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July 20, 2005

United Methodists Hold First Global Conference for the Deaf

From: Christian Post, CA - Jul 20, 2005

The conference was the "culmination of years of hope, dreams and plans" about the ministry.

Wednesday, Jul. 20, 2005 Posted: 4:38:50PM EST

The United Methodist Church, the nation's largest mainline protestant denomination, has over 8-million members in more than 35,000 churches, but has only three congregations that serve the deaf. Now, however, the deaf ministry may grow – thanks to the success of the first Global United Methodist Conference of the Deaf, held near Baltimore on July 14-17.

The conference was the "culmination of years of hope, dreams and plans" about the ministry, according to the United Methodist News Service. It drew more than 200 ministers and Methodists around the world.

"Our dream is to see the mission outreaches that we've all been in contact with under one roof," said the Rev. Peggy Johnson, pastor of Christ United Methodist Church of the Deaf in Baltimore, one of only three deaf congregations in the denomination. "This is a conference where people will tell what's happening in mission in their country" in the deaf community, she said.

One attendant, the Rev. Joo Hai Kang, is a Presbyterian minister from South Korea, who attended a deaf school there that has its roots in the 1850s Methodist missionaries. Joo established a deaf church in 2001 and formed two or three Bible study groups in Southern Illinois.

Another attendant, David Ennis, is a member of the Middletown United Methodist Church in Frederick, Md and the president of the Northeastern Jurisdiction deaf organization. He explained through an interpreter about his experience setting up a deaf ministry in Kenya and traveling to Zimbabwe to help the deaf.

"They don't have much of a ministry in Zimbabwe," Ennis said through an interpreter, "but it's starting to get a Methodist ministry there and helping them to be able to be established on their own."

Leaders at the conference highlighted a need for increased ministry and leadership in and for the church's deaf community.

"One of the goals of this body, from a national level on down, is to be a resource for local churches that want to expand or enter into deaf or hard-of-hearing ministry," said Michelle Menefee, a member of First United Methodist Church in Houston and of the Congress of the Deaf's national board. She served as one of many American Sign Language interpreters during the conference, according to the United Methodist News Service.

"Deaf ministry is not just somebody signing the worship service on Sunday morning," she said. "It needs to be every bit as comprehensive as you would have children's or youth or any other type ministry."

Pauline J. Chang

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