COB Ecumenical Officer meets with leaders of UMC agencies

As the new Ecumenical Officer for the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church, Bishop Sally Dyck met with several agency leaders on February 1 to talk with them about how they engage in ecumenical and interreligious ministry.  It became quickly apparent that Jesus’ mandate for unity among the followers of Christ is being lived out with vitality and enthusiasm across the denomination. 
Greg Bergquist and Amos Nascimento of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry spoke of recent work with Candler School of Theology on an ecumenical document of best practices for worship during a time of pandemic.  They also spoke of a desire to improve Pan-Methodist and Pan-Wesleyan relationships in terms of global theological education.
Susan Henry Crowe, John Hill and Levi Bautista of the General Board of Church and Society spoke of the vital ecumenical work they do through the United Nations and through their work on peace and justice around the world.  They also spoke about the use of the United Methodist Building in Washington, DC being a hub of ecumenical and interreligious joint ministry.
Harriett Olson of the United Methodist Women (UMW) shared about their work with the United Nations as well, and of the ministry that takes place in the building in New York, providing coordination and collaboration with other faith-based groups.  She shared about their involvement with the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women and with other women’s groups in mainline denominations.  She also spoke of UMW’s deep involvement in the World Council of Churches (WCC) gender justice program.
Roland Fernandes, David Scott and David Wildman of the General Board of Global Ministries shared six areas in which they engage ecumenically and interreligiously.  Those areas include: the WCC, the ACT Alliance, global ministry with regional Christian conferences, US ministries with Church World Service and the National Council of Churches, a partnership with WesPath to pay attention to ecumenical justice in terms of finances, and their work with the United Nations.
Garlinda Burton of the General Commission on Religion and Race noted they are the only free-standing agency within the mainline denominations focusing solely on racial justice and relations.  They have lent leadership to ecumenical conversations on White Privilege and to the organization of the Rally to End Racism.  They hope to continue to be more involved and connected.
Gil Hanke of the United Methodist Men (UMM) was unable to attend the gathering but sent work about the UMM’s work with the Pan-Methodist men’s ministries.  Their goal is to bring real relationship with Christ to men of all faith communions.
This celebration comes at a time in the life of The United Methodist Church when financial cuts have been made to ecumenical and interreligious ministries and some might question their importance.  The ministries had been housed in their own agency, but the General Conference of 2012 voted to move the ministries under the oversight of the Council of Bishops.  In addition to the Ecumenical Officer, the staff now consists of two Ecumenical Staff Officers (one primarily focusing on bi-lateral relationships and the other on multi-lateral relationships), a part time Administrative Assistant, and the assistance of the rest of the bishops’ staff.  This staff group leads ministries such as UMEIT (United Methodist Ecumenical and Interreligious Training), formal connections with ecumenical and interreligious agencies and groups as mandated by the Discipline, administration of the Interdenominational Cooperation Fund, coordinating grants and scholarships, staffing bi-lateral dialogues and commissions with other Christian groups, theological discernment through the Committee on Faith and Order, and the creation of resources.
Bishop Dyck hopes to continue these ecumenical conversations and include additional leadership and additional ecumenical topics.

By  Jean Hawxhurst