Why Be Part of a Worldwide UMC?

By: Bishop Patrick Streiff

Twice over the last month, regions in my Episcopal area have been flooded, first in Serbia, then in Bulgaria. In Serbia the UMC churches were not directly affected by the floods, in Bulgaria church property and houses of members were damaged or destroyed. In each case, Methodists from other regions called our office and asked: “What help do you need? What can we do?” In Bulgaria, a poor Roma (Gypsy) church collected money in the Sunday worship for the Roma church farther north which was directly affected. The Polish Annual Conference which met a few days after the devastating storms in Bulgaria made an offering for the UMC in Bulgaria. And in our office, we continue to link the support between the countries because the most difficult time for the people will come when there will be no harvesting in summer and fall. By that time, the headlines of the news will be directed to other topics. People will have forgotten about the floods, but Methodists remember. – I know why I want to be and remain part of a worldwide UMC!

Youth from many countries in our central conference met last year in Serbia for a summer camp. As often it was difficult to receive the applications in time. But more than 50 young people came to the “YouMe” and after that experience they asked that we organize more often such youth camps. This summer many partnership churches or VIM-teams from the US come to central and southern Europe. They organize English camps or leadership training, help in building projects and celebrate worship with their partner churches. And many of our growing churches are communities which are particularly welcoming towards foreigners and migrants living in our society. – I know why I want to be and remain part of a worldwide UMC!

This year in the fall, the central conference of central and southern Europe will celebrate its 60-years. After World War II and with the rise of communism, it seemed impossible to reconnect and again build up the central conference. In 1954, the founding central conference took place in Belgium, one of the countries belonging to the former Methodist Episcopal Church South. The newly elected Bishop could not travel every year to Eastern Europe. It depended on the “political climate” whether and in which country he received a visa for entry. But Methodists were re-connected between East and West a long time before the fall of communist regimes around 1989. We continue to celebrate and renew such connections in the midst of recurrent raises of nationalism in many European countries. – I know why I want to be and remain part of a worldwide UMC! And you?

Bishop Streiff serves on the Connectional Table as the Chair of the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters and as Central Conference member of Central and Southern Europe.

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