Methodist Church

Bishop Solomon’s views on global Methodism

PITTSBURGH — An Asian bishop said here that world Methodism is even more inclusive than The United Methodist Church, which met here in legislative session from April 27 to May 7, 2004.

Bishop Dr Robert Solomon, Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore, spoke at the United Methodist General Conference, which represents 10 million members in the United States, Europe, Africa and the Philippines. He was representing his church, together with Mr Lim Soo Chin, his General Conference Secretary, at the United Methodist General Conference.

World Methodism, he said, incorporates close to 76 million members and this community represents a resource often overlooked. The challenge, he said, is that of knowing how to act as a truly global church with a global voice that takes account of the specific cultural and historical realities of the entire Methodist community.

Bishop Dr Solomon took his own church as an example: Methodists in Singapore, he said, live with an increasing anxiety about economic growth, terrorism and ethnic diversity. These issues are not unique to Singapore.

The Methodist Church in Singapore — a denomination in its own right — has an important presence in the world, he said. It creates schools and institutions of higher education, provides services for an aging population, and supports families and children.

Congregations there have tripled their membership since 1976. They work in mission partnerships with Thailand, Nepal, China, Vietnam and Cambodia. The Methodist family exemplifies the global church, he said, with its unrecognised “hidden resources” — theologians, speakers, evangelists.

They are people with stories to tell who are not likely to ever attend a United Methodist General Conference.

Looking around at the 4,000 other Methodists gathered at the 2004 General Conference, Bishop Dr Solomon thinks the huge challenges facing the Methodist family worldwide necessitate a truly global gathering with true equity of voices.

“They are not here … our picture of the global church will become more accurate, more realistic when we have that kind of forum,” he said.

While people from around the world have come to Pittsburgh for the 2004 General Conference, most from outside the United States say that issues discussed here primarily reflect a US perspective. “If we had the General Conference in Singapore every time, I’m sure we would do the same,” said Bishop Dr Solomon.

But that does not negate the need for a truly global arena. It is a challenge worth undertaking because the stakes are so high and our common desire to live faithfully in an increasingly complex world is so great, he said, adding:
“This is where the global church is important. None of us can speak on these issues on our own.” — General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church.