Thursday, August 7, 2014

Recommended reading: Thomas Kemper on local plans and global connections

Diversity can mean several different things in The United Methodist Church.  Americans often think about diversity in terms of racial and ethnic diversity within the United States.  This blog is dedicated in part to exploring the diversity of national expressions of United Methodism in different countries around the world.  Both of these deal with cultural and racial/ethnic forms of diversity, but the two are distinct, and it's important not to lump all forms of non-white American United Methodism together.

But at the same time that it's important not to conflate domestic racial/ethnic diversity with international racial/ethnic diversity, it's also important not to make the opposite mistake and assume that there are no connections between racial/ethnic minorities in the UMC in the US and United Methodists in other countries.  Thomas Kemper, General Secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), has written a great article recently on the connections between the national ministry plans for the denomination's ethnic caucuses in the US and the global mission of the denomination.  Kemper rightly points out that these national plans mediate between local ministry and international connections.  Especially in this age of international migration, it's impossible to separate local ministry from connections to other countries.  The article gives several examples of this phenomenon, but such connections are particularly important for such groups as Hispanics/Latinos, Koreans and Korean-Americans, and Filipinos and Filipino-Americans and other Southeast and East Asian groups.

As part of my work for this blog, I regularly scan United Methodist news on Twitter.  The @Hispanic_UMC Twitter feed certainly covers news about ministry to Hispanics/Latinos in the United States, but it also carries a lot of news from Methodists throughout Latin America, most of whom are from sister denominations, not the UMC itself.  That Twitter feed is an excellent example of the sort of international connections that are important for shaping the local ministries envisioned by the national plans about which Kemper writes.

Is this juxtaposition of varying geographic levels - local, national, international - confusing?  Perhaps.  Confusing or not, though, such intersections are an important feature of the often complex scenarios in which The United Methodist Church is called to carry out ministry and mission.

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