From Oklahoma, 18 United Methodists will attend the World Methodist Conference on Aug. 4-8 in Durban, South Africa.
Held every five years, the meeting is the World Methodist Council’s 20th global gathering. The council reports 74 member groups, cooperating as members of the Methodist/Wesleyan family, from more than 130 countries.
The 2011 theme is "Jesus Christ—for the Healing of the Nations."
Among the Oklahomans attending is Jeremy Basset, whose home country is South Africa. Others described their enthusiasm for the trip because of his leadership in the group; "there’s never a better time to go," they concurred. Rev. Basset directs Oklahoma Conference Volunteers In Mission.
For Sam and Sheryl Powers of Piedmont, the experience will bring closer ties to Sheryl’s grandparents, who attended the 1976 World Methodist Conference in Ireland. Sheryl’s grandmother, now in her 90s, still has a memento from that trip. Piedmont UMC, where Sam is pastor, provided some funds to help offset their travel costs.
Sam said, "Sharing with others who have Wesleyan understanding will be fascinating and helpful spiritually, I think. I’ve always believed in the ecumenical work of The United Methodist Church."
A church member noted business operators bring wisdom back from corporate meetings. This is no different, he told Sam.
Norma Quinn, pastor at Lawton-Centenary, expects an "eye-opening" trip.
Christianity is growing rapidly across Africa. "How is the Gospel resonating with people on a continent that has been anything but Christian in a lot of respects, and where people deal with life-threatening situations every day?" she asked. "I want to see what they are saying that is really catching people’s hearts.
"It’s important we are meeting there. It’s affirmation of the strides they are making."
Quinn led a mission team in Rwanda about a decade ago.
Mary Ann Smith of Tulsa was one of 400 U.S. Christians in South Africa last fall at the Lausanne Congress, an ecumenical global meeting. She is a lay member and director of missions at Tulsa-Asbury UMC.
Meeting a delegate from Singapore led Smith to give a study Bible to a Christian from Sudan. She keeps on her office door his gift to her of a leather map of his country.
That congress studied Ephesians and issued a call to action. Key points were: Scripture translation, women’s issues, and reaching unchurched people in remote areas.
At the August conference, the Bible study will draw from Micah, taught by Joy Moore, a 2006 Oklahoma Annual Conference guest preacher. Action on worldwide issues also will be considered.
Among newest members of the World Methodist Council are Methodists in Colombia, Bangladesh, New Zealand, and Australia.
These 18 Oklahomans will attend the conference: Karen Distefano, Randy and Helen Mitchell, Victor McCullough, Cynthia Havlik, Joe and Nancy Harris, Twila Gibbens, Herschel Beard, Brian Bakeman, Margaret Battiest, Josephine Deere, David Wilson, Bishop Hayes, Basset, Quinn, and the Powers.
—A compilation by Holly McCray and UMNS