“One bread, one body, one Lord of all,” the hymn goes. For United Methodist Christians, justice, shared power and equality are values we espouse. However, God’s people – including church members – have allowed injustice, greed, and false notions of cultural and gender superiority to foster inequality and oppression, even in God’s church.
The General Commission on Religion and Race is known for our practice of “monitoring” the participation and representation of people of color and white people. By tracking the numbers of people speaking at meetings, elected as decision-makers and ordained and named to leadership positions, GCORR has challenged the denomination toward more diverse and inclusive leadership.
The push for increased representation has helped break down walls of segregation and to open more doors to more diverse people. We have done this by empowering and equipping leaders and communities to champion and embrace racial, ethnic and cultural inclusion.
Today, the call is to go much deeper in the quest for institutional equity by looking at impact, not just representation. In moving to this next level of accountability, GCORR leads the church in examining structure, policies, practices, mission and financial priorities, to answer such questions as:
- Are church funds used equitably to establish new congregations and ministries in communities of color, among immigrants and in low-income communities?
- Do current methods for identifying, recruiting and nurturing church leaders include strategic and focused efforts among Black, Brown, Yellow, Red and interracial persons?
- As we become more inclusive, are we understanding that within the complexities of race and ethnicity there is also the perspective of poverty, homophobia, tribal conflict, gender discrimination disability and generational difference?
- What progress has each annual conference and district made in increasing the number of successful cross-racial, cross-cultural clergy appointments?
- How do we transform churchwide structures and practices so that decision-making and priorities reflect the whole people of God, including younger people, more diverse people and people for whom English is not their first language?
To help The Church answer God’s call to be the world-changing Body of Christ for this moment, GCORR offers research and analysis, resources and training to lead the United Methodist Church beyond mere monitoring to a system-wide commitment to undoing institutional bias.
GCORR also helps network and share best practices from congregations, annual conferences, and individual laity and clergy already living out the Christ-centered equity and justice for which we long.
Jumpstarts for your congregation
- Urge your leaders to adopt a policy of nondiscrimination for your congregation. Add this to congregational policies on Safe Sanctuary, accessibility and hiring. Include statements of welcome for laity and clergy of all races, ethnicities and cultures, using Articles 4 and 5 of The United Methodist Church’s Constitution as starting points. Discuss implications of adopting and living into such a statement.
- Connect with your conference Commission on Religion and Race<link to new directory of CORR chairpersons), Justice for Our Neighbors or United Methodist Women. These groups are engaged in intentional study with and mission partnerships with people of diverse cultures and the call to unify the Body of Christ.
- Consider how the advancement and increase of people of color in church leadership has resulted in a more diverse General, Jurisdictional, and to some extent Annual Conference leadership pool, but that GCORR’s work has not reached to the local level of our congregations.
- Gather demographics on the racial-ethnic composition of your surrounding community.) U.S. churches may start with the Census Bureau data.) Compare your findings with the composition in your congregation and discuss.
- Consider how GCORR’s work confronting xenophobia, ethnic discrimination and tribalism beyond the U.S. and the communities it currently serves, work that began with a focus on the U.S. has grown to include General Conferences.