Houghton College will host the Woolsey Lectures by welcoming Dr. Dana L. Robert to campus on Monday, November 7, 2011. Dr. Robert will speak as part of the Woolsey Lectures in Theology and Culture, funded by the Margaret Hayes Randall Endowment and friends of Houghton College, and sponsored by Houghton College Departments of Biblical Studies, Theology, and Philosophy. The lectures will take place in Wesley Chapel during the morning chapel service and in the evening, followed by a formal reception in the Center for the Arts Adelmann Atrium. Both lectures are open to the public and free of charge.
For more information, please visit the webpage.
When the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries started work in Russia 20 years ago, the primary goal was to deliver food to the Moscow area. But a changing political climate also led to the opportunity to re-establish Methodism in the former Soviet Union, and the agency wasn’t the only denominational entity interested in church growth in the region. Under the board’s sponsorship, the Russia Initiative, which also includes Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus, has created a thriving partnership among the denomination’s annual (regional) conferences, congregations and institutions.
Now, as the Board of Global Ministries continues to redefine its role as the denomination’s mission leader and a 21st century missionary-sending agency, the Russia Initiative provides one possible “roadmap” to change, says Thomas Kemper, the board’s top executive.
The initiative’s model of retaining cultural identification and fostering financial self-reliance should be studied, Kemper told directors during his report at the board’s Oct. 10-12 annual meeting.
How to engage effectively in global mission is a constant topic of discussion by both the Board of Global Ministries and the denomination at large. Most of the 10 new missionaries commissioned during this week’s meeting will engage in new or expanding mission activities, Kemper said.
A new strategic plan for mission focuses on everything from streamlining the agency’s operations to tailoring missionary placements to reflect new global realities to expanding mission partnerships.
Connection with Mission Society
Such partnerships even include other mission agencies that might have been considered competitors in the past. To illustrate that point, Kemper invited the Rev. Dick McLain, president of The Mission Society, to preach during the board’s Oct. 11 worship service.
Incorporated in 1984 as the Mission Society for United Methodists, the organization set itself up as a secondary agency to send missionaries outside the United States. Kemper acknowledged the tense relations between the two organizations in the past.
“We are trying to lay aside animosities from 20, 30 years ago, recognizing that the society … proceeds in its work as a general missionary-sending organization, but not one constituted or operated in opposition to the General Board of Global Ministries,” Kemper told directors.
In fact, both Kemper, a member of the Germany Annual Conference with extensive mission experience, and McLain, who first joined The Mission Society in 1986 as its first director of missionary personnel, spoke of the friendship that has developed between them over the last 18 months.
Cooperation can benefit both agencies, Kemper said. “We know that openness between the two agencies helps both to deal with real issues that arise in mission areas where we each have personnel or may plan to have personnel,” he explained.
In his sermon, McLain offered board directors and staff a welcome from the society’s 200 missionaries in 37 countries and 33 staff in its Norcross, Ga., offices. “Every member of our community rejoices that I’m here today,” he added.
The new realities of the mission field are not just global but also local, McLain pointed out. For example, 35 percent of the residents in a community near the society offices are recent immigrants and 85 percent are Muslims.
Such diverse communities offer “amazing opportunities and significant challenges to churches all over America,” McLain said. “While the content of the gospel has not changed, the context in which we proclaim it has changed dramatically, almost overnight.”
Dana Robert, a Boston University School of Theology professor, and David Scott, a doctoral student there, offered a taste of their research into that new context during an Oct. 10 presentation to board directors.
As it was a century ago, Christianity remains the world’s largest religion, but the population it encompasses has changed. “We are a truly multicultural faith today, with roughly one-fourth to one-fifth of Christianity represented on different continents,” Robert explained.
The configuration of Christianity also has shifted. In 1900, one-third of all Christians were Protestants, but today, she reported, “that percentage is less than one-fourth.” Instead, indigenous churches and new denominations are experiencing rapid growth that “may not have any relationship to something like the Methodist church.”
