This is a very long address from Rev. Jerry Kulah, of Liberia, Africa, but it’s well worth our reading and considering what he has to say to us. -GZ
RECIPE FOR RENEWAL AND TRANSFORMATION
OF GLOBAL UNITED METHODISM IN THE NEW
DECLARATION TO 2008 GENERAL CONFERENCE
REV. JERRY P. KULAH
MONROVIA DISTRICT CONFERENCE
LIBERIA AREA, UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
13TH STREET, SINKOR, P.O. BOX 1010
A CONFERENCE FOR GENERAL AND JURISDICTIONAL CONFERENCE DELEGATES AND ALL UNITED METHODIST COMMITTED TO THE RENEWAL AND UNITY OF THE CHURCH
“A HOPE AND A FUTURE THROUGH OUR WESLEYAN HERITAGE”
SPONSORED BY THE 2008 RENEWAL AND REFORM COALITION
DATE: 26 -27 OCTOBER, 2007
VENUE: CHRIST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH 4488 POPLAR AVENUE,
MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE 38117
Dr. Maxie Dunnam and members of the Invitation Committee of this unique and historic Conference, leaders and members of the Renewal and Reform Coalition Movements within the United Methodist Church, delegates to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences, my brothers and sisters committed to the renewal and unity of the global United Methodist Church. I bring you heartfelt greetings from our Bishops, Clergy, the Church officials and all your brothers and sisters of the United Methodist Church (UMC) across the Continent of Africa in the blessed name of our Savior and Lord, Christ Jesus.
I feel deeply honored by your invitation to participate in this unique conference which holds the potential for a holistic transformation in global Methodism. Before I attempt to humbly address this conference, I am delighted to inform you that United Methodists all over Africa strongly hold the conviction that there is hope and a future for global Methodism through our Wesleyan heritage. But the fulfillment of this hope and realization of the anticipated future critically depend upon the quality leadership that provides direction for the future, and the choices we make as a Church regarding biblical doctrine, Christian discipline, our devotion to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, our submission to the control and empowerment by the Holy Spirit and our commitment to the fulfillment of the Great commission (Matt. 28:19-20).
It is based upon this conviction that I wish to share with you a declaration which expresses the concerns, wishes and aspirations of the Church in Africa as we anticipate a sustainable future of holistic growth and development of global Methodism through our united effort to make faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. Kindly permit me, therefore, to address this august body on the topic: “Recipe for Renewal and Transformation of Global United Methodism in the New Quadrennium (2009-2012): Declaration to 2008 General Conference”
OUR COMMITMENT TO THE UNITY OF UNITED METHODISM
The establishment of the Methodist Church (and later the United Methodist Church with the union of the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church), was an answer to the Priestly prayer of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ before his voluntary and atoning death on Calvary’s cross for the salvation of humanity. He had prayed for the evolving Church that, “They may be one as we are one” (John 17:11). We therefore believe in the universality of the Christian Church, birthed by Jesus Christ who declared, “I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18), of which the UMC is an integral part. The laity, clergy and our bishops of the Conferences of Africa cherish this global connectedness of our Wesleyan faith because of the mutual blessings and benefits it has brought to our global witness over the decades.
We are convinced that our connectedness has only been possible and solidified over the years because of our devoted loyalty to Jesus Christ as our only Savior and risen Lord. Our uncompromising belief in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the redemption of the whole world, and our obedience to the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), is the primary reason for our commitment to “MAKING DISCIPLES FOR JESUS CHRIST FOR THE TANSFORMATION OF THE WORLD”.
The Church in Africa believes the totality of the Holy Scriptures (the 66 canonical books) as the Word of God for belief, obedience and practice. And, hence, we believe in the exclusive claim of Jesus Christ as the only “Way, Truth and Life” to eternality with God (John 14:6); and of his eternal co-existence and of one substance with God the Father and the Holy Spirit (Gen. 1:1-2, 26-27; John 16: 5-15).
PRIORITIZING OUR PRIORITY
As we conclude the 2004-2008 quadrennium, and look forward to the commencement of a new one (2009-2012), it is incumbent upon us, as a global Christian community to evaluate the past, understand the present and thereby anticipate a realistic future of the Church of Jesus Christ which he has entrusted to our care. Against this background, I wish to make the following inquiry for our consideration: How well is global Methodism doing in ministry? How spiritually healthy is the Church? Is it growing, declining or stagnant? What is the Church’s priority? How does that priority measure up with its call by the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, to fulfill the Great Commission? How many Churches have been planted during this past quadrennium? Have we as United Methodists, along with feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, building hospitals and schools, and responding to the physical needs of the poor, intentionally and significantly invested in evangelistic outreach, and discipleship ministries resulting in the planting of new churches for new converts? What are the relevant statistics to guard us in envisioning for the new quadrennium?
