When Methodists from around the world gathered in Houston, Texas, in August, the Kentucky Annual Conference was represented by five clergy members – Kathy Goodwin, Gary Graves, Jean Hawxhurst, Esther Jadhav, and Andrew Singh. They were among over 2,500 Wesleyans, from 108 countries and 88 communions, including The United Methodist Church, who gathered for the 21st
World Methodist Conference.
“John Wesley said the Methodists are one people throughout the world,” commented UM Bishop Scott Jones, Texas Annual Conference, during his greetings at the opening worship service. “It’s in this conference, as we gather together from so many different places, that that unity becomes visible.”
The World Methodist Conference is held once every five years. This was the first one to be held in the United States since 1981. The theme was “One: God, Faith, People, Mission” and included preaching, teaching, singing, Bible study and workshops. African Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, during one of the worship services, chose the secular tune “Love Train” to conclude her sermon, which repeatedly challenged listeners with the refrain: “What does your love look like?”
Other preachers were Pastor Rudy Rasmus of St. John’s UMC in Houston and The Rev. Dr. Joanne Cox-Darling, a Presbyter in the British Methodist Conference. Plenary speakers included The Rev. Dr. Ted Campbell, associate professor of church history at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, The Rev. Dr. Harold Good, former president of the Methodist Church in Ireland, and The Rev. Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, general superintendent of the Wesleyan Church. Bible Study leaders were The Rev. Dr. Grace Imathiu, lead pastor of Community UMC in Naperville, IL, Bishop Joao Carlos Lopes of the Brazilian Methodist Church, and The Rev. Dr. Yani Yoo who teaches Old Testament at Methodist Theological University in Seoul, South Korea. Speakers for the Opening Worship Service were the Rev. Dr. David Wilkinson, professor in the Department of Theology and Religion, St. John’s College, Durham University in Durham, England, and Dr. Jennifer Wiseman, an astrophysicist, author, and public speaker from Greenbelt, Maryland.
Bishop Ivan Abrahams, top executive of the World Methodist Council
, said, “I’m very pleased. I think we’ve had a good representation of the global Methodist family.” The next World Methodist Conference will be held in 2021 in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Bishop Dinis Matsolo, bishop for the Mozambique district of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, came away from Houston a big believer in such conferences. “It’s a pleasure and an honor,” he said. “We’re proud of being a family in the world — the Wesleyan Methodist family.”
Following the Conference, the 2016-2021 World Methodist Council organized and held its first meeting. The new Council has approximately 65 United Methodist members. Among them are three members of the Kentucky Annual Conference. The Rev. Esther Jadhav, Director of Intercultural Programs at Asbury University, is a new delegate to the Council. The Rev. Dr. Jean Hawxhurst, recently named Ecumenical Staff Officer for Leadership Development of the Council of Bishops' Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships, will serve on the Council, as will The Rev. Gary W. Graves, who was elected Secretary-Designate of the General Conference in May. Graves, currently pastor of Paris First UMC, will assume office later this year.
In addition, two episcopal leaders from Birmingham, Alabama are members of the Council and have Kentucky ties. Bishop Debbie Wallace-Padgett, North Alabama Annual Conference of the UMC, will serve as Chair of the Evangelism Committee for the Council. Bishop Wallace-Padgett was a clergy member of the Kentucky Annual Conference prior to her election to the episcopacy. Bishop Teresa E. Snorton, the first female bishop of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, serves the Fifth Episcopal District (Alabama and Florida). Bishop Snorton, formerly a CME pastor in Kentucky, will serve as Chair of the Family Life Committee for the Council.
The World Methodist Council is a worldwide association of 80 Methodist, Wesleyan and related Uniting and United Churches representing over 80.5 million people with offices at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.
(This article, compiled by The Rev. Gary W. Graves, incorporates articles written by Sam Hodges of the UM News Service and information from the Program Book of the 21st World Methodist Conference.)