The officers and members of the World Methodist Council condemn unequivocally the shootings at Masjid al Noor and at the Linwood mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. It is appalling that believers, gathered for worship, should be gunned down in such a deliberate, callous and calculated manner.
As those who follow a God whose name and nature is love, we offer our love and support to all affected by this tragedy. We further offer heartfelt prayers for those who have been bereaved and injured in this atrocity, praying for their healing and comfort.
In condemning these violent actions on innocent and vulnerable persons in Christchurch, we also condemn any acts of violence on any persons, perpetrated in the name of religion, ideology or political stance, in any place.
An attack on persons of any faith is an attack on us all. We pray that all may recognize that God-given diversity is a gift, not a threat; an enrichment, not a challenge.
We urge the people called Methodist, wherever they may be found, to offer support and solace to their Muslim neighbours at this critical time.
On Tuesday, January 15 the world witnessed a cowardly attack by Al-Shabaab, an affiliate of Al-Qaeda on holidaymakers and office workers at the DusirD2 hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenya that claimed the lives of 14 people.
The terrorist assault comes three years to the day after the attack on an African Union base at El Adde, Somalia in which an undisclosed number of Kenyan soldiers were killed and a day after a Kenyan court ordered three members of Al-Shabaab be tried for a raid on a Nairobi shopping mall in September 2013 in which 67 people died.
The Officers and members of the World Methodist Council express solidarity with all peace-loving Kenyans, convey sincere condolences to the families of those killed and continue to pray for a full and speedy recovery of the injured. The Council members further condemn all forms of religious extremism and renew its commitment to Global Peace.
The General Secretary of The World Methodist Council (WMC), Bishop Ivan Abrahams expressed shock at the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting which claimed the lives of 11. He strongly condemned the attack on unarmed civilians gathered for worship. “There is no place for hate speech and ant-Semitism in a society which espouses democratic values,” said Abrahams.
On behalf of The WMC, Abrahams conveyed sincere condolences to the family and friends of those killed and pledged support and continued prayers for a speedy and full recovery of those injured in this cowardly act of violence.
Four days after an earthquake and tsunami destroyed major parts of Sulawesi, in the Indonesian archipelago, the death toll exceeds one thousand with many more injured. Indonesia lies on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” and is prone to natural disasters.
The General Secretary of the World Methodist Council, Bishop Ivan Abrahams, expressed condolences to the people of Indonesia and called on the Methodist community to pray and support those affected by the recent catastrophe.
Rev. Dr. James Hal Cone, renowned founder of Black Liberation Theology, award-winning author and Bill & Judith Moyers Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, died on April 28, 2018. He was 79.
“In so many ways, James Cone has been Union Theological Seminary for the past 50 years,” said Union president Serene Jones. “To say his death leaves a void is a staggering understatement. His prophetic voice, deep kindness, and fierce commitment to black liberation embodied not just the very best of our seminary, but of theological field as a whole and of American prophetic thought and action.”
Cone is best known as the father of black liberation theology. In his ground-breaking works, Black Theology & Black Power (1969); A Black Theology of Liberation (1970); and God of the Oppressed (1975), Cone upended the theological establishment with his vigorous articulation of God’s radical identification with black people in the United States. His eloquent portrayal of Christ’s blackness shattered dominant white theological paradigms, and ignited a wave of subsequent American liberation theologies.
Through his published works, and in the classroom, Cone shaped generations of scholars, professors, pastors, and activists, kindling in countless people the fire for dismantling white supremacy. Upon news of his passing, Professor Cornel West remarked about his colleague and friend, “James Cone was the theological giant and genius in our midst! He was the greatest liberation theologian to emerge in the American empire—and he never ever sold out.”
As Cone, himself, explained in 1997 in the introduction to an updated and expanded edition of the classic work Black Theology and Black Power, “I wanted to speak on behalf of the voiceless black masses in the name of Jesus, whose gospel I believed had been greatly distorted by the preaching theology of white churches.” The degree to which this witness called white churches and theologians to task cannot be overstated. Don Shriver, President Emeritus of Union, remarked that Cone’s “lifework was a distinguished contribution to the integrity of Christian witness worldwide.”
Cone’s most recent book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree earned Cone the 2018 Grawemeyer Award in Religion, jointly awarded by Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the University of Louisville.
