|Church wants stronger bonds in southern hemisphere|
Bishop Minerva Carcaño leads the General Conference committee
studying relationships with Methodists from Latin America and the
Caribbean. UMNS photos by Larry Nelson.
By Linda Bloom*
March 21, 2007 | PANAMA CITY, Panama (UMNS)
The bonds between United Methodists and their Methodist counterparts
in Latin America and the Caribbean can and should be strengthened.
Such was the consensus that emerged from a March 1-4 consultation in
Panama City that brought together United Methodists and Methodists from
that region, along with representatives of the British Methodist Church.
The dialogue was sponsored by a study committee created by the 2004
United Methodist General Conference, the denomination’s top legislative
body, to review relationships with the independent Methodist churches of
Latin America and the Caribbean. Bishop Minerva Carcaño of Phoenix is
the study committee’s chairwoman.
Carcaño said the established leadership of the Latin American and
Caribbean churches "is excited about the conversation" but acknowledged
that others may question whether the conversation will evolve into a
true dialogue. Several attempts in recent years fizzled, she noted.
Marcia Fitzner, a study committee member from Willard, N.M., echoes
that concern. "My main worry is that there will be no follow-up," she
said. "Otherwise, (autonomous churches) will really be discouraged."
New leadership, new commitment
United Methodist Bishop Joel Martinez of San Antonio, another study
committee member and president of the denomination’s Board of Global
Ministries, is impressed by the commitment of newer and younger
leadership from the region.
"My main worry is that there will be no follow-up. Otherwise, (autonomous churches) will really be discouraged." -Marcia Fitzner
"The most significant idea or perspective that has been raised here
for me is the emphasis on mission being central and primary and
structure accompanying that mission," Martinez said.
The Rev. R. Randy Day, the board’s chief executive, said the
consultation left him with "a deep hunger for deeper and more frequent
interaction" among Methodists of Latin America, the Caribbean and North
"I think authentic partnerships, based on equality, respect of
culture and openness will be the preferred vehicle of the future,
building on what is already happening," he noted, with "people-to-people
partnerships having priority over business as usual in church circles."
Day pledged his agency’s commitment to support working partnerships
of local congregations and annual conferences throughout the hemisphere.
"The vigor of the consultation indicated to me that our leaders are
eager to build on our heritage, avoid past mistakes and forge ahead with
a sense of hope, justice and enthusiasm," he said.
Steps toward dialogue
Carcaño listed at least two immediate steps that the 2008 General
Conference can take: let the study committee make a presentation on the
floor of General Conference and agree to a dialogue "on what it means to
be connectional but autonomous."
Bishop Joel Martinez compliments the commitment of newer and younger Methodist leaders in the region.
Small group discussions at the consultation reflected the desire for
improved communications with The United Methodist Church "at all
levels," the education of United Methodists about their counterparts in
Latin America and the Caribbean and a plan of mutual visits and cultural
and ecclesiastical exchanges.
The Methodist Church in Argentina, for example, has connections not
only with U.S. United Methodists but also United Methodists in Germany,
France and Switzerland, the British Methodist Church and the United
Church of Canada, according to Bishop Nelly Ritchie.
The best connections are not through church bureaucracy, Ritchie
said, but through "the commitment of person to person, community to
Relationships between specific United Methodist annual (regional)
conferences and the Latin American/Caribbean churches are considered
good, and regional representatives want to build on those connections.
The Methodist Church of Peru brought a proposal to the consultation to
add language to the United Methodist Book of Discipline that would normalize relations with conferences and individual bishops.
United Methodists participating in the consultation cited several
ways to advance the agenda of improving relationships: asking General
Conference to produce its documents in Spanish in addition to the
current English, French and Portuguese; assigning a United Methodist
bishop to the denomination’s Holistic Strategy for Latin America; and
arranging a meeting at the 2008 General Conference between the United
Methodist Council of Bishops and bishops and presidents of the Latin
The Council of Bishops has its own Task Force on the Global Nature of
the Church, which is considering how bishops can help lead the
denomination to progress on all issues of its global relationships.
A dance troupe in native dress performs for the consultation.
Some study committee members will participate in a May 18-20
consultation in Atlanta on the Global Nature of the Church, sponsored by
the denomination’s Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious
The Rev. Larry Pickens, the commission’s chief executive and a study
committee member, believes there is a basic agreement about the need for
more interaction with Methodists of Latin America and the Caribbean. He
expects that building new relationships with the region’s churches will
be ongoing over the next decade.
"The fact that so many agencies were present and active in the
consultation indicates a desire to begin the effort to define
connectionalism in a new way," Pickens said. "We don’t need General
Conference action to begin exploring ways in which we can resource each
Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
Bishop Minerva Carcano: "There's some woundedness."
Bishop Minerva Carcano: "…what it means to be connectional yet autonomous."
Bishop Juan Vera Mendez : "It was a slow, painful process." Also: En español
Bishop Juan Vera Mendez : "We hope the whole church will be involved." Also: En español
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Methodism has history in Latin America, Caribbean
Latin American Methodists eager to rebuild
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Committee examines ties with Latin American/Caribbean Methodists
Board of Global Ministries