Friday, April 16, 2021

Recommended Reading: East Ohio/ZOE Empowers Virtual Mission

This blog has shared several stories and reflections on virtual mission trips before. Here is another one, this one from the East Ohio Annual Conference. This story is a nice write-up of a virtual mission trip conducted in partnership between several churches in East Ohio and the nonprofit ZOE Empowers. The profile explains the reasoning that went into setting up the virtual mission trip, the experience of the trip, and the impact of that trip in the US churches participating. For other churches or individuals in the United States considering a virtual mission trip, this article can help inform that decision-making process.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Organizational vs. Cultural Explanations for US Membership Decline

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Mission Theologian at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries.

Gallup recently reported that the percentage of US Americans who are members of a church, mosque, synagogue or other religious institution has fallen below 50% for the first time in the 80-some years that Gallup has been tracking it. According to Gallup surveys, the downward trend in religious membership has been driven primarily by the increase in the number of Americans who do not identify as being connected to any particular religion and secondarily by a decrease in the number of religious Americans with membership in a specific congregation.

It is worth reflecting on membership trends in The United Methodist Church in the light of this news story and the large number of similar stories about the "rise of the nones" and decrease in US religiosity that have come out for a decade or more.

The United Methodist Church has, famously, been dropping in US membership since the year it was created. This long-term trend has been the source of much hand-wringing and many schemes to reverse the downward trend in membership.

Most proposed plans to address US UMC membership decline take what I would call an organizational approach to the problem of membership decline. The assume that the cause of decline is internal to the organization and thus can be solved by making changes to the organization.

The variety of proposed changes varies: Some involve bureaucratic retrenchment. Other solutions involve new programs to be adopted by US congregations. Both strengthening and abolishing the church's teachings against homosexuality have been touted as ways to reverse membership decline. Focusing on organizational factors draws on the valid insight that there are choices organizations can make that impact their health, either positively and negatively.

But what all of these proposals miss is that UMC membership decline is not occurring in a vacuum. This organizational trend is part of a much larger cultural trend in the United States away from organized religion, especially Christianity.

That trend has affected almost all aspects of the US religious landscape, cutting across race, class, and theological traditions. To be sure, there are variations in how significantly religious membership has declined according to race, politics, theological tradition, economic class, education, and other factors, but the trend everywhere has been downward. It is just a question of how much. Even the vaunted growth of evangelical Protestantism in the 1980s and 90s has stalled out in the past 20 years, and membership decline has impacted that sector of the religious economy too.

This does not mean that there is nothing denominations can do in the face of a cultural move away from Christianity. To be sure, there are denominational traditions that have managed to grow in membership within this overall current of decline. They tend to be small, relatively young, and conservative denominations, though small and young may be the most salient features. There are too few small, relatively young, and liberal denominations to make a fair comparison.

Still, I'm sure these counter examples of membership growth give those forming the Global Methodist Church some hope, and there is a chance that their US membership will grow, at least in the short term. Unless something changes in US culture as a whole, though, they will likely find it difficult to sustain membership growth in the United States a decade after their creation. And the remaining UMC will almost certainly continue to drop in US membership.

That does not make organizational changes unimportant. Again, organizations can actually make choices that lead to greater or lesser health. Yet, US Methodists (and US Christians generally) are fooling themselves if they think that they can solve a cultural problem with organizational solutions. Such an approach is an example of what leadership expert Ron Heifetz refers to as a technical solution to an adaptive problem.

I don't know what the adaptive solution to the cultural problem of US religious decline is. I wish I did. But I am sure that understanding the nature of the problem is the first step in finding the solution.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Recommended Viewing: A Global God Series

Many churches have discovered that being virtual has allowed them to include people from beyond their local community in their worship services and other church events. One recent example comes from the Methodist Church in Britain, where Rev. Mark Hammond of High Street Methodist Church, Harpenden, conducted a series of interviews of Methodists around the world for part of High Street's "A Global God" worship series. These interviews were incorporated into the church's worship services but are also available on their own as a resource for learning more about the work of the church around the world. Interviewees come from Ireland, the United States, Israel/Palestine, and Hong Kong. For more, see this article from the Methodist Church in Britain.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

John Oda: Why Asian Americans Should Speak Out About Racism

Today's post is by Rev. John Oda. Rev. Oda is Program Manager of the Asian American Language Ministry Plan at the General Board of Global Ministries.

