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HOLY BOLDNESS -- United Methodist Bishop Felton May tells a group of urban ministers that Holy Boldness is an attitude that forges the church's evangelical witness into a "laser beam to address the hurting and suffering of humankind." The Holy Boldness Encampment spent the weekend before General Conference holding tent meetings and doing hands-on mininstry in Cleveland. A UMNS photo by Dean Snyder. Photo number gc2kA04, Accompanies UMNS #GC-001, 5/2/00

May 1, 1999                                                                                                              GC-001

Urban ministers call for General Conference to be holy, bold

CLEVELAND (UMNS) -- A United Methodist bishop told a group of urban ministers that a Holy Boldness Encampment the weekend before General Conference would "likely be the highlight of my trip to Cleveland."

"There will not be any more, or perhaps even as, important things happening during the next two weeks as what happened this weekend," Bishop Kenneth L. Carder said at a gathering of about 100 lay and clergy urban ministers who spent the weekend before General Conference holding tent meetings and doing hands-on ministry in Cleveland.

General Conference, the lawmaking assembly of the United Methodist Church, is meeting May 2-12 in Cleveland. The meeting is held every four years.

The three-day Holy Boldness Encampment, which started April 28, was sponsored by the National Urban Strategy Council of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries and local Ohio urban ministry networks. The event featured worship under a tent pitched on a vacant lot in an urban Cleveland neighborhood, immersions in urban missions such as soup kitchens and health clinics, hands-on work building Habitat for Humanity homes, and discussions about urban church issues such as strengthening multicultural relationships and economic development.

Carder, bishop of the church’s Nashville (Tenn.) Area, urged the urban ministers to persist.

"Urban ministry itself is marginalized in this denomination," he said. "But we are not discouraged by that because we don’t judge the effectiveness of what we do by the size of the crowds we gather.

"God is not preoccupied with the work of the church," he added. "God is preoccupied with transforming the world."

The Holy Boldness Encampment was inspired by a comment made by Bishop Felton E. May of the Washington (D.C.) Area during a 1997 meeting of United Methodist urban ministers in San Francisco, according to the Rev. Carey Simonton, one of the organizers.

"If we can’t change General Conference, then maybe we could have an encampment the week prior to General Conference and set the tone of what it truly means to be holy and bold in the name of Jesus Christ," May said in his 1997 address.

The planning committee reviewed May’s remarks and then set out to organize a gathering that would provide General Conference a positive example of doing ministry in "new ways and holy and bold ways," said Simonton, director of United Methodist Urban Ministries in Cincinnati.

During the encampment’s opening service, under the tent pitched near St. Matthews United Methodist Church in the Wade Park section of Cleveland, May said that Holy Boldness is not a program but an attitude. It is an attitude that forges the church’s evangelical witness into a "laser beam to address the hurting and suffering of humankind," he said.

"We as a church have co-opted the gospel and have made it a business; that is, we’re feeding an institution rather than feeding the people of God the word of God," he said.

He called on General Conference to address the "real issues affecting the hurting and suffering people in communities like this one … the issues of where will we eat and where will we sleep and whom can we trust and who will help us to survive."

On the morning of April 29, as participants prepared for urban immersion experiences, the Rev. John Schol, former executive secretary for United Methodist urban ministries and founding director of the Communities of Shalom movement, described Holy Boldness as a coupling of spirituality and social action. "There’s a need for centering oneself in God through Jesus Christ and being bold out on the streets," he said.

Schol said that 330 Communities of Shalom have been established in the United States, Ghana and Zimbabwe to work for spiritual and economic renewal "because people decided it is time to make a difference."

"Most of us are just ordinary people who have decided we’re going to follow Jesus," said Schol, who is now pastor of West Chester United Methodist Church in West Chester, Pa.

Simonton said that he and other organizers hoped the encampment would draw increased attention to the Board of Global Ministries’ Holy Boldness Urban Ministry Plan developed at an urban convocation held in Birmingham, Ala., in 1995. Workshops and immersion experiences were designed to highlight the plan’s seven components: urban evangelism and congregational development; leadership development; wholeness, health and healing; community economic development; eradication of racism; strengthening multicultural relationship; and urban theology.

"There’s a lot in the Holy Boldness plan our urban churches have yet to embody," Simonton said. "One of the main things I hope comes out of this encampment and General Conference approving Holy Boldness for another four years is the use of the material."

The encampment included a candlelight prayer vigil outside the Cleveland Convention Center where General Conference will be held.

--Dean Snyder

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