Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Statement on the Kairos Response endeavor in the United Methodist Church

From: DarEll Weist
To: all my friends who are a part of the United Methodist Missionary Association

As an Ordained Elder in the California and Pacific Annual Conference, having served 45 years in active ministry and now retired, I am concerned about the Portfolio of the United Methodist General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits.

I have been to Israel and Palestine off and on for the last 30 years and yearly since 2006. In my visits, I have experienced the Occupation first hand.  Each visit introduced me to new despair.  I have seen Negotiations fail, settlements continue to expand and hope for change diminishing.

One of the things I’ve learned from my many  trips is that companies around the world are making huge profits by building settlements,  segregated roads that lead to them and by providing electronic and surveillance equipment for the checkpoints, settlements and the wall that annexes Palestinian land to Israel.  Another thing I’ve learned is that Palestinian Christians are suffering from the occupation like all Palestinians.  They have urgently asked churches and Christians around the world to help end the Occupation.

This is why I joined KAIROS RESPONSE with other concerned United Methodists from Annual Conferences across the US to write a resolution which will be presented to the 2012 General Conference.  It calls for divestment by the United Methodist Church and especially by the General Board of Pensions from three companies that have been asked for years by church members and agencies to stop profiting from the occupation and have not.  The resolution also asks that United Methodist boards and agencies engage with other companies sustaining the occupation and divest within two years if those companies do not change their practices.  Divestment is a step recommended by our Book of Discipline when corporate engagement has failed.

* The Kairos Response group is responding to a call from Palestinian Christians to act along with many other groups in taking economic action to oppose the occupation.   This is consistent with our Social Principles, our Book of Discipline and past resolutions approved by General Conference.

* We know that divestment has worked in the past, and it can work again. South Africa is a good example when General Board Pensions divested $77 million from companies doing business in South Africa.   Once again, we have the opportunity for our investment decisions to help bring an end to human rights abuses.

* This is not a change in policy.  It is an attempt to align our investments with existing United Methodist policy, which clearly opposes the occupation and discourages investments in companies that “directly or indirectly support the violation of human rights.”

* This is not a call for divestment from Israel.  It is a request to be sure we are not investing in companies from any country that keep the occupation going.

* This action will not harm the economy of Israel.  Taking specific international companies out of our portfolios will not harm the economy of Israel, but it will send a strong message in support of justice and peace in the region.

* This action will not harm investors.  It will not violate the fiduciary responsibilities of UM investment managers to their beneficiaries.  The investment funds will simply be switched to other companies.

Selective divestment is consistent with the United Methodist commitment to a just and sustainable peace for all the people of the Middle East.
If you would like more information I would suggest that you go to the Kairos Response website for articles, etc. www.kairosresponse.org

I know that you would support investment decisions that reinforce our commitment to a just and sustainable peace for all the people of the Middle East.

Therefore I would urge you to sign the Resolution so that we can say to the United Methodist General Conference that a community of people of faith is behind the divestment of companies from the United Methodist Pension Fund if they profit from the oppression of Palestinians.
If you would send me an email when you have signed the resolution and the petition I would be grateful.  You can do this easily do this by just hitting the reply button.  Thanks for reading this email and responding.

The Rev. Dr. DarEll T. Weist

The link for the Resolution is <https://www.kairosresponse.org/The_Resolution.html>

Monday, September 19, 2011

Why Christians Need to Support Palestinian Drive towards Statehood

By Alex Awad

In the coming days, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will be at the United Nations to request an official recognition of Palestine as an independent state with full statehood status at the UN. The majority of Christians and church leaders in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip support the Palestinian bid to seek full statehood at the United Nations. This position is not driven by anti Israeli or anti American sentiments but rather because most Arab Christians believe that without a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict they have no future in the Middle East and without Palestinian statehood, there will be no end to the conflict. The political turmoil in Palestine and the neighboring countries has prompted many Christians to abandon their homeland and seek refuge in Western countries. This trend will continue until the political chaos that springs up from the Arab-Israeli conflict ends.

