Thursday, May 7, 2009

United Methodist Bishops Combat Poverty Head on During Rethink Church Launch

Washington, DC: The top spiritual leaders of The United Methodist Church are rethinking the way they combat poverty and rolling up their sleeves in the process.

On May 5, 2009, many United Methodist bishops embraced the plight of migrant workers by taking to the streets of the Washington, DC area to serve the workers breakfast. The bishops participated in the effort as part of the launch of the denomination’s new Rethink Church campaign, the next evolution of The United Methodist Church’s “Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors” welcoming and advertising campaign.

Church leaders hope that reaching out and embracing migrant workers will inspire others to rethink church as an experience that extends beyond the church walls and into communities. By taking a hands-on approach, United Methodist leaders hope to demonstrate there are thousands of ways in which a person can engage with the church—many of them non-traditional.

Those opportunities are highlighted at, a new Web site to which The United Methodist Church is directing persons unaffiliated with the denomination, via Rethink Church advertising. Aimed at being relevant to an 18 to 34-year-old audience, encourages exploration of the diverse ways United Methodists are making a difference in the world, and invites participation, discussion, and action.

United Methodist bishops from the U.S., Africa, Europe, and Asia will be in Bethesda, Md. May 3-8 for the semi-annual Council of Bishops meeting. During the week, council members will attend planning meetings, workshops, and plenary sessions primarily held at the Bethesda Hyatt. However, on Tuesday, May 5, many of the bishops will go out at 7:00 a.m. to serve breakfast to day laborers at three locations in and around the city. The bishops will also pray with and talk to the workers.

“Migrant workers are among the most exploited groups in American society. Day after day, hundreds of those workers gather in parking lots or on street corners hoping someone will offer them work for the day,” said Bishop Gregory Palmer, president of the Council of Bishops. “Many of them are struggling to support families they left behind in their native countries.”

Also on May 5, The Council of Bishops visited with Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to support legislation consistent with the priorities of The United Methodist Church concerning children, health care, and poverty. Ministry with the poor and fighting diseases of poverty are both areas of long-term focus for the denomination.

The United Methodist Church also sponsored other Rethink Church launch events on May 6 in New York, Dallas, and San Antonio. New television commercials and other advertising began April 20.

“The United Methodist Church wants people to begin thinking of church as an active verb; people taking action to better the lives of others. While ministries vary from church to church, United Methodist churches offer thousands of services and opportunities in the United States and abroad,” said Palmer.

The 163-member Council of Bishops—which includes active and retired bishops worldwide—provides leadership and helps set the direction of the 11.5-million member church and its mission throughout the world. The United Methodist Church is the second largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.

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