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IRD/UMAction recently received the message below from the UMC Africa Initiative inviting United Methodists around the world to join together in a week of prayer and fasting for the specially called 2019 General Conference session, which will soon begin on February 23. The Africa Initiative is an association of African United Methodist clergy and laity who are committed to fostering partnership, network, and fellowship. Its General Coordinator is the Rev. Dr. Jerry P. Kulah, dean of Gbarnga School of Theology, part of the United Methodist University in Liberia, West Africa.
AFRICA INITIATIVE INVITES GLOBAL UMC TO A SEASON OF FAST AND PRAYER
The UMC Africa Initiative of the Central Conferences of Africa invites leaders and members of the global United Methodist Church to a week of FAST and PRAYER as part of spiritual preparation for our participation in and the successful holding of the Special General Conference (SGC) of the United Methodist Church scheduled to take place from 23rd to 26th February 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri.
This weeklong spiritual engagement is scheduled for Monday, 28th January to Sunday, 3rd February 2019. While we are fasting and praying, we encourage a global corporate prayer time at 12:00 mid-night (on the day of commencing the fast and prayer), 6am, 9am, 12:00 noon, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm local time daily. In this way, we shall demonstrate a sense of unity during this time of global intercession.
We are aware that some might already be praying and organizing prayer events for the Special General Conference. This is our humble way of contributing to this effort. We encourage everyone participating in this spiritual exercise to drink water or vegetable juice during the period of the fast, and that everyone should fast according to their ability. Some may be able to fast on water only from midnight to 12 noon, some to 3pm and others to 6pm daily. During this period of fast and prayer, what God desires most of each of us is our sincerity and faithfulness, not the duration of our fast. We are also aware that, for health reasons, some might not be able to go without food. Such individuals may simply pray.
At the climax of the fasting period on the first Sunday, 3rd February, we encourage pastors and leaders of the global church as well as all Coordinators of the Africa Initiative of Provisional Conferences, Annual Conferences and Episcopal Areas to mobilize other leaders and members of the UMC within their areas and conduct special prayer services to conclude the event. We look forward to receiving many testimonies from members of the church following this spiritual exercise.
Prayer Points: In additional to other prayer concerns, we encourage prayers for the following needs:
- Success in securing visas for delegates, alternates, and observers attending the Special General Conference;
- Safe travel for all delegates, alternates, observers and leaders of the Special General Conference;
- Good health for everyone during this period of the Special General Conferences Session
- Wisdom and discernment in the selection/election of presiding officers at both Legislative and Special General Conference Sessions;
- Wisdom and discernment for all delegates as they prepare to cast important votes for the future life and ministries of the global UMC;
- Humility in the exercise of “holy Christian conferencing” under a loving and respectful atmosphere; and,
- Delegates’ commitment and obedience to the teaching and authority of Holy Scripture as primary for the governance of the life and ministries of the global UMC as we move forward.
Prayer is the offensive and defensive weapon of believers in every situation characteristic of a spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:12,18; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). The Special General Conference is a spiritual warfare, a defining moment to determine through the votes of delegates what the future of the UMC would be. By our votes, shall we remain committed to the traditional teaching of Scriptures that defines marriage as between a man or a woman (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:18-25; Matthew 19:3-12), or would we, by our votes, reject the teaching of scripture in order to legalize and accommodate same-sex marriage in the life of the church? This monumental decision to be made by delegates demands a season of fasting and praying by the church of Jesus Christ before it can be made. We desire God’s perfect will in this matter. Our key biblical texts for this spiritual exercise are 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Mark 9:29.
Following Solomon’s construction of the temple and palace, he made lots of sacrifices to the Lord, and offered a prayer of dedication. In response to Solomon’s prayer, God, acknowledging the prospect of disobedience on the part of His people, made this promise to them through Solomon, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sins and heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14, NIV). The holding of the SGC by the global UMC to decide whether to legalize the practice homosexuality in the Church of Jesus Christ, ordain homosexual persons as “shepherds” of God’s flock, and use UMC’s worship centers for the conduct of “same-sex unions” or not to do so is a glaring indication that the global UMC is hurting and needs God’s healing.
Ultimately, global UMC is at a crossroads (Jeremiah 6:16). One road leading to a firm commitment by the global church to upholding the Holy Scripture as the undiluted Word of God, trustworthy for our belief and practice without compromising any part of it. This “road” is supported by the Modified Traditional Plan that is one of three options to be voted for by delegates. While the other road leads to rejecting parts of the Holy Scriptures that teaches that homosexuality is sin (Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:6-27; I Corinthians 6:9-10). Supporters of this option, the One Church Plan, perceive the teaching of the Bible on this issue hateful and divisive expressions against homosexual persons and therefore must be rejected and removed from the spiritual governance structure (Book of Discipline) of the United Methodist Church. There is the third option that seeks to establish at three denominations under one umbrella-denomination. All 864 delegates to the SGC as well as all members of the global UMC are standing at the crossroads to make the decision at the Special Session.
The decision to be made through delegates’ votes holds the potential of keeping the Untired Methodist Church “united” or “divided” into factional denominations. Therefore, this event cannot be taken likely. That is why we must fast and pray for God’s divine intervention, despite our individual convictions on the issue. The second text makes the point.
Following His Transfiguration experience, Jesus’ disciples encountered a very stubborn demon that had possessed a young man for a long period of time. The demon tormented him for many years by making him speechless and to convulse violently. His disciples could not handle the situation after several attempts to drive out the demon (Mark 9:14:18). Jesus intervened and healed the child (vv. 19-27). While alone with his disciples, they inquired as to why they could not drive out the demon. In reply Jesus pointed out that “This kind [of demon] can be cast out only by prayer and fasting” (vv. 28-20, KJV). Like that demon that had possessed the boy, after more than 46 years of bitter arguments and exchanges among members of the UMC over the issue of homosexuality (1972 to present), without any hope in sight for an amicable resolution, we need a season of fast and prayer for God’s intervention before attempting to vote in St. Louise, a decision that would determine the future of the UMC. We want to thank everyone in advance for accepting to join in this spiritual exercise.