United Methodist Leader Shares a Covenant of Hope in Mission
"Mission from the margins invites the church to re-imagine mission as a vocation from God’s spirit." This is the message that Thomas Kemper, general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, delivered in his annual report to directors.
Drawing parallels with the recently released ecumenical mission affirmation by the World Council of Churches, Kemper read from the Global Ministries mission theology statement, “The Spirit is always moving to sweep the Church into a new mission age.”
Kemper suggested that in responding to the bishops’ Call to Action, United Methodist’s should look to the margins for spiritual energy. Welcoming the new 36 member board, Kemper noted that 30 percent of the directors come from central conferences. According to Kemper, as the demographics of the United Methodist Church change globally, “we are being called to look toward those places and people once considered on the margins . . . for examples of faithfulness to the hope of God’s realm in history.” Through leadership grants, diversity of missionaries, new volunteer models, cross cultural church relationships, and a focus on ministry with the poor, Global Ministries connects the church in mission “not from the center to the margins” but mission from and on the margins.
Acknowledging the realities facing Global Ministries in the coming quadrennium, Kemper asserted that the organization is proceeding with financial caution, without acting out of fear. Mission roundtables across the world are strengthening Global Ministries’ presence while meeting indigenous goals and objectives. The agency presence is expanding globally with staff placements in Europe and Latin America and a new East Asia office in Hong Kong is being planned. While it was the first time the Global Ministries board met since United Methodist Women became structurally separate, Kemper maintained that the relationship between the organizations continues to be strong. One example of partnership is a center in Tokyo that is being jointly developed to “enhance community-based ministries with Japanese mission partners.”
Two of the areas that the report specifically focused on are ministries in the Middle East and UMCOR’s leadership in Imagine No Malaria.
A Methodist Liaison office was opened in Jerusalem in partnership with the World Methodist Council and the British Methodist Church. Kemper recently returned from Israel/Palestine and was moved by the hope that surrounded him that “came from the reliance upon God through Jesus Christ that I experienced among Palestinian Christians.” Emphasizing the positions of the General Conference that seek justice for the Palestinian people, Kemper also expressed his support of the right of Israel to exist with secure borders. Outlining the Palestinian struggles and the ecumenical work being done in the region, he referenced a letter signed by faith leaders saying, “I fully support the letter written . . . to members of the US Congress, urging them to investigate possible violations by Israel.”
Global health, is a “major reality on our mission agenda,” Kemper said, lifting up the work of UMCOR particularly in the programmatic implementation of Imagine No Malaria. UMCOR Health works with government health departments and other networks, trains health boards throughout Africa, and provides education and nets in the fight against malaria. Expressing a broader vision for the impact Global Ministries can have in global health through UMCOR, he shared a dream to “realize a Global Health Advisory Council for this board.”
In conclusion, Kemper proposed a covenant in God’s global mission. He reminded the board, “We are exceptional because God loves us, and gives us the capacity to say ‘yes’ to the divine call to be in mission.”
Read the full text of Thomas Kemper’s October 2012 report to the board: http://www.umcmission.org/Learn-About-Us/News-and-Stories/2012/October-/Thomas-Kemper-Address-to-Global-Ministries-Directors