On May 25, 2020 George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed by a white police officer in the city of Minneapolis. Mr. Floyd was initially stopped by the police because a store clerk alleged that he had passed a counterfeit $20 bill. By now all of us have heard about the video of George Floyd and many of us have viewed it. If you have not, you should. Here is what you will see. A white police officer named Derrick Chauvin kneels on Floyd's neck with all of his weight for a total of 8 minutes and 46 seconds. It is a horrifying scene. Mr. Floyd helplessly calls out for his mother as he slowly suffocates. The crowd screams out, “He can’t breathe! He can’t breathe!”

All the while, directly in front of this small group of people is an Asian police officer, apparently there for crowd control. He stands there while the breath of life is extinguished from Mr. Floyd. And he does nothing to help. “It wasn’t my job,” he would later explain.

When I first saw that video, I was outraged on two levels. First, I was angry that George Floyd was killed for no significant reason other than he was a black man in police custody in this country. But secondly, I was also disturbed by the Asian American police officer who did nothing. I was so upset, in fact, that that night I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned, restless and unnerved. My mind kept flashing back to that Asian cop. I initially could not figure out why this hit such a raw nerve in me.

Finally, around 2:00am I bolted upright. I figured it out. The Asian police officer standing by, doing nothing, was a metaphor for the Asian American community when it comes to racism. Many of us, Asian Americans have a propensity to stand by and not get involved when it comes to issues of racial prejudice. Of course, this is not true of all Asian Americans, but the large majority of Asian Americans tend NOT to raise up our voices against racism. But now, we must.

There is a need for all Asian Americans to speak out against racism because our very lives depend upon it. Our silence is literally killing us. Anti-Asian American animosity has been on the rise. This anti-Asian American hate has been exacerbated by xenophobic policies and racist rhetoric disseminated by our previous president. When President Trump used terms like Wuhan Virus, Kung Flu, China Virus, and China Plague, he fueled the fears of and hatred against people who look like me. Asian Americans have become the scapegoats and the cause for the COVID-19 lockdown, the rising unemployment, the very discomfort that people felt and are feeling during this pandemic.

The U.S. government does not track hate crimes against Asian Americans, so back in March of 2020, at the start of the pandemic, the Stop AAPI Hate website was launched to gather reports of hate crimes against Asian Americans. According to Stop AAPI Hate, 4,000 incidents of racism and discrimination targeting Asian Americans have been reported since March 2020. And according to the organization’s data, people 60 and older have been disproportionately targeted with physical violence, as were women.

In 2020, we saw a precipitous rise in attacks against Asian Americans. In San Francisco hate crimes have increase by 50%. In Philadelphia hate crimes have gone up 200%, and in New York City hate crimes have risen by 833%. On January 26, 2021 President Biden signed a memorandum pledging to combat anti-Asian and Pacific Islander discrimination and the Presidential memorandum states, “During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric has put Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) persons, families, communities, and businesses at risk.” While I wholeheartedly affirmed this memorandum, it has not slowed the incidents of hate.

On January 5, 2021, a 52-year-old Asian American woman was shot in the head with a flare gun in Oakland’s Chinatown. On February 3, 2021, a 64-year-old grandmother in San Jose, California was assaulted and robbed of cash that she had just withdrawn for Lunar New Year gifts. On that same day in Manhattan, Noel Quintana, 61, was riding the subway when his assaulter slashed his face. On February 4, 2021, a 91-year-old man in Oakland, California was inexplicably shoved to the ground by a man who was walking behind him. On February 26, 2021, a 36-year-old Asian-American man was stabbed while walking outside the federal courthouse in Chinatown, New York City. On March 14, 2021, a Burmese man and his two children were slashed by a knife-wielding attacker while shopping in Midland, Texas. The accused man said he did it because he thought they were “Chinese and infecting people with the coronavirus.” And on January 26th, 84-year-old Thai man named Vicha Ratanapakdee was going for a morning walk in his San Francisco neighborhood, when a man running at him full speed smashed into his frail body, throwing him to the pavement. Mr. Ratanapakdee died of his injuries two days later.

And because we, as Asian Americans, do not like to raise up our voices against racism, most the acts of violence or microaggressions (subtle acts of racism), have gone unreported. I did a quick and admittedly non-scientific survey of five of my Asian American friends. I asked them if, over the past year, anything had happened to them that they might be considered an act of racism. Three out of the five of them said that they had experienced some sort of racism which they would attribute to the fears around COVID-19. One friend was yelled at in a local grocery store. She was told to go back to “where you came from” and “you people brought this virus here.”

