General Commission on Religion and Race Awards More Than $1.2 Million in Grants to Projects Across U.S. and in Central Conferences
The General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR), at its recent fall board meeting and retreat, voted to award $1,274,495.24 in grants to fund bold, innovative initiatives across local churches, annual conferences, jurisdictions, seminaries, and central conferences that will increase intercultural competency or vital conversations about race, cultural diversity, and systemic equity leading to action.
The grants were made available through GCORR’s CORR Action Fund (CAF) grant program (funded by the Minority Group Self-Determination Fund). The funding cycle, which begins November 2014 and continues through June 2016, represents the first time that dedicated CAF grant money is being directed toward the Central Conferences.
GCORR Board Vice President and CAF Committee Chair Rev. Dr. Joseph Harris said that the committee received 120 grant applications from the United States as well as eight grant applications from Central Conferences (Philippines, Europe, and Africa). Harris noted that the CAF committee’s decision to translate the application packet into French, Spanish, and Korean contributed to a more diverse pool of potential grantees. He added that the number of applications GCORR received demonstrates the overwhelming need for increased funding to support projects that help the Church reach more people, younger people, and more diverse people.
“GCORR is proud to fund projects worldwide that will lead to greater intercultural competency throughout our denomination as well as strengthen and grow relationships between local churches and the communities they are called to serve,” Harris said. “We received requests totaling more than $6 million, but we had a finite amount of dollars that we were able to award. Can you imagine the impact that these initiatives could have worldwide had we been able to fully fund all the requests?”
The following U.S.-based projects or programs, which are listed in parentheses, received funding in the 2014-16 grant cycle:
- La Plaza United Methodist Church, Los Angeles, Calif. (“God is in the Graffiti”): This project will promote/increase creative and critical thinking and sustain vital conversations on religion and spirituality with youth in the Los Angeles area, covering relevant topics such as poverty, race, gender equality, urban youth, gangs, and the historical relationship between the UMC and diverse ethnic minorities in the area. ($30,000)
- JustPeace, Washington, D.C. (“JustPeace Resource Networks in Conflict and Cultural Competency”): This project will cultivate and sustain a real and virtual network of leaders–in up to five conferences–who are committed to conflict transformation and cultural competency. Training, support, and resources will be provided to each “hub” of core leaders to support up to three collaborative projects in each conference/area selected to participate. ($60,000)
- Queen Anne UMC, Seattle, Wash. (“The Well”): This project will create a physical space to be be used by the local community for safe discussions on local, statewide, national, and global issues, and it will also function as a Center for Spiritual Formation that will offer clergy a place to learn, pray, and seek spiritual revitalization, grow a new monastic community, and offer ongoing small workshop and prayer services. ($40,000)
- New England Annual Conference (“Sing a New Song and Prophesy”): This project funds two events: one for young clergy and ministry candidates as well as diverse young people from the community to discuss race, cultural diversity, and institutional equity; and another to offer intercultural competency training to pastors and lay leaders to support cross-cultural ministries. Funds will also support a new project where congregations are selected, trained, and provided with resources to work on dismantling racism and white privilege in their local communities. ($50,000)
- Louisiana Annual Conference (“Youth Worker Initiative”): This project will train youth workers to build a multicultural youth ministry network across the conference that supports inclusive youth ministries and improves intercultural relationships. ($37,850)
- Perkins School of Theology (“Unification of the Rio Texas Annual Conference”): A team of 30 key leaders will receive cultural competency training (via open discussion forums, in-person trainings, and webinars) to address potential cultural conflicts resulting across the conference and in local congregations from the merger of the Southwest Texas Annual Conference and Rio Grande Annual Conference into the new Rio Texas Annual Conference. ($70,000)
- Northwest Texas Annual Conference (“Hispanic/Latino Leadership Initiative”): Online theological training (in Spanish) will be offered to support Hispanic/Latino pastoral leadership development. A three-day “language school” will be created to offer clergy and their families the opportunity to learn Spanish and/or English and share experiences. Funds will also support a program to locate Hispanic/Latino leadership outside the United States via a partnership with Wesley Theological Seminary in Monterrey, Mexico. ($40,000)
- Texas Annual Conference (“Urban Theology and Christian Practice Peer Learning Model”): This project will create a multicultural learning cohort of leaders, from a diverse group of churches, who will participate in an experiential learning process and create a program to increase intercultural competencies across the conference and in local congregations. Learnings from this project will be used to create a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) that will be available for the full denomination. ($60,000)
- Great Plains Annual Conference (“Reaching New Neighbors”): This project will identify best practices from congregations already engaged in cross-racial/cross-cultural ministry to create an action plan and resources that will be shared with all churches in the conference. ($24,250)
- West Ohio Annual Conference (“Holy Currencies Organizing”): A group of ministry leaders will be offered intercultural competency training and will work together to develop strategies for increased diversity across the conference and in local congregations. Relationship building will concurrently occur with a local prison to train select inmates for church leadership roles upon release. ($80,000)
- North Alabama Annual Conference (“Growing Diversity, Transforming the World”): Training and workshops on intercultural competency will be provided by skilled trainers and presenters to recruit more diverse leadership, equip local churches for multiracial/multicultural ministries, cross-racial/cross-cultural appointments, and create and strengthen ethnically diverse communities of faith by developing passionate spiritual leaders. ($38,400)
