United Methodist Vietnam Initiative Transition
Bishop Hope Morgan Ward
For Immediate Release
Atlanta, Nov. 2, 2018 – The United Methodist Mission Initiative in Vietnam is working through challenges in transition because a retired missionary-pastor, who has surrendered his ministerial credentials, is attempting to lead Vietnamese United Methodists into a separate denomination he is trying to organize.
Leaders of the Vietnam Mission Initiative notified denominational officials and Vietnam mission partners of these developments before the annual meeting of the initiative Nov. 27-29 in Ho Chi Minh City. In a Nov. 2 joint statement, North Carolina Annual Conference Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, the bishop assigned to Vietnam, and Thomas Kemper, chief executive of the General Board of Global Ministries, the church’s mission agency, asked for prayers for this gathering as United Methodists in Vietnam move into the future.
Ward and Kemper wrote that the Rev. Ut To, who served as a missionary in Vietnam for 17 years and retired in June 2017, “has not upheld the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church. He has interfered with the ongoing life and ministry of the church, has refused to vacate the United Methodist property in Ho Chi Minh City, has organized a group of followers into a new denomination and allowed himself to be elected bishop of this new group.”
Ward and Kemper reported that To is surrendering his ministerial credentials to Bishop David Bard of the Michigan Area. To was a clergy member of the Michigan Annual Conference.
“The annual meeting on Nov. 27-29 will be an important time of strengthening our work in Vietnam,” the joint statement said. “We expect around 100 Vietnamese participants representing 38 congregations, half of the currently reported churches. We also anticipate participation of 11 of the 12 members of the executive committee.” Also attending will be representatives of the Minnesota, North Carolina and West Ohio annual conferences, which have mission partnerships with Vietnam, and of the Vietnam-American United Methodist Caucus, and staff from Global Ministries.
Ward and Kemper asked for prayer for the United Methodist Initiative in Vietnam and for the spiritual and emotional welfare of To and his family, for no acknowledgment of the church the former missionary is seeking to establish, and for no financial support for To’s activities.
Ward will preside at the Vietnam Mission Initiative annual meeting as the bishop given oversight of Vietnam by the United Methodist Council of Bishops.