I have also experienced racism but in subtle ways. For example, one day I was walking in my neighborhood near a grocery store. This was back in May 2020, so social distancing regulations were in full force. In front of this grocery store was the all too familiar line of people waiting their turn to enter the store. I was walking in a group of three fully masked people. I was the last in our small group and the only Asian American. While passing by this line, we all politely lined ourselves up in single file walking about 15-20 feet apart. The first person started walking by the grocery store line without any commotion. The second person went by and nothing happened. When I approached, an older Caucasian woman spotted me and with what can only be described as a mixture of utter hate and disgust, moved as far away from me as she could. She looked at the previous two people in my group but had no reaction to them. It was obvious that my Asian face scared her. She angrily glared at me as I passed by.

Would I report this to the Stop AAPI Hate website? No. Would this incident make any headlines in the nightly news? Of course it would not. However, this experience did change me. When you’ve done nothing wrong and someone stares right into your face with such hate and disgust, it makes you wonder. What did I do? Will it happen again? Will it be worse next time? This is the world which we, as Asian Americans, live in today. It is our turn to be the scapegoats.

This violence and hatred are not new. During WWII, all of my grandparents, my aunts and uncles and my own mother and father were illegally incarcerated in American concentration camps. Their crime? They were of Japanese ancestry. About 30% of those illegally forced into those camps were American citizens.

Years later a study was done which asked the simple question – how could this have happened? The study came back and pointed to three reasons why such an atrocious event could have taken place while pretty much the entire United States stood by and did nothing. First, at that time there was a pervasive hatred and prejudice against Japanese Americans. Second, there was a heightened sense of fear of Japanese Americans. They called it “wartime hysteria.” The American public feared that Japanese Americans would hurt them. Lastly there was lack of political leadership from within the Japanese American community and certainly from the U.S. government.

I would argue that these same elements are partially at work in the United States right now. There is pervasive hatred of Asian Americans from a small portion of our society. There is a heightened sense of fear, almost a hysteria, of Asian Americans because of the various uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. And lastly there is a lack of political leadership.

I would argue that this lack of political leadership is due to the fact that the majority of Asian Americans want to remain silent about racism. We have not organized on a national level very well, although this will hopefully change soon. We have not raised our voices to our elected officials and in public venues en masse. When racist incidents happen to us, we stuff it, ignore it and try to pretend the animosity against Asian Americans doesn’t really affect us that much.

Because AALM felt we must do something to combat this pervasive hatred against Asian Americans, in June of 2020 the AALM Committee created an Anti-Racism Task Force. The Task Force’s first assignment was to create an “AALM Statement Against Racism,” which we did.

This group was next tasked with creating a series of webinars focused on racism. These webinars were aptly named “Raise Up Your Voice Against Racism.” The target audience for these webinars would be Asian American United Methodists and beyond. AALM, the General Board of Church and Society, and the NFAAUM came together and planned these webinars. The webinars were coupled with six “in between” conversations, which were held in between the webinars.

The purpose of the webinars and the “in-between” conversations is three- fold: first, the webinars and conversations hope to educate the audience about racism. Most of the material is presented through an Asian American lens. Secondly, the webinars and the “in between” conversations hope to dispel the myth that the issue of racism is a White and Black issue – it is not. The Asian American community has not felt the years of oppression that the African American Community has felt, but our pain is nonetheless real. Lastly, the webinars and the “in between” conversations highlight the need for all Asian Americans to speak up and out against racism and emphasize the importance for us to stand in solidarity with our Brown and Black brothers and sisters in this fight.

On March 15 the Asian American Language Ministry Plan and the New Federation of Asian American United Methodists (NFAAUM) published a powerful statement condemning the violence that was being perpetrated against the Asian American community. All the active Asian American United Methodist Bishops endorsed the statement, as well as Asian Americans in academia and many Asian American United Methodist church leaders. The next day, 8 people were senselessly murdered at three massage parlors in metro Atlanta. Six of those who died were Asian American. While the authorities have yet to say that these shootings were hate crimes, I know that these slayings were a part of the ongoing, consistent, and growing pattern of violence against Asian Americans.

