The Vision
The Newspaper of The New York Conference of The United Methodist Church August 2018

In this issue

MARCHING FOR KOREAN PEACE
Pastor Dong Hyun Choi, center, and his wife, JiSun Kim, march with their children during a Washington, D.C. demonstration urging a peace treaty for the Korean peninsula. Members of the NYAC added their voices to the march that was the culmination of the Korea Peace Festival & Vigil held July 27–28.
Continuing Push for Korean Peace Treaty

BY REV. IN KOO CHUNG

“End the Korean War! Peace treaty now!”

“United Methodists stand for peace! End the Korean War!”  

The voices of the marching people filled the streets of Washington, D.C., on July 28. More than 300 people, including college students, youth, and children from the New York and New England, came to the Nation’s Capitol to participate in the Korea Peace Festival and Vigil organized by the peace committee of the Korean Association of the United Methodist Church, chaired by Rev. We Hyun Chang. The march and rally called for the 65-year-old armistice agreement to be replaced with a full peace treaty.

The march was the culmination of the Korea Peace Festival & Vigil held from July 26–28. Discussions, performances and worship were all part of the weekend event. The New York Conference has been at the forefront of UMC efforts in seeking to bring peace, reconciliation, and reunification to the two Koreas. 

The Saturday march started at Foundry United Methodist Church and ended at Farragut Square where the marchers continued to pray and shout for peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Among the speakers at Farragut Square were Thomas Kemper, general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministry, and Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, episcopal leader of the Wisconsin Area. They both delivered heartfelt messages about achieving peace on the Korean Peninsula.

“The 65-year division is not a short term and the Korean peninsula should be quickly reunified,” Kemper said.

Bishop Jung said, “We are stronger together . . . Jesus wants peace, we are people of God, and we too want peace. So, today we proclaim to all the people of the world, there should be no more war, violence, or hardship.”

This was the largest march for Korean peace ever in Washington, D.C., according to Chang.

“Truly, it was the faithful fruit of many people’s support and help,” he said. 

A generous gift from Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton helped finance the “peace bus” which took NYAC members to Washington, and other generous gifts from First UMC in Flushing, Tian-Fu UMC, the Korean Methodist Church & Institute, Conference Board of Church & Society, the conference Korean UMW Network, and Korean Caucus made the historical march possible.

We also express our special thanks to Rev. Chongho James Kim of First UMC in Flushing; Rev. YongBo Lee, the NY Korean Caucus chair; Rev. Kun Sam Cho of Grace UMC, Fairfield, Conn.; Rev. Zhaodeng Peng of Tian-Fu UMC; and Dorothy Kim, NY Korean UMW Network president; who all made great efforts for this peace march.

General Conference, the UMC’s top legislative body, has adopted numerous resolutions over the years calling for a lasting reconciliation for the Korean peninsula, including Korea Peace, Justice and Reunification.”

This peace march does not end here, but it will continue until we see harmony prevail in the Korean peninsula.

May God continue to use us as instruments for peace!

Members of the New York Conference take a photo break in Farragut Square during the Korean peace march.

Support for Bishop’s Leadership Initiative
Members of First UMC in Flushing recently presented Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, center, with $100,000 to help fund his training initiative for leadership excellence. The check was presented by (from left) UMW president Kyungsook Kim; lay delegate Sam Lee; lay leader Heungyong Lee; pastor, Rev. Chongho James Kim, and Long Island West District Superintendent, Rev. Sungchan Kim.

‘Way Forward’ Plans Pondered

BY KATHY L. GILBERT

UMNS | On Feb. 27, 2019, will United Methodists wake up united, divided or in limbo?

The special called 2019 General Conference, set for Feb. 23–26 in St. Louis, will focus on moving the denomination past its decades-long struggle with issues around homosexuality. Proposed plans offer a way to stay together and ways to split.

The One Church Plan, Traditional Plan and Connectional Conference Plan and probably several other pieces of legislation related to homosexuality will be debated and voted on by 864 delegates from around the globe.

In the meantime, United Methodists are pondering and praying about the three plans.

A 231-page document submitted to Judicial Council was made public July 17 when the denomination’s top court published the docket for its October meeting. The proposed legislation was the work of the 32-member Commission on a Way Forward, approved at the end of General Conference 2016.

Margie Briggs, a certified lay minister for two small rural churches in Missouri, is a delegate to the special General Conference.

“I have been a delegate at the past six General Conferences. I have read with exhausting pain the three plans. There is not much I can say about them except I know what I have read will not be the final form that will be voted on,” she said, talking about the hours of debates that legislation often goes through before a final version is brought to the floor for a vote.

“I pray that not a single delegate takes off for St. Louis in February 2019 with their mind made up. I’m counting on God to lead us in a mighty way where we can be what God has called us to be, ‘disciple makers,’” she said.

Many people are also praying and dreaming of what the church will be.

