By Kathy L. Gilbert

WASHINGTON (UMNS) - Fresh off its world tour, a "user-friendly" United Methodist Social Creed faces its biggest audience next spring in its bid to become the church's "roadmap to making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."

A small task force of six under the leadership of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society has been working on a 2008 Social Creed to replace the revised 1972 version.

The original creed was written in 1908 as a denominational statement decrying child labor and supporting the economic rights of workers, better workplace conditions, better wages and worker safety.

The 2004 United Methodist General Conference designated the period of 2005-2008 as a time of celebration, education and study of the Social Creed and Social Principles leading up to the 100th anniversary of the 1908 Social Creed.

As part of that celebration, the Board of Church and Society took on the task of writing a contemporary, timeless version to offer for future generations.

The final document was presented and approved at the directors meeting of the Board of Church and Society held Sept. 13-16. The creed now goes to the 2008 General Conference, the denomination's top legislative body, which meets April 23-May 2 in Fort Worth, Texas.

The United Methodist Book of Discipline, the denomination's book of law, recommends the Social Creed be emphasized regularly in every congregation and used frequently in Sunday worship. However, even Bishop Susan Morrison acknowledged that she wasn't sure what the creed said or where it could be found when she was asked to chair the task force.

"My experience is that is what has happened to the Social Creed. I have used it, but it wasn't part of me," she said. "One of the first decisions we made as a task force was to make it user-friendly."

Another priority was to make sure a new Social Creed reflects the global nature of the church. The task force took a draft to Europe, Africa and the Philippines for feedback and suggestions.

A second consultation was held May 25-26 in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, where 36 participants from across the African Central Conferences gathered to review the text.

Nathanael Arnel De Pano, a songwriter and musical director at Kamuning First United Methodist Church in Quezon City, Philippines, said he liked the idea of a more "reader-friendly, easier-to-digest" Social Creed.

"I like the collegial and consistent building style the participants have taken," he said of the Aug. 9-11 consultation held in Tagaytay City, Philippines. "Everyone is prepared to put forth a draft that is representative of the general disposition of the Philippines conference."

The musical version, which was presented to the group in the Philippines and the directors meeting in Washington, was written by Carol Simpson, a 23-year-old music graduate attending Claremont School of Theology and serving as director of contemporary music and outreach ministries at Glendora (Calif.) United Methodist Church.

The new creed is poetic and follows the sequence of the Social Principles from the natural community to the world community.

Kathy Gilbert serves as a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.