News from the Council of Bishops meeting

May 5, 2017

Bishops back special Sunday for migration crisis

By Sam Hodges May 4, 2017 | DALLAS (UMNS)

The United Methodist Council of Bishops has backed designating a Sunday later this year for prayers about the global migration crisis and for collecting a special offering to address suffering caused by forced migration. The bishops, meeting May 4, also received an update on efforts toward achieving full communion between The United Methodist Church and Episcopal Church. A handful of reports were accepted in the next-to-last-day of the council’s Dallas meeting, including one from the Council of Bishops Immigration Task Force. “This is the day for The UMC to act with conviction and courage, giving life to its commitment to be disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” the report says. “How we respond to the immigration crisis at this moment will determine the vitality of the church for generations to come.” San Francisco Area Bishop Minerva Carcaño, chair of the Council of Bishops Immigration Task Force, spoke to her colleagues about the challenges posed by President Trump’s tougher approach to immigration, including his plan to build a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border. She described as well the vast extent of forced global migration, and the challenge that poses for The United Methodist Church and other faith groups. Carcaño, for the task force, asked the bishops to support a request already going to the Connectional Table for $200,000 to boost immigration-related work in the five U.S. jurisdictions. The funding would be shared equally among the jurisdictions, with a focus on training conference and church leaders. The Connectional Table, which is meeting May 16-22, coordinates the denomination’s mission, ministry and resources. It also has the authority to distribute contingency funds. That request comes from the broader United Methodist Immigration Task Force, and Carcaño urged bishops to voice their support for dedicated spending in boosting the church’s response on immigration issues. “The present-day crisis requires an investment, a clear investment,” she said.  READ MORE

Keeping focused on Four Areas of Focus

By Sam Hodges May 3, 2017 | DALLAS (UMNS)

Keep faith with the denomination’s Four Areas of Focus. But make sure the specific ministry application is effective and relevant in local contexts, especially the local church. That was the message hammered home May 3 as the United Methodist Council of Bishops continued its meeting in Dallas. “This is not just a program,” Nordic-Baltic Area Bishop Christian Alsted said of the Four Areas of Focus. “This is our way of being as United Methodists.” Adopted in 2008, the Four Areas of Focus stress ministering with the poor, developing principled Christian leaders, creating new and renewed congregations and improving global health. Bishop Sally Dyck of the Northern Illinois Conference referred to both the Four Areas of Focus and the Vital Congregations initiative as particularly important when denominational unity is severely tested because of disagreements over homosexuality. “I sometimes wonder if we didn’t have these Four Areas of Focus and Vital Congregations as a guide, how we would go forward together in this time,” she said. Bishops heard from Dan Krause, top executive of United Methodist Communications, that the denomination’s messaging about ministry emphases needs to reach the local church. “We want every local church to be able to see themselves in the Four Areas of Focus,” he said. The Rev. Kim Cape, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, shared a first-ever collaborative quarterly report from agency leaders detailing the agencies’ work, including through the Four Areas of Focus. She is the convener of the General Secretaries Table, which brings together the top executives of the denomination’s general agencies. Cape spoke of a new commitment by agency leaders to work with bishops, conferences and local churches on mission initiatives. The unity-through-mission theme was much in evidence, stressed an address by Bishop L. Jonathan Holston of the South Carolina Conference. “Whatever it takes, we will do this together,” he said. “The church needs us to maintain focus. The church needs us to be accountable to the mission and ministries that transform lives for Jesus, our risen Christ.”   READ MORE
Hodges, a United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas. Contact him at (615) 742-5470 or