“My greatest prayer as we approach General Conference 2019 is that we will seek to love one another in the midst of significant disagreement,” said the Rev. Beth Ann Cook, an Indiana pastor and a delegate.

Cook believes the Traditional Plan is the best option.

“It preserves our church’s biblical and balanced teaching on marriage and sexuality,” she said. “All people are of sacred worth; all people are also called to holy living.”

Key issues of the Traditional Plan affirm current language in the Book of Discipline which bans “self-avowed and practicing” gay clergy and the blessing of same sex unions. It would also enforce those bans swiftly and strictly.

The plan’s legislative petitions also provide a way for churches and annual conferences that disagree with strict enforcement to set up self-governing or “autonomous, affiliated or concordant” churches or conferences.

Rev. Michael D. Grant, an Ohio pastor, said the Traditional Plan is the only one with a “gracious exit option for those who cannot in good conscience live within our system.” That is one of three reasons he supports this plan.

His other reasons for supporting this plan are because it maintains the current language in the Book of Discipline and it holds pastors and bishops accountable “to the covenant they made before God and the church.”

Rev. David Wilson, conference superintendent of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference and a delegate, supports the One Church Plan.

“I feel like the One Church Plan gives annual conferences more flexibility on our specific ministry contexts. After reading the other plans they seem less flexible and are more punitive than seeking to find common ground in which we can work together,” he said.

Key elements of the One Church Plan include eliminating the Book of Discipline language, “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Also deleted is the requirement that ordained clergy cannot be “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” Each annual conference board of ordained ministry and clergy session may determine standards for ordination or certification, including standards related to human sexuality.

The plan also allows ordained clergy to perform same-sex marriages but does not require them to do so. Churches can vote on whether to hold same-sex marriages in their buildings. Clergy are also free to transfer to other conferences or churches based on the standards for ordination regarding homosexuals.

The Connectional Conference Plan addresses constitutional issues head-on, said Rev. Robert Frank Zilhaver, a delegate from Western Pennsylvania. “I tend to believe that if you are going to fundamentally change the way that we live together in the church it will require constitutional amendments,” he added.

The Connectional Conference Plan would replace the five U.S. jurisdictions with three connectional conferences that are “values-based” rather than geographic in nature.

The denomination’s current central conferences, which are outside the U.S., could join one of the three U.S. conferences to form a global conference or create their own connectional conference. However, the individual annual conferences that disagree with the decision of their central conference have the option of voting to join a different connectional conference.

Each connectional conference would create its own Book of Discipline that includes items “commonly agreed upon by United Methodists,” with the authority to adapt other items not included in a General Book of Discipline.

“My prayer for the special session is that, in spite of my fears, God might find a way for The United Methodist Church to remain faithful to an orthodox living out of scripture to minister God’s eternal and abundant life full of grace and truth,” Zilhaver said.

Rev. Christopher M. Ritter, a delegate and pastor from Illinois, supports both the Connectional Conference Plan and the Traditional Plan because they allow sorting at the annual conference level. However, given that the connectional plan requires constitutional amendments, he feels it is unlikely to pass.

“The Traditional Plan contains some creative provisions for which I have been advocating,” Ritter said. The idea that any 50 congregations could form their own autonomous yet affiliated conference would allow multiple expressions of Methodism to flourish across America, he believes.

Rev. Jerry P. Kulah, a delegate from Liberia and dean of Gbarnga School of Theology, United Methodist University, believes the Traditional Plan promotes biblical Christianity in Africa. “It is this model that governed the life, mission and ministries of The United Methodist Church since its founding by John Wesley and others,”

Rev. Henry Roque, Northeast Pangasinan District in the Philippines, said his “basic training and conviction affirm that the Traditional Plan provides biblical foundation about salvation, mission, and ministry. In terms of inclusiveness, it allows everyone to become a member of the church, partake of its sacraments and participate in its ministries and mission.”

However, Rolando M. Canda Jr., a young adult from St. Mark UMC in Sampaloc, Manila, supports the One Church Plan because it provides a safe space for and stops the harm being done against LGBTQ people.

“The One Church Plan is the best way forward that keeps the church united, focused on mission and eliminates the harmful language in the Book of Discipline. It is not perfect, but I think it will take us to another level of seeking full inclusion of LGBTQ community.”

Susie Stonecipher, a 17-year member of First UMC of Hurst, Texas, said the One Church Plan most closely aligns the church to foundational Wesleyan beliefs.

“We are mandated by Christ to offer unconditional, unlimited, unqualified and unending love to all, and the One Church Plan comes closest to moving United Methodist law into that beloved community where God’s love is fully, freely and fearlessly given to all through us,” she said.

Rev. Austin Adkinson, pastor of Haller Lake United Methodist Church, Seattle, also feels that the One Church Plan, while flawed, does the least harm.

“All three plans in the commission’s report continue discrimination and harm by The United Methodist Church. … Even the plan endorsed by the bishops codifies the permissible modes of discrimination that would be adopted by large portions of the denomination,” he said.

