Last weekend, I attended the theological colloquy entitled “The Unity of the Church and Human Sexuality: Toward a Faithful United Methodist Witness," sponsored by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) and the Association of United Methodist Theological Schools (AUMTS). The goal of the colloquy is to bring the best thinking of United Methodist academics from around the world on questions related to debates over homosexuality and discussions of the future of The United Methodist Church as a united institution.
While I was impressed with the faithfulness and the academic insights of the participants, I was nonetheless disappointed that there were not more participants from outside the US (there was one from Mozambique and one from Denmark) and that there were not more papers focusing on elements of United Methodist history from outside the US.
I understand that GBHEM made significant efforts to reach out to schools outside the US, most of whom were not able to participate for a variety of scheduling and economic reasons. Nonetheless, I thought the omission of such elements from the discussion left a significant lacuna in the work of the colloquy.
To get a sense of the sorts of topics that the colloquy could have considered that would have dealt with material from outside the US and have been of relevance to the colloquy, I have come up with ten such possible paper titles below:
"Polygamy and The United Methodist Church in Africa"
"The Impact of Holiness: Controversies and Schisms in Methodist Mission History"
"Disciplinary Flexibility: Lessons from the Central Conferences"
"How Shall We Remain United?: The Legacy of COSMOS for Methodist Models of Structural Unity"
"Schisms Over Who Is Ordained: The Desire for Indigenous Leadership in Methodist Missions"
"The Splits of 1930: Mexico, Brazil, and Korea as Different Models for Continued Unity After Structural Separation"
"Better Together: Theology, Polity, and Practicality in the Eglise Metodiste d' Cote d' Ivoire/UMC Merger"
"John R. Mott's Methodist Vision of Unity"
"Japanese Imperial Rites and Methodism in Korea: Conscience, Expediency, and Polity"
"Uniting and Dividing: Creating the Independent Methodist Church in Mexico by Merging MEC and MECS Missions"
I don't know specifically which scholars could have presented such papers, and it is certainly beyond my scope of expertise to have written each of them. Nor is this list necessarily the best or only list of such topics. Nevertheless, it is important that the UMC consider its whole history as it moves toward whatever its future may be.