As I finish writing this piece, I am also preparing to go to the same grocery store where that woman glared at me with utter hate and disgust. It will be my first time back at that grocery store since that incident. An uneasiness sits in my stomach because I know that at any moment any random person can come by and glare at me, or spit on me, or yell at me or even hit me simply because I am of Asian ancestry. It is the climate in which we Asian Americans live in today and it will only stop if we Asian Americans loudly raise up our voices against racism and work together with other communities of color and allies to dismantle the systems of oppression and hate in the United States.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Hollowing Out of The United Methodist Church

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Mission Theologian at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries.

As I argued in my previous piece, the cancelation of the proposed May 8 special General Conference is an indicator that General Conference may not pass major legislation when next it meets in person, currently scheduled for August 2022. In this piece, I would like to explore the implications for the denomination if that were to happen.

Before I do so, though, I should clarify what I mean by “pass major legislation.” Here I have in mind legislation that would significantly change the structures or operating procedures of The United Methodist Church. Such legislation includes the Protocol, the Christmas Covenant, changes to the Book of Discipline statues on gay marriage and gay ordination, reorganization of the boards and agencies, and approval of a Global Book of Discipline.

Although some would consider a budget for the church a major piece of legislation, I am considering that as routine legislation. General Conference always passes a budget; hence it is routine, even as it has major impact on the work of the church. The bar to passing routine legislation, even when that legislation is significant, is lower than the bar to passing legislation that would cause major changes in the denomination. Institutional inertia both discourages changes and encourages routine acts.

What, then, would the implications be for The United Methodist Church if it is unable to pass major legislation at the next General Conference? I suggest that it would leave a hollowed-out connectional system, in which connectional structures continue to exist, but without the significance, power, or meaning currently in them.

A General Conference that proves unable to pass major legislation at a critical point in the church’s history will show the failure of General Conference as a source for addressing the felt problems of the members and component organizations of the denomination. The bishops, who have already had a lot of criticism leveled at them, are likely to sustain more if General Conference is unable to act. Thus, the two main top-level authorities will be further undercut. To be sure, the denomination will continue to have future General Conferences and bishops, but fewer will look toward them as a means to solve the problems of the denomination. Instead, more people will look to more local levels of the church as a site for ministry initiatives, problem solving, and decision-making.

Without passage of the Protocol, the exit path for Traditionalists (and the much smaller group of Liberationists) is much steeper and more difficult. Some congregations, districts, and annual conferences that might otherwise want to leave may find themselves stuck within the UMC for financial and legal reasons while remaining connected to others who do leave to form the Global Methodist Church. This arrangement may mean that the WCA and similar organizations continue to exist to serve the remaining discontented Traditionalists within the UMC. It also means that episcopal areas, annual conferences, and districts will continue to be sites of conflict between unwillingly remaining Traditionalists and others happier to stay within the denomination. Thus, significant conflict within the church will continue, both at the General Conference level and at various regional levels.

It is almost certain that there will be less money within the connectional system. Any budget that does get passed as a piece of routine legislation will be smaller, and churches are less likely to be willing to pay apportionments into a system that they see as dysfunctional, conflict-ridden, and unable to produce results. This is likely true no matter what General Conference passes or does not. Yet without major legislation, it will be more difficult for boards, agencies, annual conferences, and other entities to do ministry in creative ways that could better leverage reduced funds. Instead, they will be forced to continue to serve current ends less effectively, given their reduced budgets.

Reduced denominational funds will have implications for United Methodism in the central conferences. In some places, The United Methodist Church is relatively self-sufficient and growing. There, it will continue to prosper, though with less emphasis on its worldwide connections and more emphasis on United Methodism as an identity within the local religious economy. Elsewhere, loss of funds and reduced connection to the worldwide church will diminish the reputation of the church as a source of good in society and/or deplete patronage resources available through the church. More church members will decamp for other denominations, perhaps one of the forms of pentecostalism that are currently making such significant inroads among Methodism around the world.

Congregations in the United states will continue to face headwinds in attracting and retaining members, both from the larger cultural environment and the specific problems associated with the United Methodist identity, to the extent that members or potential members are aware of that identity. Much of the successes within the United States will be at the local church level. Dynamic churches that have found a way to prosper within the current system of United Methodism are likely to be able to continue to do so, though they may use the term “United Methodist” to describe themselves less and less frequently. As in the central conferences, the emphasis will be less on worldwide connection and more on a congregation’s identity within the local religious economy. Struggling churches will continue to struggle and eventually close.

