New York, NY, February 8, 2011--Love and justice stand at the top of a set of guiding principles for United Methodist ministry with the poor, one of four current focus areas, or priorities, of the denomination.
The two-page text was hammered out over a period of months in dialogue among representatives of the 13 general agencies of the church. Poverty is understood as taking both material and spiritual expressions.
Ministry with the poor is basic to the history and present reality of Christianity in general and Methodism in particular, according to the guidelines. It is "a biblical imperative--as much for everyone today as it was for Jesus when he proclaimed it." Ministry with the poor was a benchmark in the work of Methodist founder, John Wesley, in 18th century England.
"Our mission as United Methodists is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and this means ministry with--not for or to--the poor," said Thomas Kemper, general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries. Kemper's organization has a lead role among the general agencies charged with promoting the priorities.
The guiding principles call upon church members, as disciples of Jesus, to be "hospitable and caring brothers and sisters in Christ who break bread with each other, nurture community, and work together to make the world a place of justice, mercy, and love."
Members of the Interagency Task Force on Ministry with the Poor meet on a regular basis, often by conference call, to explore collaborative ministries. They learn from one another and from experts in the fields of poverty alleviation, spiritual growth, and economic, social, and spiritual development.
The guidelines reflect many direct mandates from Jesus concerning the poor; they state, in part:
Jesus explicitly told us [that]…each person must love and treat others as he or she would want to be treated (Matthew 22:35-40). Jesus also modeled how to be in ministry withone another, including widows, orphans, "the little children" (Luke 18:15-17), prisoners, the homeless, the outcast, the foreigner, the sick and disabled, the debtor, the oppressed, the occupying soldier--and even our enemies (see Matthew 5:43-47)--but especially society's most marginalized, "the least of these" (Matthew 25:45), with whom Jesus equated himself. (Matthew 25:35-40).
Read the full text of the guidelines: Ministry with the Poor: Guiding Principles and Foundations (PDF, 2 pp., 102KB).