The above inquiry is based on the fact that we of the Central Conferences of Africa are deeply concerned that the global United Methodist Church is beginning to speak with different languages, and not with the common speech that presents Jesus Christ as the Good News of salvation, our only Lord, and only Savior. As a result, the global witness of United Methodism is being threatened with the proclamation of different kinds of “gospels”.
We in Africa are deeply concerned that some Euro-Western Churches seem to be deserting the biblical path of Church planting, disciple-making, of prayer, and evangelistic and missional endeavors to an inward focus. This inward focus of some Churches has almost changed the biblical mandate from the “Great Commission” to the “Great Omission.”
We are saddened that some United Methodist Churches of the Euro-Western world have questioned over and over again the United Methodist Book of Discipline’s biblical positions on such issues as homosexuality, abortion, and the authenticity of the Scriptures as the Word of God. Five years before his death John Wesley entertained the fear that in decades to come the Methodist Church would not cease to exist but would exist merely as a dead sect, having the form of godliness but no power to live for and proclaim Christ, unless they held fast to the Doctrine, Discipline and Spirit with which they first set out. We are painfully saddened that these current trends within the Euro-Western Church are, unfortunately, confirming the fears of John Wesley.
We in Africa hear the lamenting voice of the Apostle Paul when he says, “ I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-which is really no gospel at all” (Gal.1: 6-7a). By such actions and attitudes towards the Gospel we are throwing both our adults and our children into confusio
n and, without words, telling them that Christianity does not have all the answers to their spiritual longing. We are afraid that the current unrestricted embrace of liberalism within the United Methodist Church is endangering the chances of our children to ever consider Christianity a possibility. It further creates a breeding ground for the rapid spread of other faiths amongst our future posterity.
Therefore, as we prepare to launch into a new quadrennium (2009-2012), we leaders of the Central Conferences of the United Methodist Church make the following declaration for the consideration of United Methodists worldwide, and in particular of the leaders and Churches of the Euro-Western regions.
The purpose of this declaration is to: (1) compel a sober reflection of the purpose of our existence as the United Methodist Church; (2) motivate us to a deeper commitment to orthodox (biblical) Christianity; and (3) insure a positive legacy for our future generations.
Therefore, we declare:
• That the Lord God Almighty is the creator of heaven and earth and everything that is in it (Gen. 1:1; Psalm 24:1-3);
• That God made humanity in his own image and set humanity apart to be his vice gerent to manage and care for his creation (Gen. 2:15-17);
• That humanity willingly made a choice to sin against God, beginning with our original parents, Adam and Eve. As a result sin entered into the human race, bringing all humanity and all creation under the damnation of sin (Gen. 3: 1-7, 14-19; Rom 3:10-12,23);
• That “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him might not perish but have everlasting life (John 3: 16-17; Rom 8:1);
• That Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, voluntarily submitted Himself to be crucified for us, under Roman authority, as a sacrificial offering, taking upon Himself the guilt of all humanity, standing in our place, atoning for our sins, forsaken as a criminal on a rugged Roman cross (Is. 52:13-53:12, John 10:18);
• That Jesus Christ, the Lion of Judah, arose literally and physically from the dead, victoriously resurrected to life in indestructible bodily form, presenting himself to hundreds of eyewitnesses over 40 days (John 20:19-30);
• That Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, literally ascended into the clouds and now sits on High as our Intercessor at the right hand of the Father (Acts 1: 1-11; I Cor. 15:1-8);
• That Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega, will literally return on the clouds to reign with his faithful and true Church, his Bride and Body, for all who have been rescued by his atoning death (Acts 1:10-11; Rev. 21:1-8);
• That anyone who will confess that Jesus is Lord and believe of the heart that God raised him from the dead will be saved, resurrected bodily like Him to live and reign forever with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:13-18);
• That the Children of Israel – the ancients of the Bible, and the Jews of the continuing Diaspora and gathered in modern Israel — are a holy olive tree into which now we, as believers in the Jewish Messiah, have been grafted as branches (Rom. 11:11-32);
• That Satan the adversary is alive and well, a personal and literal being who authored sin, who foments rebellion against the Triune God, who vainly tempted our Savior in the wilderness, and who faces ultimate destruction in the Lake of Fire along with all persistent enemies of God (Matt. 4:1-11;1 Pet. 5:8-9;Rev. 20:7-15);
• That the Word of God, in both the form of the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Scriptures by which we know the Good News of Salvation, is our sure and true guide to questions of faith, practice, and holiness (Micah 6:8; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet.1:20-21);
• That the Word of God is clear, a light on our path, concerning questions of sin, personal holiness and practice, calling us to chastity, temperance, charity and forbearance. (Psalm 19:7-11; 119: 9-11,105);
• That Satan, and sin continue to devastate our brothers and sisters in Adam and in Christ across the world, in the Church universal, and in our globally-united Methodist fellowship; and the Church’s failure to practice Christian discipline continues to breed spiritual decadence (John 10:10; Rom 6: 23; Heb. 12: 5-12);