Consequently, Western Christians who are concerned for the future of the Church in the Palestinian territories and the rest of the Middle East need to support the Palestinian drive for statehood. Palestinians, like most nations, are seeking a free, independent and peaceful state on 22% of historic Palestine and have already recognized Israel’s sovereignty on 78% of the land. Palestinians have shown willingness to swap land with the State of Israel in order to make accommodations for what Israelis call ‘new facts on the ground’. In addition, Palestinians are willing to consider the Israeli demand that a future Palestinian state would be demilitarized and allow for measures that create secure borders for the State of Israel. Furthermore, as the Middle East and North Africa experience tremendous political awakenings, peace with the Palestinians is the top guarantee to peace and security for the State of Israel. A genuine peace treaty will bring as much peace to the Israelis as to the Palestinians and to many countries of the world including the United States. Those who pray for “the peace of Jerusalem” need, at the same time, to support the immediate creation of a Palestinian state.

Christians tarnish their testimony in the world when they continue to endorse or be passive about the lingering injustice in Palestine. The Israeli government refused to halt the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank in order for negotiations to resume. Even when the American administration requested a two months’ freeze on settlement construction to allow for negotiations, the Israeli government wouldn’t cooperate. Now, Israelis are accusing Palestinians of refusing to return to negotiations. How can one negotiate with a friend on dividing a cake when, all the while, the friend is eating the cake? It is not that Palestinians are against negotiations, but rather, they are exhausted by two decades of fruitless and painful wrangling with Israeli leaders. It is our Christian duty to become aware of what is going on in political circles and on the ground and then to take a stand with the truth. Christians are not called to be morally passive and politically indifferent but rather to be active in promoting solutions that will bring about reconciliation and an end to the suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Some Christians hesitate supporting the Palestinian bid for statehood for fear that it may result in creating a militant Islamic state. Fortunately, the current move for statehood is driven by the most secular, progressive and non-violent branch of the PLO. For this reason, Hamas, the Islamist movement in Palestine is not in agreement with the move. The danger is this, if the Palestinian Authority fails to deliver to Palestinians an independent Palestinian state due to US and Israeli political maneuverings, in the near future, the secular Palestinian government will surely fall and only Hamas will be left to lead the Palestinian struggle for independence. This does not bid well for Israelis, Palestinians, future peace talks or for the Christian communities in the Middle East. The Church has loses its influence in the world if it abandons its mission to be “the salt of the earth and “a light to the nations”. May the light of Christ in us help guide the Palestinian people in their perilous path towards statehood.

Bethlehem, September 18, 2011

Annual UMMA "Gathering" in New York,October 9

The UMMA Gathering will take place at Manhattan's United Methodist Church of the Village on October 9, 2011, from 12 noon to 7 p.m.  Please register your intention to be present via email at <gathering@umma-global.org> or ask for details there.
Our agenda for the meeting will be posted here at a later date.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Reunion for India 2011

India Missionary Reunion — October 7-9. 2011, St. Louis, MO.

Reunion for Brazil 2011

Brazil Missionary Reunion — October 11-14, 2011, Lake Junaluska, NC.— Contact Warren Danskin <warrendanskin@sbcglobal.net> by September 1

Reunion for Sierra Leone 2012

Servants of Sierra Leone biennial reunion — summer 2012, Sioux Falls, SD.

Reunion for Southeast Asia 2012

Southeast Asia Missionary Reunion — June 29 - July 1, 2012, Lake Junaluska, NC, contact David or Shirley Wu <dcwu2002@yahoo.com> or <Shirleyawu@yahoo.com> for details or download information here <add URL>.

Reunion for Pakistan 2012

Pakistan (Ecumenical) Reunion —July 26-29,2012, Zion, IL. Contact: Linda McQuinn <lmcquinn@comcast.net>

Reunion for Nigeria 2012

Nigeria Reunion — September 28 - October 1, 2012 - United Methodist Canyon Camp located west of Oklahoma City, OK. Contact: Lon Labumbard <lonlabumbard@centurytel.net>

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World

Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World
Recommendations for Conduct
World Council of Churches
Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
World Evangelical Alliance

