John L. McCullough, president and CEO of Church World Service (CWS) and speaker at the Global Ministries Dinner at the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, was taken with the theme of the conference, “Move in Our Midst.”
International guests also were introduced and welcomed at the dinner, which celebrated the collaboration of Church World Service and the Church of the Brethren.
“Through our partnership with the Church of the Brethren, the vital ministries we support around the world embody the love of Jesus Christ, who moves in our midst,” McCullough said. “When I think of that theme I think: recognition, invitation, and declaration. It reminds us we serve a living, breathing, action-oriented God.”
McCullough recognized the historic place of the Church of the Brethren in the founding of Church World Service. “I want to thank you for your leadership, and the historic partnership between the Church of the Brethren and Church World Service,” he told the dinner participants. Calling to mind a time when he worshiped with Christians in Zambia, who were filled with joy and energy, he shared that he felt the same way about the gathering of the Brethren and the work of the church in serving others in Jesus’ name.
Even so, there are difficulties along the journey, he reminded the Brethren. “We are on a spiritual journey,” he said. “The Spirit moves with us to do in partnership what we could not do alone.”
“The present hour is a critical one, that cannot be overstated,” McCullough said, as he listed crises past and present including the Vietnam War, the American embargo against Cuba, situations in Africa, the war in Afghanistan, the fight against apartheid in South Africa. These are parts of the world where the Brethren and CWS have shared ministries in the name of Christ. Having the opportunity to work with both Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela were highlights of the relationship, he said.
“Have our efforts been perfect?” he asked rhetorically of the CWS work over the years and around the world. “Certainly not,” McCullough answered his own quesetion. “Have we maximized our potential? Emphatically not. We lament our shortcomings. But we are not only 37 denominations, we are 37 communions!”
CWS efforts in collaboration, McCullough said, go in two directions. “We remain focused on eliminating poverty, which is the leading cause of death. Compassion and a shared search for truth guide us.”
Themes from Matthew 25 such as feeding the hungry, providing clean water to the thirsty, visiting the sick, clothing the naked, and serving those in prison, remain at the center of the Christian mission McCullough said. “Finding a place at the table for the hungry and malnourished, with almost one billion people in the world today who are hungry, is at the heart of this ministry in the name of Jesus.”
— Frank Ramirez is pastor of Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren and a member of the Annual Conference News Team.