Adkinson is a member of UM Queer Clergy Caucus and that group is sending legislation to the 2019 General Conference that removes the language from the Book of Discipline that excludes LGBTQ people from full participation in the church, called A Simple Plan Forward.

For Briggs, the bottom line is, “Jesus told Mary to go and tell.” 

“We serve a risen Savior and there is a world that desperately needs to be introduced to Him. Perhaps there just might be more ways than one, two, or three plans.”

Delegation Names Chairs

As the newly elected NYAC delegation began to prepare for the 2019 special session of General Conference, one of their first tasks was to determine who would be the group co-chairs. Traditionally, the first lay and clergy delegates elected would hold those roles.

But the delegation instead decided to honor the importance of what the special session is all about by choosing two of its LGBTQI members as leaders, according to lay delegate Fred Brewington. Rev. Kristina Hansen and Jorge Lockward were selected by consensus to serve as co-chairs.

Other members of the delegation are:

Lay delegates: Fred Brewington, Gail Douglas Boykin, and Dorothee Benz. Reserves are Tiffany French Goffe, Ann Craig, Roena Littlejohn, and Karen Prudente

Clergy delegates: Tim Riss, Noel Chin, and Alex da Silva Souto. Reserves are Vicki Flippin, Sheila Beckford, Martha Vink and Sungchan Kim.


Are You A Ready Church?

A category 4 storm is approaching. What preparation and response plans does your church have in place? How will you care for your church family, your facility, the vulnerable members of your congregation? How can you more effectively serve your community in the immediate and long-term response?

These questions are not limited to natural disasters. Disasters come in many forms, large and small, including floods, snow and ice storms, house fires, blackouts, microbursts, and now, terrorist attacks and active-shooter incidents. And they affect urban, suburban, and rural communities. While it is not possible to prepare for every contingency, proper planning and preparation can minimize the effects of a disaster and even save lives.

Faith-based (churches) and other volunteer organizations are critical to the overall wellbeing and recovery of disaster-affected communities. Government agencies, in fact, rely on the response of faith communities to assist in recovery efforts.

Think about this: there are more than 33,000 United Methodist churches in the United States alone. This means that wherever a disaster strikes the chances are that there is a United Methodist Church somewhere nearby. In the immediate aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, many of our churches opened their doors as emergency distribution sites, housed volunteer teams, provided emotional and spiritual care, and served as community resource centers. In Puerto Rico, following Maria, Methodist Churches in affected areas immediately set up stations to provide food and water to the most vulnerable areas.

While the NYAC might not think of itself as being disaster-prone, in the past handful of years alone we have experienced three major hurricanes, narrowly avoided several more, and experienced a dozen other undeclared or more-localized events.

Are we a ready church? Are you a ready church?

Connecting Neighbors is an UMCOR-based training curriculum designed to assist churches in three major response areas:

Module 1: Ready Congregants
How ready and prepared are you, your family, in the event of a disaster? Do you have a personal or family plan in place?   

Module 2: Ready Church
Does your church have a disaster preparedness plan? How would you maintain “continuity of operation” should you be forced out of your building? Is your insurance adequate? Are your vital records safe? How do you keep in touch with “vulnerable populations” within your congregation before, during, and after a disaster?

Module 3: Ready Response
Is your church part of a community preparedness plan? What are the resources or services your church could offer in the event of a community disaster event? 

To schedule a Connecting Neighbors training event for your district, church, community, or council of churches, contact Tom Vencuss.


For a full lineup of events, go to: www.nyac.com/conferencecalendar.

July-August Conference Center Closed
Friday closures of the White Plains office run through the end of August.

8/31 Social Principles Revision
It’s the final day to comment on the proposed changes to the UMC’s Social Principles on the General Board of Church & Society website. Watch your district news for a “Community Conversation” about the events happening near you.

9/3 Labor Day Closing
The conference center will be closed for the Labor Day holiday.

9/29 Writing Safe Sanctuaries Policy
This Safe Sanctuaries workshop is designed for congregations who do not have a written Safe Sanctuaries Policy or who need a refresher on editing their policy. The workshop prepares a core team of four to five people to work with the congregation to write a policy, as well as providing information on how to train trustees, teachers, parents and pastors on the implementation of that policy. The training will be from 10 a.m.–1 p.m. at Christ UMC, Staten Island. Register online by September 25. For more information, contact Cassandra Negri.

10/4 Development Info Session
The United Methodist City Society is hosting an informational seminar for clergy/trustees of UM churches considering a development project or affordable housing project on their church property—whether rural or urban. Speaker Jason Labate of Goldstein Hall, a law firm that specializes in working with non-profits and religious institutions on development projects. Registration limited to 40 People. October 4th, 2018, 10 a.m. to Noon, 475 Riverside Drive, Manhattan, 15th Floor UMW conference room.

