Oklahomans expand faith connections


From left, Margaret Battiest, Josephine Deere, and David Wilson prepare to join in the World Methodist Conference parade in downtown Durban, South Africa. They are members of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference.

Above, Oklahomans package meals during the conference’s mission project, supporting "Stop Hunger Now." From left are Helen and Randy Mitchell, Brian Bakeman, and David Wilson.

By Joseph Harris. Director of Communications

Oklahomans were well represented at the 20th gathering of the World Methodist Conference, held Aug. 4-8 in Durban, South Africa.

The Oklahoma group was one of the largest United Methodist delegations from North America to attend the global event, last held in 2006 at Seoul, Korea.

In the group were 18 who traveled from Oklahoma. They were joined by Tom Albin, an Oklahoma Conference clergyman who is dean of the Upper Room Chapel in Nashville, and by Preston Morgan, who attended through Perkins School of Theology (Dallas), where he is studying, and who is new associate pastor at Lawton-Centenary UMC.

Both the Oklahoma Conference and the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference were represented.

A resource set of DVDs from the World Methodist Conference has been ordered and will be placed in The Media Library for check-out.

The 3,000 delegates who gathered in Durban represented 77 faith communities within the Methodist/Wesleyan family, from 135 countries.

Leading the Oklahoma group were Jeremy Basset, whose home country is South Africa and who is Volunteers In Mission director for the Oklahoma Conference, and Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.

Delegates were inspired by an international group of speakers: U.S. United Methodist clergywoman Joy Moore, who was the Bible study leader; Palestinian-born Archbishop Elias Chacour, of the Melchite Greek Catholic Church, Galilee; Mvume Dandala, former general secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches and former bishop of The Methodist Church of Southern Africa; and Claudio Betti, co-founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio and a World Methodist Peace Award recipient.

The Africa University Choir (which performed at the 2007 Oklahoma Annual Conference), the Clarence Carr Mass Choir of Georgia, and the Durban Metro Men’s Guild Choir provided inspirational music, as well as a conference choir composed of volunteer delegates.

Oklahoma delegates were involved in many ways throughout the conference. They:

  • Helped package 100,000 meals for hungry children, through the Stop Hunger Now organization. Most meals were distributed within South Africa; 25,000 were sent immediately to Somalia.
  • Participated in a World Methodist Conference parade through downtown Durban.
  • Attended worship services at indigenous Methodist churches.
  • Visited a Methodist seminary and a ministry center that serves HIV/AIDS patients.
  • Met with Ivan Abrahams, the new general secretary of the World Methodist Council. He currently is bishop of The Methodist Church of Southern Africa, which covers six countries. With him, the Oklahomans discussed possibilities for cooperating in partnership ministries with that denomination. Bishop Abrahams is the Council’s first general secretary from outside the United States and the first non-United Methodist clergyperson to serve in that post.
  • Gained education by participating in many of 15 workshops at the World Methodist Conference.
  • Participated in African Cultural Night on the beaches of Durban.

From left, Oklahomans attending the World Methodist Conference in South Africa are: front row, Jeremy Basset, Brian Bakeman, Norma Quinn, Twila Gibbens, Margaret Battiest, Joe Harris; middle row, Randy and Helen Mitchell, Nancy Harris, David Wilson, Victor McCullough, Karen Distefano, Herschel Beard, Josephine Deere; back row, Bishop Hayes, Cynthia Havlik, Sheryl and Sam Powers.

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