Almost all of what I have described above is continuations of current trends within the denomination. And that is really the danger of General Conference being unable to pass any major legislation. Things will continue as they have been, only more so. More top-level disfunction. More fighting at denominational meetings. More loss of membership in the United States. More challenges with financial sustainability in parts of the central conferences. More budget reductions and staff cuts at agencies. More nationalism in the central conferences and congregationalism in the United States.

The system of United Methodism will not collapse, but it will crumble. People will, however, continue to live and worship within that crumbling system. Some will leave, both in the United States and around the world, but many will stay. The groups that remain within the crumbling shell will have less to do with one another. There will continue to be spots of spiritual vitality, but there will also be a lot of people pining for the glory days of yesteryear, dreaming sad dreams of how the Spirit moved when they were young.

This is not an uplifting picture of the future, and I have been struggling to see where God will be at work in the midst of this system. I recognize, though, that God being at work does not mean a happy ending to all stories. Despite Americans’ relentless optimism and desire to focus on the good even amidst disasters, sometimes things end badly. When Jeremiah prophesied that God “will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a lair of jackals,” it was bad news for a city that very soon would see a significant portion of its population violently removed. Jerusalem did not completely collapse, but it certainly experienced some heavy crumbling.

Yet, Isaiah prophesied that even the jackals which Jeremiah foresaw taking over Jerusalem would honor God. And 70 years later, exiles would return to that crumbled city and rebuild it. Moreover, God had been with God’s people in other cities and would continue to do so.

The United Methodist Church may end up hollowed out. But God will still be in the world, including in the hollow and hurting places within the UMC. And perhaps in 70 years, the children or grandchildren of those who will go out weeping shall come home with shouts of joy after all.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Why the May 8 General Conference Failed

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Mission Theologian at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries.

Watchers of The United Methodist Church were set awhirl last Monday by the announcement that the Council of Bishops was canceling a call for a special May 8 General Conference, less than four weeks after the call had been issued. Certainly, the sudden about face reflects the difficulties of operating in the context of the pandemic, but it also offers larger insights about the current state of The United Methodist Church.

This post will attempt to use what I have previously written about the major issues and variety of actors presently in the UMC to attempt to make sense of the controversy over the now canceled May 8 General Conference and what that means for the next time the General Conference does meet.

The Controversy over the May 8 General Conference
In issuing the call for a May 8 special General Conference, the bishops were operating out of what I have labeled an Institutionalist perspective. The very limited purpose of the May 8 session was to obtain permission to vote by mail on a list of actions that the bishops saw as necessary for maintaining the institutions of the church in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bishops determined what counted as critical maintenance for the church, so the list emphasized bishop-related concerns, as other commentators have pointed out, but the outlook was generally Institutionalist.

But almost as soon as the call was issued, it became clear that rather than simply enabling a straightforward procedure of institutional maintenance, the May 8 General Conference would be a Pandora’s box that would bring out the concerns of other parties within the denomination.

US Traditionalists were immediately unhappy that the May 8 session did not include their top issue: separation from the denomination through the Protocol. Some commentators began suggesting that the May 8 agenda could be modified by a 2/3rds majority to include the Protocol on the list of issues up for consideration.

US Progressives, on the other hand, critiqued the call both on procedural grounds (they saw the move as episcopal overreach) but also because it did not address what is shaping up to be a main Progressive concern: election by the current, Progressive-majority jurisdictional conference delegates of new bishops to replace retirees and new agency board members.

Especially once it became clear that the May 8 session would be more than a straight up-or-down on mail ballots, the Africa Initiative, voicing a Regionalist perspective from Africa, critiqued the call because of its disenfranchisement of African delegates without access to reliable internet service.

Thus facing criticism from three major blocs in the denomination, the bishops reversed course and canceled the May 8 session, promising “deeper listening” and “a possible need for a new timeline leading up to” the next scheduled in-person meeting of General Conference, in August 2022.

The failed May 8 General Conference is an instance in which one bloc within The United Methodist Church (the Institutionalist bishops) tried to act to accomplish one of its goals without giving other blocs an opportunity to accomplish any of their goals at the same time and seemingly without significant prior consultation with other blocs.

The Institutionalist bloc, however, needed the cooperation of other blocs to accomplish that goal. In response to the Institutionalist bishops’ actions, members of other blocs criticized the Institutionalist bishops not so much for the validity of their goals (though there was some of that by Progressives), but for the process by which they sought to achieve their goals.

