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Bishops, BIPOC delegates discuss diversity

People talking and eating

The NCJ College of Bishops met with BIPOC (black, indigenous, and other people of color) delegates to build on the jurisdiction’s commitment to inclusion and anti-racism.

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On Wednesday, retired and active members of the North Central Jurisdictional (NCJ) College of Bishops met with BIPOC (black, indigenous, and other people of color) delegates for a time of reflection and conversation over lunch.

The topic centered on matters of accessibility, belonging, inclusion, diversity, and equity and how these qualities are being lived out in the North Central Jurisdiction. Bishop Lanette Plambeck, resident bishop of the Dakotas-Minnesota Area, provided prompts for discussion:

    • What are the celebrations you are seeing in The United Methodist Church?
    • How do we do better as people called United Methodist?
    • If we were to take one action to do a new thing in the NCJ, what would it be?

The Michigan Conference has made a strong committee to becoming an anti-racist conference. Christ calls us individually and as faith communities to build God’s beloved community by dismantling racism and cultivating intentional inclusion. The Anti-Bias/Anti-Racism (ABAR) Education & Training online curriculum, launched in March 2023, is required of all persons serving under appointment or assignment in the Michigan Conference, in addition to conference staff.

The NCJ, too, is committed to both anti-racism work and LGBTQIA+ inclusion. In 2021, NCJ delegates created and approved a Covenant to Build BeLoved Community; they affirmed that covenant at the 2022 NCJ Conference in Fort Wayne, Indiana. There, delegates approved a resolution encouraging the College of Bishops to meet at least once a year with BIPOC leaders within the NCJ to share spaces of hope and strategize for continued ways to build beloved community.

Delegates spoke of the better place The United Methodist Church finds itself in post-General Conference, especially in light of legislation related to regionalization and LGBTQIA+ inclusion. Some delegates are experiencing an attitude of innovation, experimentation, and excitement about what God can do in this new season of the church. There’s a boldness to do things differently, such as creating lighthouse congregations post-disaffiliation or new church starts that are drawing diverse people and younger people. One delegate celebrated the increased participation among younger individuals and said that “DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] is very important to them because they are DEI.”

Reflecting on ways the church can improve, several delegates voiced their concerns about moving beyond words and promises to action. Rev. Chiyona Bourne, Indiana Conference, mentioned the call to be more than just an ally but an accomplice, “standing with people when they are hurting, when they’re being reprimanded, when they’re losing their jobs.” Rev. Beverly Wilkes-Null, Illinois Great Rivers Conference, urged the church to lean into listening, deeply tuning in to “those who are hurting, those who have been left out and left behind, and offering words of hope and encouragement.” It’s imperative to listen to our young people, she said, because the church was not relevant to them before General Conference. But now, “this truly is a church not just in word but also in deed.”

In response to Bishop Plambeck’s question of what one new thing we can do in the church in light of our ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion, Rev. Charles Boayue, clergy delegate from the Michigan Conference, spoke of the need to “stop playing church and start being church.” Most of the problems we see in the church we created for ourselves, said Boayue, because “we negotiate only with ourselves.” The church exists not for itself but for the world. He confessed and lamented, “My heart burns for the evangelistic mission of the church. It keeps shrinking, and we keep adjusting our budgets to the shrinkage.”

Bishop Julius Trimble, Indiana Conference, concluded the session by sounding an alarm that the threat of white Christian nationalism is rising in American society, and we must not be silent, as fundamental human rights, particularly women and people of color, are being threatened and taken away. He urged our churches to return to our Methodist roots of radicalism, which many of the historic black churches in The United Methodist Church were built upon. They were strengthened by “making disciples of Jesus Christ and the transformation of society.” Bishop Trimble said one way to tap into these roots of radicalism is by taking hold of the Revised Social Principles, which were approved at General Conference.

Last Updated on July 12, 2024

The Michigan Conference