“The crucifixion was clearly a first-century lynching,” wrote Cone. “Both are symbols of the death of the innocent, mob hysteria, humiliation, and terror. They both also reveal a thirst for life that refuses to let the worst determine our final meaning and demonstrate that God can transform ugliness into beauty, into God’s liberating presence.”
Cone completed his final book, a memoir, just a few months before his passing. Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody will be published later this year. His longtime editor, Robert Ellsberg of Orbis Books, shared these words written by Cone for the conclusion of the memoir: “I write because writing is the way I fight. Teaching is the way I resist, doing what I can to subvert white supremacy.”
Born in Fordyce, Ark., Cone did his undergraduate study at Shorter College and Philander Smith College (B.A., 1958) in Little Rock. He graduated from Garrett Theological Seminary with a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1961 and received his M.A. from Northwestern University 1963. Two years later, the Ph.D. was conferred on him by Northwestern.
Cone joined Union’s faculty in 1969 and was promoted to full professor of theology in 1973. He was named the Bill & Judith Moyers Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology in 2017. At Union, he researched and taught Christian theology, with special attention to black liberation theology and the liberation theologies of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. He also taught 19th and 20th-century European-American theologies.
On April 18, Cone was elected to the 2018 class of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Among other numerous awards he received are the American Black Achievement Award in religion given by Ebony Magazine (November 1992); the Fund for Theological Education Award for contributions to theological education and scholarship (November 1999); the Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion (2009); the Eliza Garrett Distinguished Service Award in recognition of seminal theological scholarship from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (2010). He received 13 honorary degrees, including an honoris causa from the Institut Protestant de Théologie in Paris, France.
Cone, an ordained itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was listed in the Directory of American Scholars, Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Religion, Who’s Who among African Americans, and Who’s Who in the World. He was the author of 12 books and over 150 articles and lectured at many universities and community organizations throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. He was an active member of numerous professional societies, including the Society for the Study of Black Religion, the American Academy of Religion, and the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT) in the Philippines. He was a founding member of the Society of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion (SRER).
He is survived by his sons Michael and Charles, daughters Robynn and Krystal, and two grandchildren, Jolei and Miles.
The World Methodist council enthusiastically celebrates the recent meeting between President Moon Jae-In of South Korea and Kim Jong-Un of North Korea. After more than 70 years of separation, the historic meeting is a welcome first step toward peace, reunification, and denuclearization on the Korean peninsula. World Methodist Council President, Rev. Dr. J.C. Park stated, “The recent meeting gives me hope that peace is a very real possibility between our two countries. I encourage everyone to pray for the future meetings and negotiations that will hopefully result in improved relationships and denuclearization on the Korean peninsula.”
The peace talks between the two governments is particularly exciting as plans are finalized for the Roundtable for Peace on the Korean Peninsula, to be hosted in Atlanta by Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church (UMC) in November this year. The event will involve participants from the World Methodist Council, The UMC, The Korean Methodist Church, and other Methodist-related bodies as well as the World Council of Churches, National Council of Churches in Korea (South), and the Korean Christian Federation (North).
WMC General Secretary Ivan Abrahams noted that the Roundtable for Peace on the Korean Peninsula event has been in development for nearly two years, and it is a joy to see signs of improving relationships between North and South Korea.
The World Methodist Council prays for the sustainability of this landmark commitment and calls on Christians all over the world to remember the Koreans in their prayers at this time of peace progress.
I greet you in the name of our Crucified and Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.
Easter is about boundless grace, victory, joy and renewed hope. It is a divine proclamation of God’s decisive victory over the evil forces of sin and death. Easter is an announcement to the world that the cross of Jesus was a victory, not a defeat.
In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, death is described as, “The road from which no traveler has ever returned.” (Hamlet Act 3 Scene 1) He was wrong because we believe that one did return and his name is Jesus, the Christ. For this reason, the words hopeless and impossible lose its meaning.