Acknowledging that they needed but did not have the cooperation of other blocs, the bishops admitted defeat and abandoned this attempt to achieve their goals. It remains to be seen how the bishops and all other actors will now try to pursue their ends.

What Does This Episode Mean for the Future?
The criticism of process and the unwillingness to allow another bloc to accomplish its goals without one’s own bloc accomplishing any goals speak to the dearth of trust in the denomination. Fights about process indicate a lack of trust, since process is seen as giving benefits to one group that other groups fear will be used against them.

Moreover, whereas in a healthy system, groups might be willing to allow others to accomplish goals that do not directly negatively impact them, trusting that others will eventually return the favor, in a system lacking trust, no one is willing to let others act without receiving an immediate benefit in return. There is no credit without trust; everything must be bartered into direct exchanges of benefits.

As many others have observed, a lack of trust is endemic within the system of United Methodism and has been for some time. This will not change because the May 8 General Conference has been canceled. Indeed, the whole episode will instead increase distrust, as some have already indicated.

Thus, the same consequences of lack of trust that arose in this case and have arisen repeatedly in the past decade will likely reoccur. When they next meet in person for General Conference 2022, and in the meantime, United Methodists can be expected to spend a lot of time fighting about process, and no group is likely to want to allow another group to achieve its goals without achieving some of its own at the same time.

The upshot of this situation is that there is a high chance that, despite all of the pressure for General Conference 2022 to make major decisions for the future of the denomination, nothing major will actually come out of GC2022. This fits with a pattern of recent General Conferences, one that is likely to get worse rather than better because the underlying causes have only increased.

As the debate of Rule 44 in 2016 showed, procedural debates can eat up days of a short General Conference, limiting the ability of the General Conference to actually consider legislation. And changed rules from 2016 that require all legislation to be voted on in committee represent another instance in which it will be easy for the General Conference to get bogged down in procedure and squabbles over it, with the result being that little makes it to the plenary for consideration.

Then, even if legislation does make it to the plenary, there are significant issues around sequencing of legislation, given that blocs are unwilling to allow each other to achieve their goals first. Traditionalists, Progressives, Internationalists, Institutionalists, and Regionalists may all want their priorities voted on first and be unwilling to allow another groups’ priority to be voted on before their own. Thus, the plenary could fail to pass legislation not because of disagreement on the merits of the legislation but because of disagreement on the sequencing of the legislation.

One solution to the sequencing problem would be to vote on issues at the same time, as in the Alaska Omnibus Proposal (AOP). But at this time, it is not clear how much buy-in the AOP has from various groups, as the consultation that went into writing it seems to have been limited, and the Alaska Delegation has had little success in the past in forwarding its legislative proposals.

Another possibility is that deep listening, as called for by the Council of Bishops, and active coalition building over the next year and a half could yield enough trust to build a consensus around procedure and sequencing that would allow for major legislation to be passed. Bishop John Yambasu and mediator Kenneth Feinberg were able to accomplish this in leading parties to negotiate the Protocol. But the difficulty of that process indicates the challenges involved, and the death of Bishop Yambasu makes it unclear who would take up his mantle and lead such an effort.

Thus, there remains a significant chance that General Conference 2022 will not pass any major legislation. My next post will look at what that would mean for the church if it comes to pass.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Recommended Readings: Asian American Language Ministry Statements

The Asian American Language Ministry (AALM) Plan is a long-standing initiative of Global Ministries whose work has become that much more critical in the past year amid conversations about race in the United States. AALM has issued multiple statements on Asian Americans and race over the past year that are critical reading on how the UMC is engaging issues of race, especially as they impact and involve Asian Americans. Those statement include the following:

AALM and the New Federation of Asian American United Methodists (NFAAUM) issued a statement condemning the rise of anti-Asian violence in the United States on March 16th, just hours before the shooting of six Asian American women and two others in Atlanta. This statement was signed by numerous prominent Asian American leaders in The United Methodist Church.

In February, AALM issued a statement condemning attacks on Asian American elderly persons, which have been on the rise.

Last summer, AALM issued a statement against racism in the wake of the George Floyd protests. AALM, NFAAUM, and Church and Society worked together to compile a video of young Asian American United Methodists reading the statement.

In addition to the linked PDF versions above, the latter two statements are also available in Word format on AALM's website.