Members of the General Commission on Religion and Race’s (GCORR) Board of Directors met in Washington, D.C., Sept. 24-27, for their fall retreat and board meeting. Invited guests included general secretaries from other United Methodist Church agencies as well as Commission on Religion and Race (CORR) committee chairs, district superintendents, and directors of connectional ministries from annual conferences in the U.S., Africa, Europe, and the Philippines. This group of global Church leaders engaged in deep conversations on the specific resources and support GCORR can provide to help the Church reach more people, younger people, and more diverse people.
GCORR General Secretary Erin Hawkins welcomed the attendees and set context for the gathering. “This is an agency where authentic, truthful conversations take place,” she said. Hawkins also stressed that creating value-added resources, programs, and services (for conferences and local churches) remains GCORR’s top priority.
Intercultural competency–having the skills and awareness to build relationships across cultures–is integral to GCORR’s Ministry Model and was a guiding theme for the retreat. Attendees had the opportunity to spend a day of learning on this topic with Dr. Janet Bennett, executive director and co-founder of the Intercultural Communication Institute in Portland, Ore.
Attendees, in reflecting on this day of learning, gave high marks to the training and resources that Bennett shared–and the meaningful conversations they had–around the importance of intercultural competency in helping the Church sustain and grow:
- “This training can lead to transformational work in the United Methodist Church.”
- “Intercultural competency forges connections. We no longer can see others as ‘that group’ of ‘you people’ over there.”
- “We’re being given skills as leaders to help the Church reflect on how we should be God’s people.” Another way GCORR supports the Church’s goal of increasing intercultural competency and fostering conversations about race, cultural diversity, and systemic equity is through its CORR Action Fund (CAF) grant program.
GCORR board members approved $1,749,000.00 in CAF grants to support the work of 31 projects, across annual and central conferences as well as national caucuses. The grants, beginning in November 2014, will be made available to a range of local churches, conferences, jurisdictions, and seminaries. This grant cycle represents the first time that dedicated CAF funding was directed to central conferences, the result of intentional outreach to and work with central conference leaders. (A follow-up news release, on each new CAF-funded project, will be released in October.)
In other retreat news, Dr. Lovett Weems, from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary, shared top-level findings from an August 2014 survey with CORR chairs and directors of connectional ministries across the United States. The survey, which will be made available in October, sought feedback on a range of items, such as successful examples of–and greatest barriers to–full and equal participation by racial and ethnic constituencies in the Church and perceived need/role/effectiveness of individual Commissions on Religion and Race.
GCORR Board President and Episcopal Leader of the Los Angeles Area, Bishop Minerva Carcaño, expressed her gratitude for the strong attendance and participation of conference leaders at the agency’s board retreat and meeting.
“We don’t learn in isolation, that’s why we come together in partnership. Conference leaders inspire us to be bolder in our challenge to the Church to live its commitments to institutional equity, diversity, and full inclusion of all of God’s children,” she said.