By Dr. Shane Stanford
Beginning on August 29th, delegates from Methodist and Wesleyan denominations around the world arrived in Houston, TX to celebrate the 21st World Methodist Conference since the inaugural gathering in London in 1881. At that first meeting 135 years ago, brothers and sisters from various parts of the Wesleyan family agreed to gather on a regular basis to celebrate, worship, advocate and proclaim the Presence of God through our respective churches around the world.
Since then, the initial number of churches and members has grown to include 80 different Wesleyan/Methodist denominations from 134 nations representing over 82 million members worldwide. The World Methodist Conference itself will attract over 2,000 for worship and celebration. The World Methodist Council (the official coordinating body) will also meet during this time to plan for our work and focus as a theological family during the next four years. The approx. 300 members of the Council truly represent every creed, ethnicity, demographic and geographic section of the globe.
When I was asked to represent the Memphis Conference for the Council, I certainly did not need one more 'to do' for my calendar. But, I considered it a distinct honor to serve among these faithful leaders.
And, after these first days of the Conference, I am so glad that I said 'yes' to this call. The World Methodist Conference unveils so many different expressions of our Methodist and Wesleyan family around the world. Just walking through the halls of this gathering over these few days and you understand why John Wesley said "The world is our parish". For the WORLD is here...
I am also very proud of Christ Church. We are only one of five local congregations from any of the 80 denominations to have sponsored the work of this Conference. Christ Church is a presenting sponsor for the World Methodist Evangelism Celebration Banquet. A cornerstone of who we are at Christ Church is the 'making, maturing and mobilizing of Disciples for Jesus Christ'. And, of course, we are exceptionally proud that 'one of our own', Dr. Kimberly Dunnam Riesman, is the newly installed Executive Director of WME. Kim and I have spoken several times about our dreams for Christ Church's role in helping evangelize our 'world parish' in the name of Jesus.
Yes, when many of us think of the 'global church', we immediately consider the strains we are currently facing in the global United Methodist Church. But, it only takes a few hours among this even larger experience of our Methodist family to remember that God is very much at work through Wesley's off-springs, even 300 plus years later.
Just today, I had conversations with brothers and sisters from the following:
--Methodist Church of Bangladesh
--United Evangelical Church of Ecuador
--Methodist Church in Fiji
--Hong Kong Methodist Church
--Methodist Church Nigeria
--Evangelical Methodist Church of Panama
--West African Methodist Church of Sierra Leone
Now, I am not sure we understood every single word we spoke, but we certainly understood the sentiment of love, grace and care in which they were spoken. Beyond any language, I left every 'new friend' knowing that we belong to something special together.
This gathering of the Council in Houston, TX follows in a long list of places that Methodists have joined together to watch, pray and plan for how God is working among our particular theological family. As I mentioned, earlier, the Council met first in London in 1881. Since then, we have met in places such as Dublin; Singapore; Nigeria; Oslo; Seoul; Denver; and Durban (
South Africa). Global gatherings for a global church.
Over the next weeks, months and maybe even years, our frustration with our immediate United Methodist family may grow, re-shape, or change, but please remember that our corner of the Wesleyan world represents only about 15% of the total Methodist family. And, though it is painful when any part of the family is suffering, we are certainly not left alone... Without prayer... Grace... Support... Or Hope. No, the family is still proclaiming the Good News of a Holy Spirit that still shows up to 'warm the hearts of God's people' with grace and salvation.
And, with every 'warmed heart... Comes the potential to transform a family, community, nation... The world.
Many blessings, my friends. Be Salt and Light... You Matter!
Sr. Pastor, Christ Church
Delegate, World Methodist Council 2016-2021
Shane Stanford is a pastor, teacher and author committed to sharing the hope of Jesus Christ with the world.