United Methodist membership has declined in the West and experienced growth in Africa and Asia. However, the global growth rate isn’t as strong as some independent or related churches. “Worldwide, UMC growth is lagging behind sister denominations,” Scott said.
Directors were invited to ponder possible explanations for such trends, including the idea that United Methodists are stuck in a North American, mid-20th century denominational model.
Robert had just attended a meeting of what she called “a 21st century effort at ecumenism,” the Global Christian Forum in Indonesia, where religious groups that don’t usually connect listen to each other’s stories. “There’s a tremendous sense of hope welling up from recognizing what we have in common with Christians from other communions,” she said.
Kemper said the Board of Global Ministries is indebted to the insights of scholars such as Robert and Scott as it continues to organize the church’s global witness — in new mission arenas, such as Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Mongolia — and in established ventures, such as the Russia Initiative.
Missionaries themselves are more diverse than ever, representing a variety of cultures and nations and fulfilling assignments virtually across the globe.
Those commissioned this week include a missionary pilot and air-safety administrator from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a Korean-American couple assigned to the United Methodist mission center in Kazakhstan, an Oklahoma pastor headed to Jerusalem and an attorney working with immigrants in Iowa.
One of the board’s strategic goals is to increase young adult participation in mission. Twenty-five new young adult missionaries were commissioned Aug. 18 for two- to three-year terms.
Another 17 summer interns served at mission sites in the United States. Eleven young people served as Global Justice Volunteers this year in Kenya, and 15 are scheduled to serve in the Philippines.
But mission awareness must start at a much earlier age, Kemper acknowledged, so the board is “developing educational resources to help children understand and appreciate mission.”
Reported by Linda Bloom (A United Methodist News Service Multimedia Reporter, firstname.lastname@example.org)
In late September, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the recent launching of the beta version of GlobeTheoLib (http://www.globethics.net/web/gtl), a new online digital library for theology and ecumenism. This is a joint project of the World Council of Churches and Globethics.net.
This online library is committed to providing FREE online access to various documents, journal articles, essays, e-books, etc. in the area of theology and ecumenism to all registered users. Moreover, it also provides registered users with a platform for collaboration and networking. Registration is FREE.
Content in the digital library is derived from other free open repositories, commercial publishers (such as Gale, Credo Reference, and Oxford) as well as user submissions. Some of the highlights available through the GTL include free access to the Oxford Handbooks Online series for both Religion and Philosophy, free access to Credo Reference, and a collection of selected documents from the World Council of Churches (WCC). Users are encouraged to also add their own content through on online submission form. Submitted content is then reviewed for appropriateness for the library before it is added.
Users can access the GTL by going to http://www.globethics.net/web/gtl. You need to first register in order to actually access and search the portal, but again, registration is FREE. One thing that was emphasized at the launch was the commitment of the project to providing free, open access to users of the site, as well as the hope that this project will foster collaboration among theologians around the world. Hope you will all take some time to explore this new resource. It is still in its early stages but I think it has great promise.
For more information, see the attached file: GlobeTheoLib_EN (2).
Contributed by Amy E. Limpitlaw, the new Head Librarian for the School of Theology.
Christianity Underwent Greatest Cultural Shift in 2,000 Years, Says Scholar
(This article has been excerpted from The Christian Post)
MANADO, Indonesia – “The story of Christianity as a worldwide faith is being written before our eyes,” declared Dana Robert, professor of world Christianity and history of mission at Boston University School of Theology, last week at the Global Christian Forum.
“Christianity has undergone one of the greatest demographic and cultural shifts in its 2,000-year history,” she said.
Given the amazing diversity among Christ’s followers, the worldwide spread of Christianity requires that mission be integral to unity, said the co-director of Boston University School of Theology’s Center for Global Christianity & Mission.
“Contemporary Christians are focusing on mission for multiple purposes – both to recover tradition and to recover from tradition.”
