The World Methodist Council (WMC) joined leaders from around the world to pay tribute to Kofi Annan, who died aged 80 after a brief illness.
Kofi Annan was the first sub-Saharan African to lead the United Nations (1997-2006). His deep commitment to justice, human rights and championing the fight against HIV and AIDS earned him the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1998, the WMC recognized his contribution and honored him with the Methodist Peace Award. Former WMC President, Dr. Francis Alguire recalls Kofi Annan’s acceptance speech at the ceremony in the Chapel of the United Methodist Women across from the United Nation in New York. He related a story about a teacher in a Methodist School in Ghana who held up a piece of paper and reminded them that while they were small dots in a great big world, there were many opportunities for them.
In 2012 Annan was appointed Chair of The Elders, a peace and advocacy group started by Nelson Mandela. Until the last, he was a tireless worker for peace. Last month, he attended an event to mark the 100th Birthday celebration of Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg and witness the first post Mugabe elections in Zimbabwe.
Ivan Abrahams, the General Secretary of the WMC said; “While Kofi Anan’s voice will be missed, he will continue to inspire us to build a more just world for all God’s people. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Annan family.”
The World Methodist Council condemns the deadly attacks in Damboa in Borno State, Nigeria where suspected Boko Haram jihadists targeted people celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday. At least 32 people were confirmed dead and 84 were reported injured.
World Methodist Council General Secretary Ivan Abrahams expressed condolences to the families of those killed and called on all peace-loving people to pray for them and for those injured. He said, “Once again we see innocent civilians bearing the brunt of an indiscriminate attack at a religious celebration.”
The United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, Myrta Kaulard, says that 1.7 million people have been displaced by the Boko Haram conflict since the insurgency began.
The Global Day of Prayer to End Famine hopes to unite ecumenical partners and faith communities all over the world as a prayerful and spiritual movement to:
Encourage prayer, reflection and action with information and suggestions.
Bring awareness regarding famine’s impact on the most vulnerable children and families and to help address its root causes.
Connect with church-related and other humanitarian organizations that are currently working to bring immediate relief and positive long-term change so children and families can live out God’s aspiration for a dignified, peaceful and violence-free future
Help communities and congregations to uphold each other in prayer and support, by sharing experiences, challenge and solutions.
A second global day of prayer, the Global Day of Prayer to End Famine will be observed on 10 June 2018.
As a contribution by the faith community to a global effort to prevent famine, the 2017 Global Day of Prayer to End Famine played a critical role in raising awareness in faith communities and among global leaders of this under-reported and unfolding tragedy. This united effort was a strong contribution to mobilizing greater action across the world which led to famine being averted in the short-term, while the risk continues into 2018.
May our prayers join the millions of our sisters and brothers as they cry to the Lord to be delivered from their distress. May we, together, make a straight way, to sustained peace, wellbeing and abundance!
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.
Nominations for the World Methodist Peace Award are OPEN.
Presented annually to an individual or group who has worked for peace, justice and reconciliation in their lives and in their ministries, the World Methodist Peace Award is a 30+ year tradition of the World Methodist Council. The criteria for the Award are (1) Courage; (2) Creativity; and (3) Consistency in their work and witness to peace.