United Methodist bishops from Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States have come together in Berlin for the 2015 Council of Bishops meeting, which scheduled to run through May 7. Coinciding with Friday’s opening session, Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr
., president of the Council of Bishops, sent an open letter
to the people of The United Methodist Church requesting that they join together in prayer for the church and the world.
In an email from Berlin, Bishop Lowry echoed Bishop Brown’s call for prayer. “As we gather in Berlin, I ask for your prayers, especially for those Christians undergoing persecution, civil unrest and violence and dealing with the devastation brought on by natural disasters. Also, please pray for all the bishops as we gather together to discern the Holy Spirit’s guidance of this great church.”
Bishop Brown remembered those who are hurting and suffering around the world in his letter and asked that United Methodists consider ways to aid in healing. “We are a church that practices ministry to the world in Jesus’ name…our ministry partnerships connect us with every continent. So, we grieve when the news of the day reminds us of the many ways the people of our world are hurting and suffering under the weight of tragedy.”
In his letter, Bishop Brown also commented on the recent eruption of violence in Baltimore and the need to no longer be in denial about the powerful impact of racism in the U.S. “As a Black man who grew up in the very Baltimore neighborhood we have watched explode, this is personal. I grieve over what I see in my old neighborhood. The anger in the community is real because of decades of distrust. A just society cannot be built on violence. Reconciliation can occur when we tell the truth and take responsibility for our actions.”
In calling for prayer, Bishop Brown said, “Please join me and the Council of Bishops in prayer, reflection and action toward overcoming the issues that sometimes divide our societies. Together we can find ways, appropriate to our social context, for healing the brokenness between us.” The letter, in its entirety, has been posted on Bishop Lowry’s blog
for those who wish to read it.
Council of Bishops Meetings in Berlin are Underway
Bishop Brown’s letter was released as the bishop of The United Methodist Church gathered at the Hotel Palace Berlin for the annual Council of Bishop’s meeting. “Once a quadrennium, the Council of Bishops meets intentionally outside the United States,” reminded Bishop Lowry. “This helps us remember that we are truly a worldwide church.”
“Approximately 40 percent of United Methodists live outside the United States,” said Bishop Peter D. Weaver, executive secretary of the Council of Bishops. “It is important, as John Wesley emphasized, to be ‘connected’ with each other as we celebrate the diversity of gifts in our church and learn from each other how best to ‘make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world’ in this 21st
Main topics on the agenda include the development of vital congregations, the implementation of the four Areas of Focus, preparation for the 2016 General Conference of The United Methodist Church, and the role of bishops in helping to maintain the unity and faithfulness of the church in the face of many significant challenges and opportunities.
On Sunday, May 3, the bishops will split into groups and worship with different United Methodist churches in Berlin and nearby congregations. Bishops will have the chance to meet with local United Methodists; afterwards, they will have the opportunity to learn more about unique local history, as well as current challenges in Europe.
“Twenty-five years ago the Berlin Wall came down,” said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner of the Germany Episcopal Area. “Recently one of our pastors, who grew up in the German Democratic Republic, said at a gathering in Berlin: ‘Whenever I cross the former border, just walking along without any constraints, I am rejoicing in my heart.’ The German nation and the people in Europe have indeed many reasons to rejoice. At the same time, we know of the challenges caused by rapid changes.”
Time for spiritual reflection is a part of the Council’s agenda, including daily worship. Plenary business sessions, held Friday through Thursday, are open to the news media and public. There will also be various committee and sub-group meetings throughout the week.