The Apostle Paul traveled and helped found new Christian communities, gathering new followers into small groups for worship and conversation. People from diverse cultures, classes, and experiences were encouraged to cross boundaries of clan and socio-economic class to build new community based on new life in Jesus Christ. Wherever these small groups gathered, the fledgling Christian church grew in intensity, effectiveness and faith.
United Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, sparked a church renewal movement to rekindle evangelical fire and a passion for addressing social ills by establishing class meetings. As the practice spread throughout England and, later, in the United States, people of faith met across society’s ridged lines of social class, gender roles, identity, race and ethnicity to discuss their beliefs, confess their stumbling blocks, minister to people in need and encourage each other to live ever more Christ-centered lives.
The Church’s reliance on representational systems as the primary mechanism for achieving diversity has shielded us from having intentional and reflective conversations about actualizing our values around diversity, equity and inclusion. Vital conversations are essential for every Christian community that strives to deepen individual and corporate faith and worship, bring new people into relationship with God, and to make a credible witness to the power of Christ and His church to transform the world for the better.
The General Commission on Religion and Race creates forums and resources, such as the award-wining Vital Conversations Video Series, to encourage authentic and invite people into dialogue about tough topics that threaten to divide and damage the Body of Christ and the things that bind us together and strengthen us.
Congregations, annual conferences, and regional and denomination-wide groups look to GCORR to facilitate, resource, guide and support discussions on how to move the United Methodist Church from ineffectiveness to efficacy, from systemic inequity to justice, and from mistrust to courageous, positive action in the name of the Christ our Savior.
GCORR is working as a catalyst by convening small groups of leaders from throughout the connection to incubate ideas and best practices on authentic community-building in response to our most challenging social concerns in the church and world. By 2024, we hope to support the convening of over 1000 groups where leaders can talk about their ministry, what keeps them apart from their neighbors and possible partners, and how to begin working creatively to address the things that keep us divided, oppressed and stuck.
We invite you join conversations that transform lives, congregations and communities. Participate in our online forums, recommend future topics for conversation and exploration, or start a new conversation about racial justice, diversity and effectiveness in your congregation or community.
Jumpstarts for your congregation
- Invite your pastor and lay leader to discuss the role of racial-ethic and cultural diversity in your congregation’s worship, evangelism and mission. Ask frank questions about what has worked or has not worked in the past, and listen. Offer to help create cross-cultural conversations and solicit their ideas and support.
- View GCORR’s video resources, such as the award-winning video series, Vital Conversations and Roll Down, Justice!, a Lenten Biblical reflection. View with your Sunday school class or leadership team, using it as a discussion-starter or study on issues of racial-ethnic-cultural diversity in your parish.
- Start a one-to-one conversation before tackling a church “event” or “program.” Ask friends from other racial-ethnic and cultural groups their perceptions about diversity and inclusion in your community. While no person can or should be asked to speak for their whole cultural group, ask an African-American clergy friend what Martin Luther King’s legacy means to her. Or ask a white friend what the terms “white privilege” or “institutional racism” mean to him.