More than 100 leaders from across the Church representing the U.S. and Central Conferences gathered in Chicago from November 29-December 1 to envision and begin developing strategies for the Church to reach more people, younger people and more diverse people.
The Appreciative Inquiry Summit: Changing the Conversation on Race in the UMC, hosted by the General Commission on Religion and Race, engaged leaders throughout the Church in a process of discernment, visioning, and dialogue. The summit generated the initial design of concrete and dynamic initiatives. The collective initiatives focused on delivering measurable impact toward transforming the Church into a worldwide leader in connecting with and embodying diverse communities.
General Commission on Religion and Race General Secretary Erin Hawkins stated, “Our intent in gathering multiple voices, including those who have not been traditionally engaged with this work, was to throw the doors open and welcome everyone in. We are deeply focused on dramatically reinventing and transforming the work of the agency not just for GCORR’s sake, but for the sake of the Church, focusing attention throughout the Church on developing specific objectives and action plans that accomplish greater justice, equity and diversity at every level. ”
The meeting engaged seminarians, lay leaders, bishops, clergy, annual conference and general agency staff in transforming the work of GCORR and the entire Church as it relates to intercultural competency, institutional equity, and vital multicultural congregations. Participants included long-time advocates for racial equity and social justice within the Church as well as members historically not involved with GCORR but who care deeply about the future of the Church. Participants were challenged to lay out an aggressive vision for the full participation of diverse groups in the life of the Church and the development of relevant congregations and ministries that cross the boundaries of culture including but not limited to race, gender, language, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age and ability.
Summit participant and member of the Call to Action Team, Neil Alexander, offered this reflection about the session, “The questions that matter are how we will be faithful to the opportunity God has given United Methodists to bear witness to Scriptural and social holiness throughout the lands in such compelling, inviting and relevant ways that more people everywhere say, ‘Yes, send me!’ The folks gathered in Chicago answered vigorously, showing that we are eager to live up to and into our calling.”
Bishop Minerva Carcaño, President of the Board of GCORR commented, “The work that the General Commission on Religion and Race has been tasked with is greatly needed for growing vital congregations. We must be diligent in our efforts to reach more people, and to do so we must learn how to build authentic relationships with diverse communities in both the United States and in Central Conferences. The GCORR Board’s commitment is to help lead GCORR to be an active conduit of resources and support for the church in every place to do this work.”
Similar conversations will be planned throughout the quadrennium to engage more people. The initiatives generated through the summit will be formalized by GCORR and shared with the full body of the Church upon final development and approval of the GCORR board in February.