Conversations about mission and witness have become an urgent agenda for declining mainline Christians, as communions like the Anglican, United Methodist, and Presbyterian struggle to reframe their identity in a global marketplace. At the same time, adherents of new ministries often see their witness as a recovery of primitive Christianity that challenges the traditions of older denominations, she said.
Robert said the need for Christian unity is not like in the 1950s, when “self-satisfied Protestant leaders pushed for organic unity at the expense of diversity of witness.”
“The growth that characterizes world Christianity today means that unity will be taken seriously only where mission is taken seriously,” she said.
“Unity without witness is stagnant and oppressive. Yet witness without unity creates competitive anarchy,” Robert stated.
World Christianity is at its core a theological conviction. A commitment to oneness as a mark of the church implies concrete concern for the one world and an understanding that the fate of all of God’s people is intertwined, she concluded.
The huge changes in world Christianity, said another speaker, Sang-Bok David Kim, chairman of the Asia Evangelical Alliance, means that “Christianity is no longer a ‘white man’s religion.’ Christians are now everywhere.”
Looking at statistics, Kim said Christianity is still the world’s largest religion, with 32.39 percent of the global population, followed by Islam at 22.90 percent.
He acknowledged, however, that Islam is growing faster than Christianity, not so much from conversion, but due to a higher birth rate in the Muslim community (1.9 percent growth, compared with Christians, at 1.2 percent).
Kim, who is also senior pastor of Hallelujah Christian Church in South Korea, said although the Global North (countries with economically developed societies) has declined in numbers overall, Evangelical, Pentecostal and Charismatic communities continue to grow there, as well as in Africa, Latin America and Asia.
The Korean pastor noted the post-World War II evangelical mission was an “astonishing success story,” as was the subsequent growth that came from a new generation of indigenous evangelical movements around the world.
“Evangelicals numbered 82 million (2.9 percent) in 1960 and they have reached 546 million in 2010 (7.9 percent),” he said.
“Re-evangelization” is the main task of many churches, such as the Russian Orthodox Church, which was “concentrating more on evangelization of the 80 percent nominal Orthodox Christians,” than proselytism in the 1990s, Kim concluded.
The GCF brought together leaders from all major church traditions, all theological perspectives and major world communions including Anglicans, Baptists, Lutherans, Pentecostals and other Evangelicals. More than 300 delegates from 81 countries participated in the conference.
Gabrielle Devenish contributed writing to this report.
Global Ministries to Focus on Building Relationships at Board Meeting
The Global Ministries fall board meeting will take place on October 10-13, 2011at the agency’s New York City offices. The three-day board meeting will be a prayerful, diverse gathering that incorporates worship, discussion, collaboration, and academia as ways to approach mission. The meeting will kick off with this year’s 10-Fold launch which is a ten-day multimedia experience that spotlights ten powerful ways the church is making an impact worldwide—from planting churches to eliminating death and suffering from malaria. Much of the meeting will be webcast, and visitors are invited to view sessions online at gbgm-umc.org/live.
Dr. Dana Robert and David Scott (Ph.D student) of our Center will address the board on the “World Growth of The United Methodist Church in Comparative Perspective.”
For more information, see the webpage: http://gbgm-umc.org/global_news/full_article.cfm?articleid=6121
WORLD CHRISTIANITY HAS A NEW ADDRESS, A NEW LOOK AND MANY NAMES
An unprecedented change in location and composition of Global Christianity leads to profound realignment
05 October, 2011
“The story of Christianity as a worldwide faith is being written before our eyes”, declared Dr. Dana Robert of Boston University School of Theology, as she addressed a group of world church leaders on the fundamental realignment of Christian faith around the globe.
“Christianity has undergone one of the greatest demographic and cultural shifts in its 2000 year history,’ Robert said.
She was speaking to the Global Christian Forum (GCF) at Manado, Indonesia, which in itself reflects changing patterns of Church engagement.