10/11–12 NEJ BMCR Annual Meeting
“Building Bridges: Together With Love and Unity” is the theme for the NEJ gathering of Black Methodists for Church Renewal, hosted by Baltimore-Washington BMCR Caucus. Registration for the event at St. Marks UMC, Hanover, Md., is ongoing on the NEJBMCR website.

10/13 A Day With Brian McLaren
Practical Resources for Churches is partnering with the NYAC

to host this daylong program exploring, “The Future of Christianity: Does Christian Faith have a future, and does the future have Christian faith?” with Brian D. McLaren. McLaren will discuss the theological, liturgical and missional futures of Christianity. An author, speaker, activist, former pastor, and public theologian, McLaren is a leader in the Convergence Network, where he is developing a training/mentoring program for pastors and church planters. Discount pricing for NYAC members is $10 for preregistration, or $20 at the door; breakfast and lunch are included at the event which runs from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Arumdaun Presbyterian Church,1 Arumdaun St., Bethpage, N.Y. Register and pay online at www.prcli.org.

10/14–25 “Journeys of Paul” Cruise
Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton will host the nine-day journey aboard Royal Caribbean’s “Jewel of the Seas,” in conjunction with Educational Opportunities Tours. Beginning and ending in Rome, the trip includes stops in Taormina and Pompeii, Italy; Mykonos, Santorini, Athens, and Corinth, Greece; and Ephesus, Turkey. There is also an optional two-day tour of Vatican City on October 25-26. Find the reservation information online. If you have any questions, contact Rev. Chuck Ferrara, the regional representative for Educational Opportunities in our area.

10/20 UM Men’s Retreat
This annual retreat for all men in the conference will explore the theme, “Hearts on Fire for God,” from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Memorial UMC in White Plains. Guest speaker is Rev. John Simmons Jr., pastor at Brooks Memorial UMC. Suggested donation is $25. More information can be found here.

11/1 Bishop’s Clergy Retreat
Bishop Grant Hagiya of the California-Pacific Conference will be the keynote speaker, exploring the book, “The Anatomy of Peace.”   All clergy are encouraged to read this book from the Arbinger Institute before the retreat. Additional details can be found here as they become available.

11/17 Laity Convocation
Rev. Sue Nilson Kibbey, author of  Flood Gates: Holy Momentum for A Fearless Church , will be the presenter. The event will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Tarrytown House Estate in Tarrytown, N.Y. Continental breakfast begins at 6:45 a.m. Details and registration info can be found here. Contact Conference Lay Leader, Roena Littlejohn, with any questions.

7/10–14 Youth 2019 Registration
“Love Well,” the national gathering for United Methodist youth and their leaders in Kansas City next July 10–14, promises four days of discipleship, worship, Bible study, big-name musical artists, service opportunities and life-changing fun. Early bird registration is available through Jan. 31, 2019, and includes a discounted rate, plus a free spot for every 10 paid registrants. YOUTH 2019 is for youth grades 6–12 and their leaders. For more information, go to http://youth2019.com or @youth2019 on all social media platforms.

Vision Deadlines for 2018
The Vision is a monthly online publication of the New York Conference. Deadlines are always the first Friday of the month, with posting to the web site about 10 days later. The deadlines for 2018 are September 7, October 5, November 2, and December 7. Please send any stories, photos, ideas, or questions directly to vision@nyac.com.


UMCOR Moves PR Volunteer Recovery Office to NY

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has officially announced plans to transition its Puerto Rico mainland volunteer recovery operation to the New York Conference, under the office of missions. UMCOR funds have been provided to hire a full-time volunteer coordinator. All mainland teams seeking to serve through the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico’s “Reborn, Revive, Rebuild” (3R) recovery program will be registered and vetted, and then deployed in coordination with the MCPR volunteer coordinator. (View a Spanish language video of the recovery here.)

The conference is continuing to recruit teams to aid in the hurricane recovery on the Caribbean island. A most recent team in June replaced a metal roof on a home in Patillas; watch their video here. From August 25 to September 1, Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton will led a work team of cabinet and extended cabinet members.

In October, two mission trips are being planned. A combined team from Christ Church UM and Park Avenue UMC, both in Manhattan, is scheduled for October 13–20. Craig Fitzsimmons, recently retired NYAC clergy member, is putting together a team for October 22–29. For an application to join that trip, contact Rev. Tom Vencuss in the NYAC Missions Office.

At annual conference in June, the conference entered into a formal agreement with the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico (MCPR) to support them in their recovery effort. The deployment of volunteer teams is part of that agreement. It is estimated that there are some 60,000 homes that still have tarps for roofs and are in need of permanent repairs or reconstruction. In response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, the NYAC has sent five teams to Puerto Rico, three to Texas, and one to Florida.

A critical part of any recovery team is qualified and experienced leadership. Team leader training will be held in the coming months for all persons interested in leading overseas Volunteers in Mission (VIM) trips or disaster response teams.