• That we are commanded by Scripture to allocate our voluntarily-given gifts, assets and resources commensurately with the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ worldwide. We graciously acknowledge that United Methodists are a giving people, particularly of the USA, evidenced by the fact that, according to the 2005 report of the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA), “U.S. Churches reported over $4.3 billion given as offerings for the local Church ministry, operations, and benevolences… and an additional $1 billion raised through capital campaign and memorials.” (GCFA 2007 report). What remains a concern, however, is the priority distribution of such fund. Hence, in obedience to Scripture and our Christian faith we hereby call for a change of our plan from spending tens of millions of dollars on Church agencies to rather confronting the devastating poverty, disease and mortal suffering of our United Methodist brothers and sisters around the world, especially in Africa (Gal. 6:9-10;Heb. 6:10; Matt. 25:31-40);
• That we are affirming, on behalf of our impoverished brothers and sisters worldwide, life-giving freedom, rule of law, economic development, trade and property rights, electrification, industrialization, irrigation, transportation, basic health care and improved agricultural development (Amos 5:24; Neh. 5:1-13);
• That we must plentifully equip our seminaries in Africa and elsewhere with the human and material resources necessary for the effective spread of the Gospel of Christ, with cultural relevance, while those rich in spirit must vigilantly guard that our seminaries in Africa, America and everywhere adhere to God’s Word (2Tim. 4:2-5 Jude 1:3-4). To ensure their adequate equipping therefore, we must revisit and reconsider the method of distribution of money from the Ministerial Education Fund
( para. 816, UMC Book of Discipline, 2004 edition); so that a significant amount, than present, is allotted for theological education in the developing world, where trained Church leaders are desperately needed to commensurate with the current rapid numerical growth of the Church;
That fair, just and proportionate representation, reflecting our rich geographic, cultural, and ethnic diversity as a Church be fully present in our global Church leadership and staff including the Council of Bishops, Church agency boards, and all general Church committees, boards and agencies (Phil. 2:1-4 1Cor.12: 12-26);
That we must be faithful to the totality of the Holy Scriptures, as our final authority for faith and practice; for while Christina tradition, experience and reason are helpful tools for living out our faith in the world, the Holy Bible remains our ultimate authority;
Faithfulness to the Word of God requires that we further declare:
a). Our commitment to the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ, and seek its fulfillment within our generation (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8);
b). That God created sexuality for lifelong marriage between man and woman only (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:18-24); therefore any attempt by the Church or some of its members to embrace or accept and practice other forms of union is to deny God’s omnipotence and omniscience, and hence suggest that the Almighty God was in error when he instituted marriage between one man and one woman for life;
c). That Church leaders are models of Christian ethical behavior, and that Church members are also called to uphold biblical living and pursue the call to holiness (1 Pet. 1: 15-16; Heb.12:14);
d). that bishops, clergy, Church officials, and members of Church juridical bodies have a special responsibility to uphol
d the church’s standards (1Tim. 3; Matt. 5:13-16);
e). that the church’s schools and publishing agencies have a vocation for teaching the churches Scripture-based beliefs (Deut. 6:4-9; Prov. 22:6);
That our Church’s missional priority be directed to:
a. Fighting deadly diseases, including malaria and AIDS, while also ensuring clean water for all (3rd John 2; 2Kings 2: 19-22);
b. Protecting the air, water and land while improving the standard of living for the world’s poor.
c. Declaring solidarity with persecuted Christians everywhere (Acts 11:27-30; Rom. 12:15-16)
d. Dispatching missionaries from every region of the Church to everywhere there is need for the Gospel (Luke 9:1-6; Acts 1:8);
e. Planting new churches and making disciples of the nations (Matt. 28:19-20; Titus 1: 5
f. Affirming the providential role of the family in God’s order of creation (Gen. 1: 26-3o);
g. Defending the sanctity of all vulnerable human life, including the poor, the elderly, the terminally ill, the disabled, and the unborn (Gen. 1:26; Lev. 24:17; Matt. 25: 34-40);
h. Guarding the God-given dignity of all persons, no matter their race, ethnicity, or tribe;
i. Modeling and advocating the Christian virtues of voluntary charity, individually and corporately, around the world;
j. Supporting the restructuring of church agencies to enact the above priorities.
When the Baby Jesus was threatened by a vengeful King Herod, the Holy Family fled to Africa for sanctuary (Matthew 2: 14-15). Today, the Church in Africa offers itself as a sanctuary for God’s Word for the renewing of his Church around the world.
We of the Africa Central Conferences cherish our unique connectedness to United Methodists everywhere, and we are committed to solidarity with the global United Methodist Church. Our common confession of the Lordship of Jesus Christ as our only Lord and Savior, our commitment to the fulfillment of the Great commission, our submission to the Discipline of the Church and to the leadership of the Holy Spirit in our life and ministry are indispensable for the successful fulfillment of our global Church’s mission in the forthcoming quadrennium. We call upon the worldwide United Methodist Church to join our hearts and voices in this commitment and these declarations.