A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
United Methodist News Service
Leaders of five groups that represent the denomination’s ethnic constituencies have some suggestions for increasing the number of vital United Methodist congregations.
They urge The United Methodist Church to:
- cultivate new leaders who can reach a racially diverse mission field and
- continue support for the denomination’s national plans for racial/ethnic ministries
The Inter-Ethnic Strategy Development Group made these recommendations in its second statement regarding the Call to Action initiative and the proposed consolidation of nine of the denomination’s 13 general agencies under a 15-member board. General Conference, the denomination’s top-lawmaking body, will take up proposals to reorganize the denomination’s general agencies when it meets April 24-May 4 in Tampa, Fla.
The group’s statement released in September 2011 raised concerns that the proposed restructuring would minimize the participation of people of color and work against the denomination’s principle of inclusiveness.
Its February statement maintains that earlier position but also endorses the Call to Action charge “to mobilize the whole church for vital and effective mission” and suggests thoughts on how to reach that goal.
“We affirm the Call to Action’s vigorous Call for Leadership but would urge a heightened emphasis on differing dynamics of leadership that will reach a more racially diverse world parish,” the statement said.
If The United Methodist Church wants to reverse decades of declining and aging U.S. membership, the denomination will need to do more to reach people of color, group leaders say. That means nurturing more leaders who are ethnic or racial minorities. It also means doing more evangelism among immigrant populations and making church more inviting for more people.
“We seek a structure where racial ethnic persons are not invisible,” the statement says.
The inter-ethnic group includes leaders of the denomination’s five official ethnic caucuses: Black Methodists for Church Renewal, Metodistas Asociados Representando la Causa de los Hispano-Americanos, National Federation of Asian American United Methodists, Native American International Caucus and Pacific Islander National Caucus of United Methodists.
“We say we want to be diverse, but what are we showing the world? Look at our leadership,” said Anne Marshall, chair of the Inter-Ethnic Strategy Development Group. She is also chair of the Native American International Caucus.
“You talk to younger generations and they’ll say it doesn’t matter what someone’s color or race is, but then they’ll turn around and say, 'I don’t know if I will belong because there’s no one who looks like me,'” she added.
The five Unified National Plans for Strengthening Ethnic/Racial Ministries offer tools to address this problem, the inter-ethnic group said. The group urges that any restructuring plan General Conference approves continue the work of the national plan.