Early Response Team Training
While not necessary to serve on a recovery team to Puerto Rico, the ERT class is the basic training required for disaster response deployment. Our next class:

  • Early Response Team basic training, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., August 25, New Milford UMC, 68 Danbury Rd., New Milford, Conn., with instructor, Art Mellor. Those needing to recertify are also welcome to attend. $10 cost includes background check and badging. The New Milford church will provide lunch. Online registration is required and will be available shortly here.

Mission/Disaster Response Team Leader Training
Whether leading a group in an overseas mission, early

response, or a long-term recovery team, a first and critical part is qualified and experienced team leadership. If you are interested in learning more about leading a team, this is for you. If you consider yourself experienced as a team leader, we would like your input as well. Others can learn from your experiences. An on-line registration form will be available and required.

  • 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., October 13 at the Conference Center, 20 Soundview Ave., White Plains, N.Y. Online registration is required and will be available shortly here.

Disaster Emotional/Spiritual Care Training

  • 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., September 22 at Centerport UMC, 97 Little Neck Rd., Centerport, N.Y. Online registration is required and will be available shortly here.

Global Ministries
If you are planning an overseas mission journey in the coming year, please advise the Missions office so that we may support and publicize your effort.

Changes in UMCOR Kits

The United Methodist Committee on Relief has long engaged in shipping material resources to people in need around the world. But over the years, the agency has come to recognize that shipping these items may actually cause harm if the materials displace potential local purchases that would otherwise support the local economy.

To that end, UMCOR determined that it would cease international shipment of material assistance as of December 31 last year. They now distributes only the most-requested UMCOR relief supply kits, assembled in this country, to places in the United States and its territories where these items are most needed.

To address international needs, UMCOR works with local United Methodist churches, ACT Alliance, ecumenical, and interfaith partners to respond to disasters. As part of a comprehensive disaster response strategy, UMCOR coaches these partners to purchase local materials that are appropriate to the context. This is consistent with best practices and accountability standards.

So before your church or community assembles new kits, please make sure that you are using the most up-to-date content lists. The lists were designed to offer donors greater ease and flexibility in purchasing their donations.

UMCOR has deployed kits assembled under the old guidelines; nothing has gone to waste. If you have questions, please contact Jill Wilson, chair of the conference Council on Missions.


Weekend Away With Mission u
Pastor Angela Redman, at center, leads a session on “What About Our Money? A Faith Response" during the July 27–29 session of “Mission u” at the Hilton in Stamford, Conn. Some 195 participants—kids, teens and adults from the NYAC—attended the weekend event to learn about covenantal living with creation, a faithful response with money, and the missionary conferences in the United States.

The Korean Methodist Church and Institute in Manhattan recently made a donation to St. Paul and St. Andrew to support their sanctuary work on behalf of Debora Barrios. Barrios and her daughter, Bereneice, are pictured with SPSA Pastor K Karpen, and Susan Kim and Pastor YongBo Lee of KMCI.
How UMs Can Support Immigrant Families

BY RYAN DUNN

UMCOM | In recent weeks, people of faith have been shocked and moved by reports of immigrant parents and children separated after detention at the southern borders of the United States. Despite an order to stop the family separations, many concerns remain. Parents still might not know where their children are, nor when they will be reunited. In some cases, mothers were told their children were being taken for a bath, only to discover those children were taken to a separate detention facility.

Such situations may cause United Methodists to wrestle with their reactions. How can we respond with a sense of empathy and compassion? How can we represent mercy? What are the ways we can offer relief to all of those who seek release from circumstances that have spurred them to leave their homes in search of life somewhere else?

The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church give us a clear lesson that we oppose the separation of families:

“We recognize, embrace, and affirm all persons, regardless of country of origin, as members of the family of God. We affirm the right of all persons to equal opportunities for employment, access to housing, health care, education, and freedom from social discrimination. We urge the Church and society to recognize the gifts, contributions, and struggles of those who are immigrants and to advocate for justice for all. We oppose immigration policies that separate family members from each other or that include detention of families with children, and we call on local churches to be in ministry with immigrant families.” [2016 Book of Discipline, Social Principles ¶162.H]

For some of us, the events may be far removed, but there are ways for all of us to help bring families back together—or to at least share some compassion with those who are suffering from separation and despair.

Donate

Those seeking asylum or immigration need assistance in communication and legal representation. Organizations like Justice for Our Neighbors provide legal services for immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers. Secondary organizations like United Methodist Committee on Relief and Together Rising identify particular areas of need and direct donated funds in support.

Two churches in the NYAC are currently providing sanctuary for immigrants facing deportation orders. Nelson Pinos

sought refuge at First and Summerfield UMC in New Haven, Conn., and Debora Barrios at St. Paul and St. Andrew in Manhattan.

Contact elected officials

Your voice matters. Let your elected officials know your thoughts and values about immigration and refugee assistance. In the United States, you can find your elected officialshere. It is good to be brief when contacting your elected official, but also share your points of concern and how you hope the official responds.

