Mission Leader Says: Only the Power of God’s Love Can Save the World
By Elliott Wright*
The power to save the world resides not in politics or military might, but in the love of God represented by the cross of Jesus Christ. This was the central theme of the semi-annual report of the chief mission leader of The United Methodist Church.
Thomas Kemper challenged the church to bear witness to that reality and to acknowledge the many ways in which United Methodists in mission already testify to the power of God. He addressed directors of the General Board of Global Ministries at the opening of their two-day meeting on October 12, 2017.
PHOTO: CYNTHIA MACK
Kemper drew the contrast between worldly and spiritual power from the writings of Colin Morris, an English theologian, missionary, pastor, and BBC executive. In a devotional meditation in the book Biblical Reflections Round the Christian Year, Morris juxtaposes ancient Rome’s power to dominate people by force to the Christian objective to “change human hearts without smashing the human will” and observes that “the cross has proved to be the power of God to salvation.”
Kemper cited examples of ministries bearing the imprint of God’s love from recent mission activities and his travel, including a lengthy visit to Africa, as general secretary of Global Ministries. He discussed:
• Response to natural disasters, such as recent hurricanes in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico, mud slides in Sierra Leone, and wildfires in California, through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR);
• Increasing numbers of young adult, short-term missionaries from around the world—63 Global Mission Fellows this year, including one from China;
• Growth of the church in Africa and corresponding increase in Africans becoming global missionaries;
• Expanding global health ministries, including Abundant Health, a program providing life-saving services to one million children, grants to health boards of 11 annual (regional) conferences in Africa, and on-going health work in Germany;
• Reconciliation of a decade-old schism in The United Methodist Church in Burundi;
• Effective outreach to children and youth in the Honduras Mission Initiative;
• Disaster response training for partner Methodist churches in Central America; and
• Setting a Global Migration Sunday to encourage church members to learn and pray about the world’s millions of refugees and other displaced people and respond to their needs.
Kemper illustrated such work with photos and videos.
One highlight was a live stream conversation with Bishop Hector Ortiz-Vidal of the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico and Glorymar Rivera, the Puerto Rican church’s disaster coordinator, about the situation of the island in the wake of Hurricane Maria in September. The bishop, a Global Ministries’ director, described the devastating impact of the hurricane and thanked UMCOR for joining his church in efforts to respond to acute needs.
PHOTO: CYNTHIA MACK
Kemper also surveyed church responses to recent natural disasters—including the 2017 hurricanes striking Texas, Florida, and other parts of the Gulf Coast, noting that UMCOR to date had received $15 million in hurricane relief donations.
The mission executive showed a new video, produced by United Methodist Communications about Global Migration Sunday, December 3, 2017, which will be an opportunity for United Methodists around the world to join in a common prayer for the displaced of earth and to contribute to a fund designated for their welfare (Advance #3022144).
Kemper’s report came one a day after Bishop Bruce Ough of the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, issued a call to church members to observe the Special Sunday. Speaking on behalf of the council, Ough expressed the belief “that the prayers of God’s people can cause the outpouring of God’s mercy and justice.”
Resources for Global Migration Sunday can be found online at http://umcmigration.org.
*Elliott Wright is information consultant for Global Ministries.