Exactly one month ago today over a thousand United Methodists from across the globe gathered in Portland, Oregon (U.S.), speaking more than 20 languages, from five continents, to attend opening worship and organize the 2016 General Conference. Even more joined online. Vast differences at General Conference were apparent from the very beginning-differences in language, tribe, identity, race, age, gender, ability, and theology.
To be a worldwide Church requires a level of intercultural communication and competency that is demanding and at times difficult. Even recognizing differences means that we acknowledge that there is more than one story and more than one cultural reality. We celebrate all the ways in which this happened throughout General Conference and we are clear there are many places where the church fell short of our theological task.
Legislatively, 13 out of 14 petitions submitted by the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) were considered and passed. The disciplinary mandates of the agency were adapted to re-articulate the agency’s mission and ministry. These changes reflect the agency’s response to the current global realities of race, tribe, ethnicity, and culture experienced within the worldwide church-particularly at the local church level. Other significant GCORR-submitted legislation considered and affirmed by General Conference includes clarifying the responsibilities of annual conference commissions, affirming the use of diverse languages in the U.S., opposition to white privilege, opposition to racial profiling, and opposition to global racism, tribalism, and xenophobia .
Legislation changes polity but relationships change people. Change is most genuine when we begin with our own awareness. GCORR is committed to building the capacity of The United Methodist Church to be contextually relevant and to reach more people, younger people, and more diverse people as we make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. That requires more than legislation. We get that and are here to partner with you each step of the way. Check out www.gcorr.org for updated resources on intercultural competency, equity, and on having vital conversations. In the coming weeks, GCORR will release study guides featuring key worship moments from General Conference and inviting you to go deeper and explore in small groups what ministry looks like in your local context when you engage across lines of difference.