Attend a rally or vigil

Presence matters. It matters to elected officials and it matters to those who are detained and facing family separation. Presence at a rally or vigil inspires hope for those who are in despair, and inspires elected officials to assess governmental stances and practices. In response to the situation along the United States border, Families Belong Together is helping to organize and advertise rallies and vigils.

Volunteer

Presence does matter. However, well-planned presence matters most. For many, the best way to volunteer may be by simply expressing empathy through attending a rally and prayer. For those who speak Spanish or have some legal expertise, presence in the form of being an onsite volunteer could be greatly beneficial. Many organizations, including Justice for Our Neighbors and the Texas Civil Rights Project, are seeking skilled onsite volunteers. The warning here: if you do not have a plan or needed skill, do not just show up.

Teach and extend empathy

Do you have children of your own? Teach empathy and concern for others by volunteering locally. Most cities have refugee populations and agencies assisting them through providing assimilation services, housing, job training and more. In the United States, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants provides references to organizations assisting refugees. The International Rescue Committee also provides opportunities to volunteer alongside refugees.

Find other ways to get involved

*Ryan Dunn is minister of online engagement at United Methodist Communications.


World Christianity Meets The United Methodist Church

BY JACOB DHARMARAJ, PH.D

The United Methodist Church’s mission statement succinctly explains the purpose of its existence and pithily articulates its ministerial priorities: “Make disciples” and “transform the world.” Through these imperatives, the denomination not only defines its missional code but delineates the dimensions of its ministerial performance as well. These words serve as sibling values for its identity as a faith organization. 

Making disciples is not a onetime event but an ongoing process. Each generation of believers ought to evangelize the succeeding generation. As the hackneyed old saying goes, “Each congregation is only one generation away from extinction.”

If we need to evangelize the current generation and to make new disciples “which pond do we have to go to fish for disciples?” If we have to bring about transformation, from where do we start? When or how do we let go of the deflated life preserver that has aided us in the past?” These are a few burning questions.

Evangelism as Formation

Today, churches are faced not with the specter of mass extinction but with mass obsolescence. Development of missional sensitivity and attainment of unique evangelistic skills, with willingness to see the intersections of trends and contexts that move like ripples across a pond, are essential. It regularly prods us to be vigilant and unceasingly prompts us to gain perspectives so that we might avoid being blindsided by our complex world.

Most of us are creatures of habit. Habits are molds on which life is cast. We find safety and comfort in our familiar and accustomed settings. Habits are the imperceptible architecture of our everyday life. We form habits and then habits form us. Habits are the fetters or the anchors of the soul. They serve as ruts that hamper and hobble our energies or serve as bars and banisters that protect and bear us on our daily journey. To embark on something new requires skill, determination, and willpower.

Therapists say, “If we change a person’s habits, we can change their lives.” That is why many parents bring their children to church and Sunday school—to develop ethical will and moral fiber—to develop good habits. By the time children become adults good habits are baked into their DNA. That includes the notion of God and understanding of the church. Upon those notions congregations are organized, mission engagements developed, and most importantly public services are rendered. With inherited habits and personal transformative experience we Christians worship and share our knowledge and love of God within and without the church. 

In Alice Walker’s novel, The Color Purple, one of the characters suggests the relation between church and world. “Say, Celie, tell the truth, have you ever found God in church? I never did. I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show. Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did too. They come to church to share God, not find God.” It is true to a large extent in many of us.

Evangelization as a Meeting Place

Three years ago, my wife, Glory, and I had the privilege of witnessing and participating in the planting of three new Asian language congregations in Syracuse, N.Y. What amazes me even today is the way the new faith communities came into being.

 Two Asian refugee Christian families used to gather in their living room on Sunday mornings to watch and listen to sermons on Youtube. Prompted by loneliness and lack of social life, a few non-Christian refugee families also joined the informal worship on Sunday mornings.  As this refugee community has been thwarted and spurned, their psyches warped by repression and rejection by the surrounding culture, this fledgling worshiping community offered a safe haven and a place for rejuvenation.

Within a few months, this house church began to grow. My Laotian friend began to visit them once a month and lead worship services on Sunday afternoons. He preached in the Laotian language that was translated into Thai, which was then translated into Karenni. Thus began a multi-lingual church in the heart of a city.

When the number of worshipers increased, several local churches in Syracuse were contacted about offering these

Christians a place to gather and worship. No door was opened. After months of search, a decommissioned United Methodist Church was contracted for $250 in monthly rent. The Karenni congregation took off right away and the average attendance reached over 70. Soon after, the Nepali refugee Christians formed their worship service. The Nepalis were followed by Sudanese, Ethiopians, and Zimbabweans with a request to form an Arabic language worship service. Currently, they all worship in the same building at 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Sundays in three different languages.

