Bishop’s Blog: ‘United Nations of the World’—Doing God’s work and ours

By Bishop Peggy Johnson

I am a Baby-Boomer, born of parents who experienced World War II. My father was a tail gunner in the Air Force on the island of Guam.  After the war, in 1948, the nations of the world decided to start the United Nations for the purpose of working for diplomacy that would prevent more world wars in the future.

In elementary school I learned about this wondrous building in New York City, and I remember clearly the music teacher bringing her piano on wheels into our classroom and teaching us this song:

“United Nations of the World, United Nations flags unfurled.
When there is trouble brewing, don’t run for cover, Let nations get together and just talk it over!”

While in high school, in 1968, I went on an annual conference youth bus trip to New York City to visit the UN Building. Again, I was struck by the enormity of the task.  We learned about apartheid on that trip, and I wondered greatly about this process of diplomacy versus war.  It would be a long time from 1968 until the end of apartheid in South Africa, but it happened.

Last week I attended the Spring meeting of the General Board of Church and Society.  I serve on this board along with five other bishops and many lay and clergy from around our connection.  The Rev. Megan Shitama Weston, of the Peninsula Delaware Conference, is one of the clergy from our episcopal area serving on this board with me.

So much has changed since 1948 and 1968. But the theme is still the same. Talk things over. Come together around common goals for the planet. Have respect for all people. This is none other than God’s work!

In 2015 the United Nations established the “Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals to Transform Our World by 2030.”  They are as follows:

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  • No poverty
  • Zero hunger
  • Good health and wellbeing
  • Quality education
  • Gender equality
  • Clean water and sanitation
  • Affordable and clean energy
  • Decent work and economic growth
  • Industry, innovation and infrastructure
  • Reduced inequalities
  • Sustainable cities and communities
  • Responsible consumption and production
  • Climate action
  • Life below water
  • Life on Land
  • Peace, justice and strong institutions
  • Partnerships for the goals

Many in The United Methodist Church and the Church universal believe and work toward these goals. There is something that each one of us can personally do.  We can engage in diplomacy in our local settings to promote equality and peace. We can share our means to help eradicate hunger and inequalities.  We can advocate and vote for laws that protect our environment and promote health care for all.

The leaders of the General Board of Church and Society are asking us to ask our U.S. Ambassador to the UN, a United Methodist herself, to promote these development goals. Please write to her at:

H.E. Nikki R. Haley
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
799 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY  10017

In this way, your voice can be heard to promote peace in this world.  It is the responsibility of all of us.

The ending of the song that I learned in elementary school goes like this:

“UN, we know that you’ll build peace and understanding.
We know the toughness of the job that we’re demanding.
So let all our flags be every unfurled!
The United Nations of the World.” 

This is the world that God made and loves and wants to redeem. It is slow work.  It is our work.


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(Photo by Levi Bautista, GBCS.)

Read more and see photos about the General Board of Church and Society’s recent visit to the UN in the UM News Service story, “Active legacy: United Methodists at the UN.” Learn about the Church Center for the United Nations, the United Methodist-owned building where the board’s directors met and where ideas are crafted and taken to the UN conference rooms and assembly halls across the street.

The Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, top executive of Church and Society, recalled her first visit to the United Nations in 1967 as a 16-year-old. “Seeing King Hussein of Jordan walk into the U.N. immediately following the Six-Day War (in the Middle East) changed my world view,” she said during a report to directors. “The church gave to me the vision of what a global Christian and citizen might look like.”