Uniquely, the gathering has brought together leaders from all major church traditions, all theological perspectives and major world communions including the Anglican Communion, the World Council of Churches, the World Evangelical Alliance, the Pentecostal World Fellowship and representatives of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for promotion of Christian Unity.
In a statistical analysis of the changing demographics and practices of global Christianity, Mr. Peter Crossing of the Centre for the Study of Global Christianity, told the GCF that a century ago (1910), 66 percent of the world’s Christians lived in Europe, but today it accounts for only 26 percent of the world’s Christian population.
He said the “Global North (defined as Europe and North America) contained over 80 percent of all Christians in 1910 falling to under 40percent by 2010”. In 1910 less than 2 percent of all Christian lived in Africa but by 2010 this had skyrocketed to 20 percent or world Christianity by 2010.
Crossing, who is a researcher for the Atlas of Global Christianity, said that whilst the overall number of Christian’s globally had remained fairly constant over the last one hundred years there had been “dramatic change in the centre of gravity of global Christianity”.
A century ago the statistical ‘centre of gravity’ for Christianity was near Madrid, but “in 2010 the statistical centre had shifted to somewhere just south of Timbuktu in Mali. This 100-year shift is the most dramatic in Christian history,” Crossing said.
But one thing has not changed and that is where the financial resources reside. “Finances are still firmly in the (global) North; sixty percent of Christians live in the South, but they have only 17 percent of Christian income,” Crossing said.
Crossing also noted that a century ago Christianity was largely a Western phenomenon: “including strong European Roman Catholic presence in Latin America, where few church leaders were Latin Americans.” Today the new expressions of Global Christianity are coming from Africa and Asia.
He said the change was most dramatically illustrated by in the ‘mother-tongues’ used in worship and the number of denominations: today Mandarin Chinese is the 5th most prevalent language used to worship God – 100 years ago China hardly registered. (The top four today are Spanish, Portuguese, English and French.) Globally, there are some 41,000 Christian denominations, reflecting “the fragmentation” of the global church, Crossing said.
Within these profound changes Crossing said there had also been major developments in existing churches: revivalism, indigenous churches and renewal churches had flourished in every continent but, again, especially in the South.
Another presenter, Dr. Sang-Bok David Kim, of the World Evangelical Alliance, told the GCF, that the huge changes in the church internationally meant “Christianity is no longer a ‘white mans’ religion. Christians are now everywhere.”
Looking at comparative numbers Kim said Christianity was still the world’s largest faith grouping with 32.9percent of the global population followed by Islam at 22.9 percent. “Muslims are increasing faster than Christians, not so much from conversions, but due rather to their higher birth rate (1.9 percent, Christians 1.2 percent)”, he said.
Although the Global North has declined in numbers overall evangelical, Pentecostal and charismatic communities continue to grow there, as well as in Africa, Latin America and Asia, Kim said.
Kim noted one of the most “astonishing success stories” has been the work of evangelical missions since post World War II and the subsequent growth of indigenous evangelical movements globally. ”Evangelicals numbered 82 million (2.9 percent) in 1960 and they have reached 546 million in 2010 (7.9percent)’, he said.
Reflecting on the changes, Dr. Robert said they raise critical questions for all churches: “Contemporary Christians are focusing on mission for multiple purposes – both to recover tradition and to recover from tradition.
“Conversations about mission and witness has become an urgent agenda for declining mainline Christians… as they struggle to reframe their identity in a global marketplace. At the same time, adherents of new ministries often see their witness as a recovery of primitive Christianity that challenges the older denominations”, Robert said.
Robert opined that “Today’s urgent need for Christian unity does not look like the 1950s and 1960s, when self-satisfied Protestant leaders pushed for organic unity at the expense of diversity of witness.
The growth that characterizes world Christianity today means that unity will be taken seriously only where mission is taken seriously”, Robert said.
That mission however is varied. Kim noted that “re-evangelization” is the prime task of many churches such as in the Russian Orthodox, which was “concentrating more on evangelization of the 80 percent nominal Orthodox Christians” rather than concerns of proselytism of the 1990’s.
