United Methodists Send 40 New Persons into Mission Service
By Elliott Wright
Tampa, Florida, April 29, 2012—Voices of the worldwide Methodist family came together in a Florida church on Sunday, April 29, to bless and celebrate 40 persons being sent into the world as missionaries and deaconesses to witness to God’s love, mercy, and justice.
Representatives from Methodist churches in more than two dozen countries were present for the commissioning of 23 new missionaries and 17 deaconesses and home missioners of The United Methodist Church. The missionaries were from 11 countries.
“Commissioning,” according to an opening reading, “is a holy act in which the church, as a sign and symbol of the Missionary God, sends forth people into the world.”
The service took place at Palma Ceia United Methodist Church during the 2012 meeting of the ten-day United Methodist General Conference, held every four years to conduct church business. Palma Ceia is a 66 year-old, 1,500-member church with a strong mission outreach.
More than 500 persons attended, overflowing the sanctuary into a fellowship hall where a video link was set up. The Rev. Dr. Kevin M. James, Sr., the local pastor and host, said it was “wonderful to have the global church at Palma Ceia.” People in 22 countries tuned in to the live stream on the internet.
In the evening of April 29, the new mission personnel was presented to and enthusiastically welcomed by the General Conference at the Tampa Convention Center. Video and projected still photos underscored what Thomas Kemper, chief executive of the mission agency, termed missionaries from “everywhere to everywhere.”
Bishop Hope Morgan Ward of Mississippi, vice president of the board, led the conference delegates and friends in blessing the new missionaries, deaconesses, and home missioners.
Seventeen persons commissioned are “Global Missionaries” being sent to places as diverse as Senegal, Costa Rica, Argentina, Russia, Northern Ireland, and Tanzania. There are some 220 Global Missionaries serving through the denomination’s General Board of Global Ministries.
Deaconesses and home missioners, the latter being men, serve ministries of justice in the United States. There were two persons commissioned as Church and Community Workers, missionaries in economically marginalized US communities, and four are missionaries through the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministries.
The missionaries serve through the denomination’s General Board of Global Ministries; deaconesses and home missioners have a special relation to the church through the Women’s Division of the agency.
At Palma Ceia, in a service both solemn and joyful, the new mission personnel confirmed a call to a lifetime of mission, “being led by the Spirit of God to engage in this work.” They promised to pray, read the Bible, increase their skills, and do their work “in sincerity and love,” witnessing to the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
Bishop Bruce R. Ough of West Ohio, president of Global Ministries, presided at the service of commissioning. At the start of the service, Kemper, the agency executive, and Harriett Jane Olson, head of the Women’s Division, read a litany that attested to the importance of missionaries and deaconesses in Scripture and the Methodist tradition.
The litany expressed trust “that these mission servants, being sent forth in the power of the Holy Spirit and the accompanying grace of God, will fulfill the sacred tasks entrusted to them.
A prayer by Home Missioner Haniel Garibay of the Virginia Annual Conference summarized many of the situations in which those commissioned will serve, including those afflicted by hunger, natural disaster, war, injustices, pollution, and neglect--and those who hunger “for the spiritual food of God’s Word and love.”
Download a full list of those commissioned,
their home annual conferences, and their assignments.