Struggling with social and spiritual issues present in society today, more than 250 students participated in this year's South Indiana Conference United Methodist Women's School of Christian Mission in mid-July at the University of Indianapolis.
Held in two sessions - Super Saturday School (100 students) and the four-day regular school (150 students with 210 at a Tuesday night banquet). The school offered three studies including: a spiritual growth study to renew minds and hearts to the gift of faith in Jesus and taught by Bishop Mike Coyner in the South Indiana school, an issue study on Native Americans and a geographic study on Israel-Palestine. The school also offered two special sessions - one for youth and another for children.
As part of the South Indiana UMW's school's activities, students also brought school supplies, baby items and personal care items to be delivered in late-August to the Crow Creek reservation in South Dakota, plus 18 flood bucket clean-up kits to be used by flood survivors.
The same curriculum was covered during the North Indiana Conference United Methodist Women's School of Christian Mission held July 9 with 200 adults and 37 children for the drive-in day and July 9-12 for the regular school with 187 adults and 7 children. Both were held at Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind.
One of the most controversial issues that came to the forefront during the school was the course on Israel and Palestine which outlined and reviewed the historic conflict between Israel and the occupation of Palestine. In the South session, the course was taught by James Dwyer of the General Board of Global Ministries and Mary Wider Cartwright.
In the North Indiana school, the course was taught by Dwyer, Dona Lou Imler, Robert Epps and Nancy Myers.
Students in Cartwright's class discussed the historic, geographical, social and political implications involved in this sometime thorny issue. They also reviewed the role of Christian Zionism and the role Christian evangelical Zionism plays in American politics.
Cartwright said, "What matters is how you treat people and how to respond to each other."
She constantly asked, "Is it about land or religion? Are Jews being persecuted? Is the criticism placed on the State of Israel the same as anti-Semitism?"
The class also considered strategies and ways for United Methodists to make a difference in bringing peace to the Israel-Palestine. Students considered sharing information, evaluating news more critically, monetary support, listening with open ears, being an advocate for justice, financial support for reconciliation ministries, prayer, missions and getting involved with political issues.
The South school also heard a panel discussion of both Christian and Jewish leaders on the Israel-Palestine issue.
The other courses during the two schools included "Giving Our Hearts Away - Native American Survival" and "I Believe in Jesus" the school's spiritual growth component. These courses were taught by both lay and clergy leaders.
Resource materials from the Schools of Christian Mission and the April 2008 issue of Response magazine on Native Americans and the April 2007 issue of Response magazine on Israel-Palestine are available for study through the Mission Resource Center (call 800-305-9851 or log on to www.missionresourcecenter.org). The May-June 2007 and May-June 2008 issues of the New World Outlook mission magazine contain cover articles on Native American ministries and are available from Cokesbury (call 800-877-8674 or log on to www.cokesbury.com).