The story of Jesus would have been nothing more than an occasional point of reference of an inspirational teacher, a charismatic figure or a martyr if it had simply ended with the crucifixion, but Jesus defeated death and rose from the grave on the third day. We are the people of the resurrection and can affirm with the writer of Romans and Christians throughout the centuries that; “God raised Jesus from the dead.” (Romans 4:24)
We are a people who know that we cannot have Easter without Good Friday. We cannot have Christ without the cross, a symbol of a compassionate, loving God who identifies with human suffering. The cross is God’s instrument of salvation. No other faith speaks of a suffering God who opposes injustice and oppression.
Theologians like Jürgen Moltmann, (The Crucified God) James Cone, (God of the Oppressed), Kazoh Kitamori (The Pain of God), Maria Pilar Aquino (Our Cry for Life) Mercy Odduyoye (Beads and Strands), Choan Sen Song (The Compassionate God and Jesus, the Crucified People) and Allan Boesak (Farewell to Innocence) all lived through their own modern-day Golgothas in their various countries and bring their unique perspectives of the suffering God. Their scholarship questions the concept of Divine Impassibility. They bear eloquent testimony to a God who shows compassion and loving solidarity with all who suffer. They point out that God remains intimate with those who suffer and is the hope of the world.
During Eastertide, it is my hope and prayer that all who are anxious and fearful of life circumstances will experience the presence of the Risen Lord and hear the words spoken to the women at the tomb, “Do not be afraid.”
The World Methodist Council mourns the loss of a great preacher, evangelist, and friend. The Rev. William Franklin “Billy” Graham, Jr., who died today (Feb. 21) at the age of 99.
Known as “America’s Preacher,” Graham ministered worldwide, bringing the gospel message to billions. His Crusades, along with radio and television broadcasts encouraged millions of people to decide to follow Christ. He counseled presidents dating back to Dwight Eisenhower, and was one of the most influential evangelists of his time.
World Methodist Council General Secretary Ivan Abrahams reflects, “Billy Graham was a man of his time, an evangelist par excellence who touched the lives of many including heads of State. We thank God for his life and witness and express condolences to his family.”
Graham was raised in a Presbyterian family and lived on a small farm near Charlotte, North Carolina. He became a Christian in 1934 at the age of 16. In 1939, he was ordained a Southern Baptist minister, and ten years later he captured the nation’s attention at a Crusade held in Los Angeles, California. In all, Rev. Billy Graham preached 417 Crusades.
In Graham’s early years of ministry, he spoke out against racism in the United States, and later publicly opposed apartheid in South Africa. He prohibited segregated seating at his crusades, which caused friction with some. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Had it not been for the ministry of my good friend Dr. Billy Graham, my work in the civil rights movement would not have been as successful as it has been.” Likewise, Graham often spoke of his friendship with religious leaders such as King and Pope John Paul II.
Through the years, the World Methodist Council maintained a friendly connection with Rev. Graham and his Evangelistic Association. In 1956, Rev. Graham was a guest at the World Methodist Conference held at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. Dr. Joe Hale met with Graham at his mountain home in the 1980s, and considered Graham a mentor, often exchanging letters with Graham during his tenure as General Secretary of the World Methodist Council. Hale heard Billy Graham preach when he was 16 years old and recalled, “It was then that I was led to commit my life to Christ, and as a result, the faith that I had been taught from childhood came to be meaningful and alive. I realized that Christ had died for me and provided salvation for my sins.”
Rev. Dr. Eddie Fox, Director Emeritus of World Methodist Evangelism also remembers his interactions with Rev. Graham. Having served on the faculty of the Billy Graham Schools of Evangelism for more than 15 years, Fox recalls “On more than one occasion [Rev. Graham] would send a message of encouragement to us. We joined with him and leaders around the world in a great gathering at the beginning of this new millennium for a renewed, deeper commitment to the spreading of the good news ‘That the whole world would know Jesus Christ.’”
Graham, despite his success and notoriety, was deeply humble. He stated, “My one purpose in life is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which I believe, comes through knowing Christ.” In 1980, Graham preached at the United Methodist Congress on Evangelism, a recording of which can be heard at https://methodistthinker.com. He received many honors and awards, including the Philip Award from the Association of United Methodist Evangelists in 1976, The Distinguished Service Medal of the Salvation Army, and The Presidential Medal of Freedom (U.S.) in 1983.
The World Methodist Council extends its deepest condolences to the Graham family and friends. We pray that Rev. Graham’s passion for sharing Christ’s love will live on in the many lives he trained and touched.