After days of meeting in Panama (first the Council of Bishops – UMC, then the Conference of Methodist Bishops & Presidents – worldwide), today we began our last meeting. (I can’t help but remember Dr. Albert Outler’s irreverent aside to a class on church polity at Perkins; “Ladies and gentlemen, one requirement of Methodist ministry is a cast-iron bottom.”) Under the theme of “One Body, Many Gifts, One Mission,” we met as the Consejo de Inglesias Evangelias Metodistas de America y el Caribe (known simply as CIEMAL, consisting of Methodists in 21 countries). CIEMAL is a long standing (40 years) missional outreach of the United Methodist Church with affiliated and autonomous Methodist churches of Latin America and the Caribbean. The churches of CIEMAL were birthed out of the missionary movement of both the American and British Methodist churches.
We opened singing and liturgically sharing the words of “Come and Let Us Sweetly Join” by Charles Wesley (32 verses! To the tune of EASTER HYMN)
(1)Come and let us sweetly join, Alleluia!
Christ to praise in hymns divine, Alleluia!
One in every time and place, Alleluia!
Full for all of truth and grace, Alleluia! …
(3)We for Christ, our Master, stand,
Lights in a benighted land:
We our dying Lord confess;
We are Jesus’ witnesses. …
(17)Let us join, (‘tis God commands)
Let us join our hearts and hands
Help to gain our calling’s hope,
Build each other up. …
(31)Hence may all our actions flow, Alleluia!
Love the proof that Christ we know; Alleluia!
Mutual love the token be, Alleluia!
Lord, that we belong to Thee. Alleluia!
Bishop Jago Carlos Lopes, President of the Council of Bishops of the Methodist Church of Brazil opened. “The preservation of unity has a purpose,” Bishop Lopes stated, “so that the world may know that God has sent Jesus. . . and transformation may take place in the world.”
It is worth noting that the United States has the third largest Latin American population in the world. (This not a comment about undocumented workers, but a statement of affirmation on our documented diversity!) It is a false myth that resources only flow from the North (USA) to the South (the churches of Latin America and the Caribbean). There is a flow of missionaries from the South to the North! The CIEMAL churches have participated sacrificially in significant relief efforts in Haiti and other places. It has a strong mission emphasis to the most vulnerable – children and women. One emphasis of the CIEMAL churches involves youth in mission in ways quite similar to the youth of the Central Texas Conference engaged in CTCYM.
All across the church, both in the Americas and the world, we are struggling with a time of deep change. I will return home to a called meeting of the Central Texas Conference on the realignment of our resources for mission and ministry in the 21st century. In a larger sense, this has been (and remains) the consistent theme of all three meetings I have attended here in Panama.
The rest of the CIEMAL Conference has yet to unfold. Press of time and schedule means that I write while the Conference is unfolding. Readers will receive this blog posting after the CIEMAL Conference has closed. It is an exciting time to be in ministry! May the prayer of Jesus be ours, “that they all may be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20)