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September 12, 2003


Bishop's Corner

A Common Social Ministry And Witness

By Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker

The Japanese missionary to Thailand, Kosuke Koyama, once reminded the church to practice "neighbourology." As a Christian in a non-Christian Asian culture he had learned that before someone would listen to Christian theology she or he needed to experience being treated as a neighbor with respect and concern for his or her human needs.

The mission of the church involves both theology and "neighbourology."

One of the ways we can fulfill our mission as Florida United Methodists is to practice "neighbourology" by having a social ministry and witness. We seek ways to both directly serve the needs of others and address public issues from a Christian perspective. Many of our churches are very effective in their social ministry and witness.

Should the United Methodist Christians in Florida embrace a common social ministry and witness? Is there some form of service to others we should do together? Are there some issues in which all of us should engage together? To answer those questions requires a discernment of the Spirit. As we talk and pray, we may discover that there is indeed a common social ministry or witness we should embrace. This will be one of the tasks of our Conference Table. If we are led to developing a common focus, then we could have a greater impact upon people and our society than we shall have if there is no common focus.

However we are led by the Spirit in our exploration of a common social ministry and witness, the claims of "neighbourology" lie upon all of us as a people of faith. As the apostle James wrote, "If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So, faith by itself, if it has no works is dead."

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