Mission belongs to the very being of the church. Proclaiming the word of God and witnessing to the world is essential for every Christian. At the same time, it is necessary to do so according to gospel principles, with full respect and love for all human beings.
Aware of the tensions between people and communities of different religious convictions and the varied interpretations of Christian witness, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID), the World Council of Churches (WCC) and, at the invitation of the WCC, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), met during a period of 5 years to reflect and produce this document to serve as a set of recommendations for conduct on Christian witness around the world. This document does not intend to be a theological statement on mission but to address practical issues associated with Christian witness in a multi-religious world.
The purpose of this document is to encourage churches, church councils and mission agencies to reflect on their current practices and to use the recommendations in this document to prepare, where appropriate, their own guidelines for their witness and mission among those of different religions and among those who do not profess
any particular religion. It is hoped that Christians across the world will study this document in the light of their own practices in witnessing to their faith in Christ, both by word and deed.
A basis for Christian witness
1.        For Christians it is a privilege and joy to give an accounting for the hope that is within them and to do so with gentleness and respect (cf. 1 Peter 3:15).
2.        Jesus Christ is the supreme witness (cf. John 18:37). Christian witness is always a sharing in his witness, which takes the form of proclamation of the kingdom, service to neighbour and the total gift of self even if that act of giving leads to the cross. Just as the Father sent the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit, so believers are sent in mission to witness in word and action to the love of the triune God.
3.        The example and teaching of Jesus Christ and of the early church must be the guides for Christian mission. For two millennia Christians have sought to follow Christ’s way by sharing the good news of God’s kingdom (cf. Luke 4:16-20).
4.        Christian witness in a pluralistic world includes engaging in dialogue with people of different religions and cultures (cf. Acts 17:22-28).
5.        In some contexts, living and proclaiming the gospel is difficult, hindered or even prohibited, yet Christians are commissioned by Christ to continue faithfully in solidarity with one another in their witness to him (cf. Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:44-48; John 20:21; Acts 1:8).
6.        If Christians engage in inappropriate methods of exercising mission by resorting to deception and coercive means, they betray the gospel and may cause suffering to others. Such departures call for repentance and remind us of our need for God’s continuing grace (cf. Romans 3:23).
7.        Christians affirm that while it is their responsibility to witness to Christ, conversion is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 16:7-9; Acts 10:44- 47). They recognize that the Spirit blows where the Spirit wills in ways over which no human being has control (cf. John 3:8).
Christians are called to adhere to the following principles as they seek to fulfil Christ’s commission in an appropriate manner, particularly within interreligious contexts.
1.        Acting in God’s love. Christians believe that God is the source of all love and, accordingly, in their witness they are called to live lives of love and to love their neighbour as themselves (cf. Matthew 22:34-40; John 14:15).
2.        Imitating Jesus Christ. In all aspects of life, and especially in their witness, Christians are called to follow the example and teachings of Jesus Christ, sharing his love, giving glory and honour to God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 20:21-23).
3.        Christian virtues. Christians are called to conduct themselves with integrity, charity, compassion and humility, and to overcome all arrogance, condescension and disparagement (cf. Galatians 5:22).
4.        Acts of service and justice. Christians are called to act justly and to love tenderly (cf. Micah 6:8).        They are further called to serve others and in so doing to recognize Christ in the least of their sisters and brothers (cf. Matthew 25:45). Acts of service, such as providing education, health care, relief services and acts of justice and advocacy are an integral part of witnessing to the gospel. The exploitation of situations of poverty and need has no place in Christian outreach. Christians should denounce and refrain from offering all forms of allurements, including financial incentives and rewards, in their acts of service.
5.        Discernment in ministries of healing. As an integral part of their witness to the gospel, Christians exercise ministries of healing. They are called to exercise
discernment as they carry out these ministries, fully respecting human dignity and ensuring that the vulnerability of people and their need for healing are not exploited.
6.        Rejection of violence. Christians are called to reject all forms of violence, even psychological or social, including the abuse of power in their witness. They also reject violence, unjust discrimination or repression by any religious or secular authority, including the violation or destruction of places of worship, sacred symbols or texts.
7.        Freedom of religion and belief. Religious freedom including the right to publicly profess, practice, propagate and change one’s religion flows from the very dignity of the human person which is grounded in the creation of all human beings in the image and likeness of God (cf. Genesis 1:26). Thus, all human beings have equal rights and responsibilities. Where any religion is instrumentalized for political ends, or where religious persecution occurs, Christians are called to engage in a prophetic witness denouncing such actions.
8.        Mutual respect and solidarity. Christians are called to commit themselves to work with all people in mutual respect, promoting together justice, peace and the common good. Interreligious cooperation is an essential dimension of such commitment.
