a suicide bomber killed 80 people at All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan, this past September. Global Ministries is sponsoring the couple for a time of spiritual refreshment in the United States. Introducing them to directors, Kemper said, “We are honored to have them with us today to stand as witnesses to agony and to reliance on God when human rights are violated.”

Read the full text of Thomas Kemper’s report to the board.

Thomas Kemper Invited to Lecture at Kwansei Gakuin

Thomas Kemper, who leads the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, will present two lectures at the Methodist-related Kwansei Gakuin mission school in Japan. The lectures are part of the school’s 125th anniversary celebration.

In 1889, the Rev. Walter R. Lambuth, a missionary of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, founded Kwansei Gakuin. While gakuin is a Japanese word meaning academy or school, today Kwansei Gakuin is a comprehensive, integrated educational institute teaching kindergarten to graduate school. A total of 24,000 students attend. Seiwa College, which has similar Methodist roots, recently merged with Kwansei Gakuin to form a School of Education within the university. Read More

The Work to Which We Are Called

Report to the Board of Directors. New York, NY, October 10, 2013

With a spirit of joy and gratitude, board president Bishop Hope Morgan Ward opened the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries’ annual fall board meeting. Bishop Ward, who leads the North Carolina Annual Conference said, “It is a privilege to be gathered to work together in God’s ministry. May the hospitality of God flow through us and be reflected in the work that we do.”

Building on the theme of the opening worship, General Secretary Thomas Kemper began his report to directors saying, “Our joy and hope sends us into mission, into the work of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—the work to which we are called.”

Kemper read from John 21 in which Jesus tells Peter to feed his sheep. Kemper added that particularly with programmatic emphases on Ministry with the Poor and Global Health, “We of Global Ministries are called to continue with strong faith the challenge to feed and tend the sheep and lambs with Gospel love and physical nourishment.”

He affirmed that Global Ministries is in a strong position to “creatively respond to God’s call to mission.” The agency’s restructure is almost complete and the cabinet is now fully staffed, providing solid leadership for each of the units.

Mission and Evangelism

Through missionaries, young adults, and mission initiatives, Global Ministries continues to share the Gospel, start new churches, and offer opportunities for United Methodists to carry out God’s mission. Celebrating that 574 new worshipping communities were launched through 13 mission initiatives from 2009 to 2012, Kemper announced a goal of developing 600 new churches and faith communities in the current quadrennium.

Global Ministries is regularly preparing and sending missionaries who come from everywhere and serve everywhere. Underscoring this point, Kemper lifted up 15 new missionaries who are being commissioned this week. “We have new personnel from Costa Rica going to the Dominican Republic, from Panama and Puerto Rico to Mexico, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Senegal, from Brazil to the US, Hong Kong to Japan, and so on,” he said.

He went on to explain how new opportunities for young adult missionaries are being enhanced and broadened. Noting that “for every generation, young adulthood is a time of personal transformation,” Kemper announced the 2014 launch of Generation Transformation, an initiative that encompasses three service opportunities for young adults: Global Mission Fellows, Global Justice Volunteers, and Individual Volunteers.

Partnerships and Collaboration

Through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), Global Ministries is addressing issues of global health. Kemper was part of a forum last week with Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, a US medical association with multiple facilities in the Memphis area, that explored how community-based approaches can help churches in the United States respond to needs that will arise from the Affordable Health Care Law. “The start of the enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act is an opportunity for United Methodists to take an active part in helping people to understand and enroll in the plan,” Kemper noted.

Highlighting UMCOR’s response to Hurricane Sandy, Kemper praised the way the whole denomination has come together to collaborate in recovery efforts. “This work is a strong example of what can happen when United Methodists really work together,” he said. One partnership that grew out of Hurricane Sandy relief efforts is with Restoration Generation. This young adult service project is supported by a number of agencies, commissions, and annual conferences. Global Ministries has placed two US-2 missionaries on the Restoration Generation staff.

There has also been denominational collaboration in the area of Ministry with the Poor, with Global Ministries sharing oversight with the General Board of Church and Society in close cooperation with the Justice and Reconciliation Table of the Council of Bishops. Kemper shared that this coordinated effort is leading to a plan that will promote and strengthen congregational and community-oriented ministries with the poor.

Global Ministries partnerships often extend ecumenically, and Kemper reported on some of the recent ways that he has reached out in “solidarity with those who suffer through military, terrorist, or technical disasters,” including to those affected by tragedy in Pakistan, Kenya, and Lampedusa. He also shared information about the April 2013 United Methodist delegation that was officially received by the church in China. Kemper confirmed that the visit expanded “the opportunity for mutual relations between the church and one of the places of greatest Christian growth of the 21st century.”

In closing, he said that while we don’t always know what the results will be, “Every time we start a new faith community through one our initiatives, or educate a pastor in Congo or Bolivia, or place a missionary, or organize a team of mission volunteers, or put a community back on its feet after a storm—in all of those situations we run a risk: the risk of starting something the Holy Spirit can bring to fulfillment.”

Read Thomas Kemper’s full report to the Board here.



Spring 2013 Report to the Board

Thoughts on a "Global United Methodist Church that We Have Never Dared to Become" was the message that Thomas Kemper, general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, shared in his semi-annual report to the agency's directors. The report was based on a longer paper that he presented to professors of Wesleyan studies earlier this month.

Noting that Global Ministries' staff and missionaries reflect the multinational nature of the church's mission, Kemper stressed "the theology and practice of mission—broadly understood as the work of the church, not the portfolio of one agency–will determine our global reality in the future." His report to the directors encouraged United Methodists to engage in dialogue and conversations around four interrelated topics:

  • framing a new or renewed mission vision for our global agenda;

  • grappling with the impact of an unjust and divided world;

  • addressing the implications of migration/immigration on our vision and mission; and

  • daring to ask new questions and do new things for the sake of the gospel.

Read more and download the full text of Thomas Kemper's Spring 2013 report to the board.


Thomas Kemper Address to Global Ministries Directors

General Secretary’s Report
October 22, 2012
A Covenant of Hope in Mission

Welcome and Contextual Matters:

This is an historical meeting of the directors of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church, the first session under a new governance plan wherein almost 30 percent of you, the directors, are from Central Conferences. Also, it is the first meeting with United Methodist Women as a separate but related organization. We convene with a refocused strategic plan and a refined management structure ready to implement the decisions and policies that you forge for global mission in a time such as this. Our twice-yearly meetings will by necessity be concentrated and convened with the expectation that all of us, directors and staff, are equipped to engage in the dialogue and action required to carry out our mission mandates.

We meet at a time of reassessment of structures and relationships within our denomination, but at a door of great potential, a time to be open to innovation and new forms of collaboration on many fronts. We come together not only in faith but also in hope.

Read more