United Methodist Leader Affirms Importance of a Global Agency to Engage in the Church's Global Mission
By Melissa Hinnen
March 20, 2012, Plano, Texas—The United Methodist Church must maintain and respect a creative tension between the universal and the local aspects of the church. This is the message that Thomas Kemper, general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, delivered in his semi-annual report to directors. Kemper stressed that mission is "the job of the global church, encompassing many cultures and tongues." He continued, "The universal message of the gospel must become incarnate in the local contexts in which we serve."
Celebrating the directors for their work this quadrennium, Kemper highlighted the ways Global Ministries is engaging in God's mission. Through strengthening relationships with the Wesleyan family, partnering more with annual and central conferences, establishing connections with local churches in the US—including through the network of large United Methodist congregations, and collaborating in mission roundtables, the organization is intentional about being "a global agency for a church alive in global mission." Emphasizing the need to increase the organization's regional presence, Kemper announced that steps are being taken to establish a presence in Hong Kong, Japan, and Palestine/Israel.
Projecting a graphic showing where missionaries come from and are sent to serve, Kemper proudly announced that with nearly 50 percent of missionaries now coming from places outside the US, Global Ministries "can say without exaggeration that our missionaries are from everywhere to everywhere." He pointed out that this "internationalization" is also appealing to young adults. Twenty-two of the 55 applicants to this year's mission intern program are from outside the US. This new model of mission has led to the need to reevaluate the current missionary services structure so that it fits with the realities found in different cultural contexts.
With the many ways that the church has been connecting the universal and the local paradigms, Kemper expressed concern that the proposed restructuring of the general agencies does not reflect a church that has "a global mission and consciousness." Acknowledging that "the incarnation of the gospel in the local context is a major theme in the Call to Action," he was critical of the Interim Operating Team proposal. "I wish that the IOT report was more cognizant of the tension and the need to balance the global and the local…it runs the risk of creating a corporate management plan more suitable to a national church."
In closing, Kemper reminded directors that reform is part of the Protestant tradition, and that at the heart of Methodism is the mission to share the gospel in the "unadorned earthen vessels of our ordinary lives and institutions." The creative tension between the global and the local is "essential to a church serious about increasing faith, hope, and love in ways that can truly transform the world."
The directors, meeting March 19-22 in Plano, Texas, are being hosted by Christ United Methodist Church. Following Kemper's report, the directors and staff participated in a day of hands-on mission throughout the Dallas area. Confident that they would incarnate the global mission and message of Jesus Christ in the local places they would serve, Kemper encouraged directors to also recognize "the contribution of the local—whether that is Dallas or Dar es Salaam—to the global."
Download a PDF of the full report: A Global Agency for the Church's Global Mission