9.        Respect for all people. Christians recognize that the gospel both challenges and enriches cultures. Even when the gospel challenges certain aspects of cultures, Christians are called to respect all people. Christians are also called to discern elements in their own cultures that are challenged by the gospel.
10. Renouncing false witness. Christians are to speak sincerely and respectfully; they are to listen in order to learn about and understand others’ beliefs and practices, and are encouraged to acknowledge and appreciate what is true and good in them. Any comment or critical approach should be made in a spirit of mutual respect, making sure not to bear false witness concerning other religions.
11. Ensuring personal discernment. Christians are to acknowledge that changing one’s religion is a decisive step that must be accompanied by sufficient time for adequate reflection and preparation, through a process ensuring full personal freedom.
12. Building interreligious relationships. Christians should continue to build relationships of respect and trust with people of different religions so as to facilitate deeper mutual understanding, reconciliation and cooperation for the common good.
The Third Consultation organized by the World Council of Churches and the PCID of the Holy See in collaboration with World Evangelical Alliance with participation from the largest Christian families of faith (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Evangelical and Pentecostal), having acted in a spirit of ecumenical cooperation
to prepare this document for consideration by churches, national and regional confessional bodies and mission organizations, and especially those working in interreligious contexts, recommends that these bodies:
1. study the issues set out in this document and where appropriate formulate guidelines for conduct regarding Christian witness applicable to their particular contexts. Where possible this should be done ecumenically, and in consultation with representatives of other religions.
2. build relationships of respect and trust with people of all religions, in particular at institutional levels between churches and other religious communities, engaging in on-going interreligious dialogue as part of their Christian commitment. In certain contexts, where years of tension and conflict have created deep suspicions and breaches of trust between and among communities, interreligious dialogue can provide new opportunities for resolving conflicts, restoring justice, healing of memories, reconciliation and peace-building.
3.encourage Christians to strengthen their own religious identity and faith while deepening their knowledge and understanding of different religions, and to do so also taking into account the perspectives of the adherents of those religions. Christians should avoid misrepresenting the beliefs and practices of people of different religions.
4. cooperate with other religious communities engaging in interreligious advocacy towards justice and the common good and, wherever possible, standing together in solidarity with people who are in situations of conflict.
5. call on their governments to ensure that freedom of religion is properly and comprehensively respected, recognizing that in many countries religious institutions and persons are inhibited from exercising their mission.
6. pray for their neighbours and their well-being, recognizing that prayer is integral to who we are and what we do, as well as to Christ’s mission.
Appendix: Background to the document
1.        In today’s world there is increasing collaboration among Christians and between Christians and        followers of different religions. The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) of the Holy See and the World Council of Churches’ Programme on Interreligious Dialogue and Co-operation (WCC- IRDC) have a history of such collaboration. Examples of themes on which the PCID/WCC-IRDC have collaborated in the past are: Interreligious Marriage (1994-1997), Interreligious Prayer (1997-1998) and African Religiosity (2000- 2004). This document is a result of their work together.
2.        There are increasing interreligious tensions in the world today, including violence and the loss of human life. Politics, economics and other factors play a role in these tensions. Christians too are sometimes involved in these conflicts, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, either as those who are persecuted or as those participating in violence. In response to this the PCID and WCC-IRDC decided to address the issues involved in a joint process towards producing shared recommendations for conduct on Christian witness. The WCC-IRDC invited the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) to participate in this process, and they have gladly done so.
3.        Initially two consultations were held: the first, in Lariano, Italy, in May 2006, was entitled “Assessing the Reality” where representatives of different religions shared their views and experiences on the question of conversion. A statement from the consultation reads in part: “We affirm that, while everyone has a right to invite others to an understanding of their faith, it should not be exercised by violating others’ rights and religious sensibilities. Freedom of religion enjoins upon all of us the equally non-negotiable responsibility to respect faiths other than our own, and never to denigrate, vilify or misrepresent them for the purpose of affirming superiority of our faith.”
4.        The second, an inter-Christian consultation, was held in Toulouse, France, in August 2007, to reflect on these same issues. Questions on Family and Community, Respect for Others, Economy, Marketing and Competition, and Violence and Politics were thoroughly discussed. The pastoral and missionary issues around these topics became the background for theological reflection and for the principles developed in this document. Each issue is important in its own right and deserves more attention that can be given in these recommendations.
5.        The participants of the third (inter-Christian) consultation met in Bangkok, Thailand, from 25-28, January, 2011 and finalized this document.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The "Jerusalem Prayer" for this Sunday - 29 May 2011