The Language Ponds

For the first time, in the history of The United Methodist Church, Karenni and Nepali language congregations were established—without any pomp or fanfare. Sunday worship attendance averages between 84 and 96 per language group, most of them first generation converts. Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of leading an informal worship service when we gathered in Andy’s camp, north Syracuse, for an afternoon picnic and worship. It was attended by 158 people, who were mostly Karenni, Nepali, and Arabic speaking congregants. 

We don’t always have to travel to “foreign countries” to make new disciples. There are plenty of “ponds” and opportunities right here in our own towns and regions.

Ministry with refugees and migrant communities encompasses relationship and trust building. Refugee ministry has no comprehensive blueprint, and it is not a speedy process. Unlike traditional ministry, it is non-lineal and filled with challenges and surprises. We may not see the results right away, but the seed of the gospel will eventually sprout to yield a golden harvest.

While I was working with these refugees three years ago, Glory and I were asked by two Cambodian refugee women to lead a retreat just for Cambodian women in the Los Angeles area. One of them was a medical doctor who was brought to the United States as an orphan. With limited financial resources and an abundance of skeptics, 48 Cambodian women came to the retreat. Two years ago, 72 Cambodian women participated in the event; last year the number grew to 98 in San Jose. We’re gathering again at the end of August in Los Angeles area and hope to have some 100 participants.

Centrality in Christian Mission

Christian mission today invites us to recognize a shift from our traditional concepts and approaches in order to focus on the centrality of the kingdom of God in mission theology. It is no longer exclusively ecclesiocentric (church-centered), so much so that the success and fruitfulness of mission are not measured merely from the growth of the church. In our new and complex world, we must re-conceptualize our traditional understanding of mission and its praxis. We have to be flexible and mobile. Most importantly, the church has to play the role of a servant in the same way that Christ did as one who came not to be served but to serve (Mk. 10:45).

At the conclusion of the retreat for the Cambodian women last year, I shared a funny fable that illustrates how some of us in the leadership had labored against all odds and eventually succeeded in organizing the retreat for the marginalized and vulnerable Cambodian women.

This fable is about an outlaw who was hauled before the king of the land to plead for his life. When he came to know that the king had a fondness for one his horses, the outlaw promised that if his life was spared for a year, he could teach the king’s favorite horse to sing. The king consented. When the outlaw went back to prison, his cellmate scoffed at him: “You could never teach the king’s horse to sing even if you had a lifetime.”

And the man said: “It doesn’t matter. I have a year now that I didn’t have before. Besides, a lot of things can happen in a year. The king might die. The horse might die. I might die. And, who knows? Maybe the horse will sing.”

When Glory and I were preparing to go to the airport, I was given a card signed by several Cambodian women. It said, “Thank you, Dr. Jacob. The horse is singing!”

Dharmaraj, a retired clergy member from the NYAC, is president of the Inter-Ethnic Strategy Development Group.


Wanted: 100 Churches for Abundant Health Challenge

We continue to be very excited about the NYAC “Abundant Health” Ministry and are hoping to engage at least 100 NYAC Churches in this denominational Global Health Initiative! 

The NYAC Abundant Health goals are:

§ Helping to support children locally and around the world with lifesaving health interventions. 

§ Encouraging at least 100 NYAC churches to join the Abundant Health Church Challenge of to creating local ministries focusing on the health of “body, mind, and spirit.”

So far, the there have been three very successful Abundant Health events in the conference: the Metropolitan District Expo at New Rochelle UMC, the day of health at the conference center, and “Hulapalooza,” hosted by Mt. Vernon UMC. Following these events, we have also held training and workshops at various NYAC churches.

The NYAC Abundant Health leadership team works with local churches and their communities to develop ministries and/or to host and develop a “Hulapalooza” or other events promoting good health.  The leadership team has 20 members who represent children’s activities, community gardens, Days for Girls Ministry, drug awareness, fitness activities, mental health programs, meditation/tai chi, nutrition and healthy eating, pastoral care opportunities, senior citizens ministries, spiritual formation opportunities, the Strengthening Families program, and youth opportunities for mission and service.

We recently scheduled the following Hulapaloozas events:

  • October 6: Huntington/Cold Spring Harbor UMC, Huntington, N.Y.
  • November 10: John Wesley UMC, Brooklyn
  • March 16, 2019: Tremont UMC, The Bronx

As part of the 100-Church Challenge, and to help us further develop this important initiative, we’re asking churches to complete the survey found here. At the end of the survey, you

Help your church and community to enjoy healthier living by hosting a “Hulapalooza” event.

can add your church to the 100-Church Challenge. You are also welcome to join our Facebook Group.

Please be in touch if you have any further questions or would like to plan an Abundant Health event or activity.

In faith,
Wendy Vencuss
NYAC Abundant Health coordinator
abundanthealth@nyac-umc.com

“I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly!” —John 10:10


GBHEM Doubles Loan Amounts

The Office of Loans and Scholarships at the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) announced an increase in the maximum amount United Methodist students can borrow to pursue their education. Students can now borrow up to $10,000 per calendar year (January through December) with a lifetime maximum of $40,000 from the United Methodist Student Loan Fund.