- Northern Illinois Annual Conference (“Intercultural Competency and Cross Racial/Cross Cultural Appointments”): This grant will provide funds to create a process for lay and clergy leadership development for multicultural ministries and leadership development resources such as training events, action/reflection opportunities, think tanks, and Spanish language instruction and course offerings. ($60,000)
- Epworth United Methodist Church (Expansion of the “Youth Hang Out”): This grant will enable this local church to create a safe space for immigrant youth as well as at-risk middle and high school students. Intercultural competency training will support community outreach to offer immigrant families needed services, such as English language tutoring and computer classes. ($50,000)
- Pacific Northwest Annual Conference (“Bishop Jack and Marjorie Tuell Center”): An Intercultural Development Inventory profile will be created for the conference board and cabinet to ensure cross-racial/cross-cultural awareness in their appointment and gate-keeping functions. Support will be provided in the form of clergy training and retreats. Consultations and trainings will also be offered to deploy a more diverse pool of lay leaders. Funds will also start a pilot program for increasing intercultural competency across 15 congregations. ($50,000)
- Detroit Annual Conference (“Michigan Area Holy Currencies Initiative”): Approximately 15 congregational teams will participate in a program that will cover important topics on intercultural competency, such as becoming missional, reaching the emerging generation, and mapping the church. Upon completion, participants will develop an action plan to grow more diverse congregations. Future leaders will also be recruited for training to lead future programs. ($80,000)
- Western North Carolina Annual Conference (“FlameBuilders”): This project will create a global, faith-based lay leadership development institute to attract more young adults to the UMC. Participants will visit diverse churches to better understand their unique challenges and opportunities and will be offered spiritual formation and leadership classes. ($50,000)
- Hawaii United Methodist Union (“Pacific Islanders UMC ‘Ho’poli Aloha'”): This program supports a successful residential transition facility for former prisoners as well as a program for at-risk youth. Funds will be used to document successful practices to share with other like-minded programs as well as expand outreach to greater numbers of youth. ($38,000)
- Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (“Equipping Seminarians for Cross-Cultural Ministries”): This program will help create a ministry education program on intercultural competency for faculty to use in working with seminary students on their field education assignments, and it will help to strengthen the skills of pastors who are placed in cross-cultural/intercultural congregations and communities. ($40,000)
- Oklahoma Annual Conference (“Oklahoma Intercultural Strategic Plan”): All conference committees, St. Paul Seminary, and a variety of local churches will participate in an Intercultural Development Inventory and will use the Intercultural Development Plan to increase intercultural knowledge. Outreach programs, such as the DNA project, will be used to help increase understanding of biology and race, and a series of conferences will be held to talk about race and diversity of the UMC. ($35,500)
- Rio Texas Annual Conference (“Uniting Peoples for Transformation”): A core leadership team will be created to develop a cultural competency system for the new Rio Texas Conference, as two very different conferences are merging into one. Mission Strategy Teams from each district will be trained in interculturally competent leadership skills, and cultural competency learning venues will be set up in local churches and mission fields to prepare local church leaders. ($80,000)
- Northeast Jurisdiction (“Jazz in the City 2”): Funds will be used to create an in-context, immersion learning experience for seminary students and will engage pastors and laity from six local ethnically diverse churches. Students will form six groups, each of which will visit one of the participating churches, to better understand the church’s challenges and offer possible solutions. ($30,000)
The following Central Conference projects or programs, which are listed in parentheses, received funding:
- Switzerland (“Developing the Culturally Diverse Mission of the United Methodist Church In Aarau”): This project funds the development of a weekly meeting of local church members and refugees and/or immigrant groups to better understand each others’ cultures as well as helps new community members better cope with everyday challenges while improving their language skills. Funds will also be used to develop more group leaders for the Arabic Fellowship as well as grow attendance.
- Seminary schooling will be provided to the individual who will be leading these programs. ($70,000)
- East Congo (“Methodist Crusade for Intercultural Understanding and Peaceful Coexistence in the Kivus”): This program will train 100 pastors and 200 leaders about intercultural values and peace so that their learnings can be shared in their diverse communities, especially with local youth. Each site will organize concerts, community conversations, and exchanges with area youth, and the programs will be documented and shared with other ministries in the region. ($79,900)
- Baguo (“Baguo Episcopal Area”): Funds will create a communications resource center for approximately 25 youth and adults to learn and interact with people from different cultures, ages, and economic backgrounds through multimedia productions. Youth participants will obtain intercultural competencies and will be instructed on how to further educate local congregations through multimedia ministries. ($30,000)
- Philippines (“Union Theological Seminary”): This project aims to increase the intercultural competency of 50 UTS seminarians through ecumenical education, community integration, dialogue, and self-expression. Each participating seminarian will launch an intercultural initiative that will reach at least 50 younger or more diverse people in his or her ministry. ($50,595.24)
GCORR General Secretary Erin Hawkins described the grants as tangible examples of the agency’s Ministry Model at work–for the benefit of the entire Church. “These projects are our partners in ministry; each one will help us create best practices that can be shared across the connection.”
Rev. Giovanni Arroyo, GCORR’s team leader for program ministries, will oversee the work of these new grants. Arroyo commended GCORR board members for making full funding for each grant conditional upon its ability to meet the performance goals outlined in the grant application.
“After the initial payment to each grantee, subsequent payments will be made based on the project’s scheduled progress, both achieved and reported,” he said. “GCORR serves as the Church’s steward over these funds that are being granted. If, in our judgment, expected results are not sufficiently achieved, we reserve the right to adjust the amount of the payments, or, if necessary, end the funding.”