The Jerusalem Prayer for Sunday, 29 May 2011

 (Also available in FrenchGerman, and Spanish.)


From the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem

For the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel 2011

Isaiah 2:1-5; 11:9
“In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it….”
“They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea….”
Almighty and Merciful God, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, you gathered the first Christians in Jerusalem.  Grant that, like the first church of Jerusalem, we may come together, and with courage, we may preach and live the Word, and the good news of truth, reconciliation, and peace.
God Creator, Giver of Life, Bearer of Pain, Initiator of Love, you made the world and everything in it.  You created the human race in your image and likeness, and gave us the earth for all to share.  Break down the walls that separate us.
God of Justice, your generosity is without bounds.  Guard us from selfishness; inspire us to be instruments of love, and witnesses of your mercy and justice.  Help us to face challenges and to struggle against all that is born of injustice.  Lead us to act together in places and situations of want and need: where families are driven from their homes, where the vulnerable suffer in the hands of the powerful, where poverty and unemployment destroy lives.
God of Hope, you continue to call us to work for Peace in our world, broken and wounded by injustice, violence, and indifference.  Alone, we are overwhelmed by challenges but together, and inspired by your Spirit, we can prevail beyond dreams and imagination.  In fear we lose hope, and feel the futility of our efforts.  Instill in our hearts and minds the image of your suffering and compassionate love as a source of courage and strength.
God, Protector of the widow, the orphan and the stranger, in a world where many know despair, you raised your Son Jesus Christ to give hope for humanity and renewal to the earth. Strengthen and unify your Church against the forces of evil in this part of the world, where aggression of all forms, killings and the blood of martyrs shed even in places of worship, obscure the hope of a new life.
God of Peace and Mercy, inspire nations to transform oppression and violence into freedom and peace for the sake of the poor, the vulnerable and the broken-hearted.  Help us to respect and promote the equality and dignity of all, particularly in your Holy Land.  Grant discernment to leaders and legislators, that righteousness and truth may flourish among all peoples throughout the world.
God our Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ, who taught us to yearn through prayer for the coming of your Kingdom.  You are able to accept in us what we cannot acknowledge; to name in us what we cannot bear to speak of; to hold in your memory what we tried to forget.  Teach us to pray together to resist the evil and oppression by our non-violent actions and love for one another.  May your Son’s earthly life be the model for our own, as we recognize your presence and guidance through all our joys and tribulations.
We pray these in the name of the Risen Lord, and in the power of His Spirit.  Amen.
People’s prayers
Send: People and parishes around the world are invited to send prayers for peace by e-mail to Bethlehem as part of World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel.
Receive: Visit www.aeicenter.org, the website of the Arab Educational Institute. This church-related NGO collects and shares prayers offered by Christians around the world, as well as prayers offered by Palestinian Christians for use in local churches, community gatherings, at protests near the separation wall, and near Israeli settlements. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Currently at the GBGM webpage

The webpage of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church at <http://new.gbgm-umc.org> includes a constantly growing number of articles about relief for Japan and reports from missionaries and others on site.

UMMA member Claudia Genung reflections following the quake and her call for opposition to nuclear power can be found here: <http://gbgm-umc.org/global_news/full_article.cfm?articleid=5994>.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Arab Christians, Moslems and Jews in North Africa and the Middle East

Watch our blog for input from UMMA members on the efforts to encourage UMC divestment from companies profiting from Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, the effect of European and U.S. involvement in Libya and elsewhere for Arab Christians, Moslems and Jews, and related Maghreb, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern issues.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Logging In

As we begin to experiment with blogging, we may soon discover that we need "yet another login ID."

Many of us used to Google groups can actually use our Google account ID to log in here. Others may discover other options they understand in the drop-down menu asking for your "profile" before you post a comment.

Currently, you won't find "Yahoo" as an option on this page, but in fact you Yahoo users may already have a profile you can use here. [I just reviewed the login options today.  As of 12/1/15 — and probably long before then — you can also log in with Yahoo directly without Open ID!] In your Yahoo settings, just sign up for "OpenID®." In fact, several different services now support "Open ID®."

The idea behind it is simple (for the user). Once you agree to Open ID®, you are temporarily switched back to your usual email or web provider, e.g., Yahoo, and your identify is verified there and then you are shunted back here and you can post your comment here!

You can check more intelligent and informed details at this web page about OpenID® .

Let us know how it works or what other hints you have for us blogger newbies!