Mission as the Church's Vocation: "Take Faith into Life" Says German Bishop
by Ullas Tankler
Dresden, Germany, Nov. 21, 2008-- Mission is the vocation of the church, the United Methodist bishop of Germany declared in rallying clergy and lay leaders to greater efforts in evangelism and new church starts.
Bishop Rosemarie Wenner said that "mission is not one area or field of ministry for the church. Mission is its vocation. The church is mission."
Her strong call to missionary outreach came at a meeting of the Germany Central Conference, which convenes every three years and represents the three annual (regional) United Methodist conferences in Germany. "Take faith into life," she challenged Christians.
Early in the session, held in Dresden, November 1-22, Bishop Wenner was reelected to lead the 65,000 German United Methodists in 500 congregations. She received 90 percent of some 100 votes on the first ballot, a solid affirmation of her leadership. The church's German membership has been stable in recent years.
Bishop Gregory V. Palmer of the Illinois Great Rivers Area, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishop, presided at the election.
United Methodist bishops in the United States are elected for life; term election is the general practice elsewhere. Bishop Wenner was first elected to a four-year term in 2005; this year, she was tapped for an eight-year episcopacy.
Bishop Wenner in 2005 became the first woman United Methodist bishop outside the US. She is now one of two. (Earlier this year, Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala was elected to lead the church in Mozambique.) Rosemarie Wenner attended the United Methodist Reutlingen Theological Seminary in Germany. She was ordained in 1981 and came into prominence within the international denomination after being appointed as a district superintendent in 1996.
"There are many challenges, but God is with us on this journey," Bishop Wenner said in accepting reelection.
Asked at the press conference what she would identify as the greatest challenge of the upcoming years, Bishop Wenner pointed to the need to motivate local churches to be more active and innovative in outreach.
She emphasized similar themes in her episcopal address. While encouraging the beginning of new congregations, the bishop also acknowledged serious financial challenges facing the church in Germany and elsewhere. The emphasis, she insisted, should be not on funds but on a spiritual approach. "A church which is becoming poorer can still be a missionary church," she states. "As a missionary church, we will share our gifts and resources with those who have even less than we do."
The theme of the Germany Central Conference was: "To Live Out Faith Means to Live Responsibly."
Dr. Üllas Tankler is Executive Secretary of Europe & North Africa, Mission Contexts & Relationships, the General Board of Global Ministries.
Date posted: Nov 21, 2008