Previously students were allotted $5,000 per calendar year with a maximum lifetime total of $20,000 during a four-year college career. With one of the lowest education loan interest rates in the U.S., GBHEM is offering students an opportunity to avoid more costly loans and decrease the amount of education debt acquired. 

“GBHEM’s Office of Loans and Scholarships has maintained our commitment to providing United Methodist students with affordable options while pursuing higher education. We will continue this commitment and are proud to provide low-interest

loan options to help students avoid excessive education debt,” explained Allyson Collinsworth, executive director of the Office of Loans and Scholarships at GBHEM. 

Student loan debt is one of the highest forms of debt for individuals, totaling more than 1.45 trillion for students in the U.S. alone, loan interest rates are an important factor when considering how to pay for college. Year-over-year federal student loan interest rates are increasing. Federal loan interest rates increased from 4.45–7 percent to 5.05–7.60 percent between 2018 and 2019. GBHEM loan interest rates have remained the same and range from 3.75 percent to 5 percent, which is up to 1.3 percent lower than the federal rates. 

Fall loan applications are open now through November 15, 2018. Scholarship applications for the 2019–2020 academic year open January 3, 2019. For more information about the low-interest student loans and scholarships available through GBHEM, visit gbhem.org/loansandscholarships.


REPORT FROM COLOMBIA
Connecting the Church in Mission

Editor’s Note: Hannah Reasoner is a Global Mission Fellow with the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, engaged in a two-year term of service in Colombia. She was commissioned in August 2017 to work with Centro Popular para América Latina de Comunicación (CEPALC), a not-for-profit organization working at the exclusive service of the poor sectors in the use and management of means of communication. Hannah and her family are members of the UMC of St. Paul and St. Andrew in New York City.

Hola,

Aside from watching the World Cup games at work, CEPALC also held the final in a 4-part workshop series for girls and women on July 14. Even in these four short workshops I have been able to see girls open themselves up to new ideas¨ express themselves and share their thoughts without fear. Some of the girls who have been involved with CEPALC for many years reflected on how shy they used to be. Now they are stepping into leadership roles and running their own programs with Encuentro Radio.

In this workshop we formed a “círculo de palabras,” a creative space for all of us to share food, pictures, mementos, books, and words to reflect on all of the topics we had covered. After each group finished a creative presentation on what they had discussed throughout the day, another group found symbols or words within the circle to describe the message they got from the dance, skit, or song that their peers performed. It was a great exercise in creativity, communication, and critical thinking.

Each of the four groups in this workshop also took on the name of an important and inspiring woman and learned a little bit about her story. My group talked about the everyday sexism that appears in language and the need to look at society with a more critical eye. We named ourselves after Jineth Bedoya, a Colombian journalist who fought gender violence and stood up for human rights in the face of danger and abuse. The other groups were named after Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Malala Yousafzai, and Adriana

Girls and women share in an exercise about what they have learned in a workshop intended to empower their words and actions.

Ocampo. Many of the children’s radio programs this month talked about the importance of literature.

They shared their favorite books, learned about important Colombian authors, and reflected on some of the life lessons they learn from reading. They also wanted to talk about the importance of access to education and how many children in Colombia and around the world don’t have the same opportunities to go to school that they do.

Here in the office we have also been working on producing a short film about CEPALC’s children’s programs. I’ve been translating the script and recording some of the voices in English so that we can offer the video in both English and Spanish. As soon as the videos are ready, I’ll be sharing both versions on my Facebook page, “Aventuras de Hannah GMF.”

Hasta Luego,
Hannah Reasoner


OBITUARY

Gregory Y. Halbrook

Gregory Yevgenie Halbrook, 22, of Greenville, S.C., died on July 28, 2018. 

He was born in Orel, Russia; his parents are John Harvey Halbrook and Rev. Lori Miller of Sandy Hook, Conn. Rev. Miller is the pastor at Newtown UMC in Sandy Hook.

Halbrook was an Eagle Scout. He loved cars and his prized possession was a Ford Mustang. He was studying auto bodywork at Greenville Technical College.

In addition to his parents, Halbook is survived by a brother, J. Paul (Samantha) Halbrook of Greenville, S.C.; a niece, Hailey; and two nephews, Alexander and Connor.

A funeral service was held August 3 at Travelers Rest UMC, Travelers Rest, S.C. A memorial service was planned for August 11 at the Newtown UMC, 92 Church Hill Rd., Sandy Hook, Conn.



The Vision, Newspaper of the NYAC, of the UMC

Bishop: Thomas J. Bickerton

Editor: Joanne Utley

Vision e-mail: vision@nyac.com

Web site: www.nyac.com/vision

New York Conference of The United Methodist Church

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