And Crossing said statistics showed there was over 1.136 billion hours of evangelism across the globe per year: “enough evangelism for every person to hear a one hour presentation of the gospel every other day all year long”, but “it was mostly directed at other Christians”!
Global Christian Forum – Communications Secretary
+62 8219 056 7841
Designed to bring Christians and churches from very different traditions into conversation with one another, the Global Christian Forum hosts its second global gathering on 4 – 7 October 2011 in Manado, Indonesia, under the catchword “Life Together in Jesus Christ, Empowered by the Holy Spirit.” For the Forum, one of co-directors of the Center for Global Christianity & Mission, Dr. Dana L. Robert, will deliver a plenary speech for the second day with the topic “Major Trends and Changes in World Christianity.”
Linwood Blizzard, a new Ph.D. student, is also representing the World Student Christian Federation at the meetings.
For more information, see the website: http://www.globalchristianforum.org/
Dr. Glen Messer, former CGCM Senior Fellow, has just been promoted to Associate General Secretary of the Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns of the United Methodist Church. Dr. Messer will be in charge of theological reflection.
Invitation for Poster Presentations at the Eastern Fellowship of the American Society of Missiology:
In an effort to try something a bit different at our 2011 gathering, we are inviting graduate students, OMSC residents, and others to submit brief proposals (less than 300 words) for poster presentations to be displayed during this conference. Topics directly related to the theme of the conference will be given some preference, but other missiological topics are welcome.
Poster presentations are frequently part of academic conferences in the social sciences and increasingly in the humanities. Their chief advantage is in providing students with an opportunity to explain research projects and gain feedback from interested persons in a less formal way than in a traditional paper presentation. We anticipate having these posters displayed throughout our two-day conference to facilitate conversation between sessions.
To submit a proposal: Simply send via e mail a description of your poster presentation (less than 300 words) to Ben Hartley, Associate Professor of Christian Mission, Palmer Theological Seminary (email@example.com). Deadline for submission of proposals is October 1, 2011.
Other details: We will provide a table or perhaps a large bulletin board if needed for you to place or pin your poster presentation. There are no set guidelines on poster presentations. What your poster looks like is almost entirely up to you. A poster should certainly be no larger than 4 feet by 6 feet and, in fact, smaller ones would be preferable. Material (graphs, pictures, research summary, etc.) can be mounted on tables using a tri-fold poster board available at almost any store where school or office supplies are sold (e.g., Staples, Office Depot). You may affix your information to the board using tacks, tape, or any other method. You can use the rest of the table top for copies of a short précis of your research or other materials.
As a general suggestion, we encourage you to think of an appealing display for your research that will raise attendees’ curiosity, and encourage them to ask more about your work. As a rule use only one style, one conventional font (such as Times New Roman); and a clear background, preferably white. It is recommended that your display materials to be readable at a distance of 5 feet or so. We also urge you to use at least 48 pt font for titles and 36 pt for body text and tables.
Many web sites give practical advice on how to set up an exhibit/poster. The following sites were recommended by the American Historical Association this past year for persons doing a poster presentation at their conference:
• Colorado State University: http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/speaking/poster.
• American Anthropological Association (AAA): http://www.aaanet.org/mtgs/poster.htm.
• American Association for the Advancement of Science: http://www.aaas.org/meetings/Annual_Meeting/02_PE/Posters.shtml#presentation.
Your display should always have two fundamental characteristics: clarity of display and clarity of argument. Please note that we cannot provide an Internet connection, computer, monitor, or projector.
STH Alum, Gift Makwasha, the academic dean of Bishop Gaul Theological College has been one of many victims of property seizure in Zimbabwe. The excommunicated bishop of Harare has attempted to control properties owned by the church, forcefully evicting people like Dr. Makwasha in his attempt to regain control of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa. Please pray for peace and justice as you read about the situation.