Grace and Peace to you in the name of our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! Three-in-One and One-in -Three living in perfect unity!
We are living in challenging times that demands bold and prophetic leadership. In his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Chinese President Xi Jin-ping warned Western populist’s leaders, “Protectionism is like locking yourself in a dark room, which would seem to escape wind and rain, but also block out sunshine.” Don’t we have our values back to front when goods and services are able to move across borders more freely than people? It is interesting that on my first assignment to represent the World Methodist Council at the 35th Synod of Church of South India (12-17 January), the theme of the Moderator’s address was “A Borderless Church.” On January 21, 2017, we witnessed the Women’s March, a worldwide protest by grassroots organizations in every major city across the globe to protect policies regarding human rights, women’s rights, immigration, racial equality, freedom of religion, the environment and others issues. We cannot choose which human rights we support and hide behind tradition and religion. The UMC bishops (see statement) as well as the AME (see statement) issued strong statements in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration. The WMC’s Inter-Religious Relationships committee has also urged us to treat the immigrant and refugee with compassion and love.
During the past month, I had the privilege of working from Cape Town, South Africa where I was not just able to reconnect with family and friends but participate in some vibrant public discourse such as; the recent comments on discrimination meant to address the imbalances of the past and the Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill before Parliament. South Africa is a secular state where the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and freedom of speech, but these rights need to be balanced against other’s rights to dignity. There is still much intoleration and prejudice based on race, gender, and sexual orientation. I find it interesting that many South African political leaders are self-professing Christians and a recent survey indicates that more than 50 percent of these decision-makers claim to be Methodists . Given the current state of the nation, and in fact the world, I often wonder if there is any connection with faith, values and public policy.
Early in January, I had a wonderful trip to Kottayam, India where I led a Bible Study at the CSI Synod and was able to convey greetings and best wishes on behalf of the Council to the new Moderator; Bishop Thomas Oommen successor to Bishop Govada Dyvasiryvadam . It was a joy to meet with our regional officer, Mr. Joshau Rathnam as well as Rev. Dr. Newton Parmar, the new General Secretary of the Methodist Church in India.
The work, witness and commitment of some of the friends like the Reverends Bafana Khumalo (Sonke Gender Justice), Malcomb Damons and his staff (Economic Justice Network ), Michelle Shrader (Central Methodist Church), Rene August (The Warehouse) Edwin Fillies (Youth With a Mission), Edwin Arrison (Volmoed Retreat Centre) and John de Gruchy (Volmoed) have once again ignited the passion to write and paint.
Let us enter this second month of the year with renewed confidence and passion in the knowledge that God is in charge . Psalm 46:10 encourages us; “Let go of your concerns! Then you will know that I am God. I rule the nations. I rule the earth” (GW).