BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The ecumenical officer for the United Methodist Council of Bishops says the Protestant group is seeing a major shift in ecumenical and Methodist relations due to dramatic growth in churches overseas.

Dallas Bishop William Oden told the Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns this month that "we can't just pretend that it isn't happening."

"We are entering a new phase that the church has not encountered before because of globalization," Oden told United Methodist News Service. "Old borders and old agreements, both denominational and ecumenical, no longer hold."

He said the United Methodist bishop from Zimbabwe has appointed pastors and a district superintendent to England because so many Zimbabwe Methodist immigrants have settled there. British Methodists, who are a separate denomination, are trying to figure out how they can work with the new churches in their midst.

In the United States, the Council of Bishops has started a dialogue with the Korean Methodist Church, which has created about 250 congregations in the U.S.