By: Christa Meland
On the final day of the 2021 Minnesota Annual Conference Session, nearly 400 members in attendance approved by a vote of 313-28 a resolution that all congregations in the Minnesota Annual Conference join in the national denominational agency work of the General Commission on Race and Religion (GCORR) and the General Board of Church and Society, the denominational work of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the ongoing efforts of ecumenical partners in dismantling racism, opposing white supremacy, and advocating for racial justice.
Suggested ways to join in these initiatives, as named in the resolution, include applying for a Minnesota Church and Society grant to do a group study on racial justice in your congregation, engaging in a GCORR dismantling racism curriculum and campaign, partnering with the Minnesota Conference’s newly hired racial justice organizer, creating a congregational Race and Religion Team to engage in anti-racism education within the church and outreach in the church’s community, and participating in acts of repentance, such as returning human remains or artifacts sacred to indigenous peoples in Minnesota.
The resolution was submitted by five conference teams: the Minnesota Church and Society Ministry Team, Minnesota Commission on the Status and Role of Women, Minnesota United Methodist Women, the Minnesota Committee on Native American Ministry, and the Minnesota Committee on Religion and Race. These groups pointed out in the resolution that it aligns with The United Methodist Church’s Stand Against Racism as well as the Minnesota Conference’s aspirational vision, which articulates a Methodism that is rooted in Jesus, grounded in Wesleyan theology, inclusive of all, and engaged in the work of justice and reconciliation.
“The events over the past 13 months have really brought racial inequities to the forefront,” said Gail Chalbi, chair of the Minnesota Church and Society Team, who introduced the legislation live before conference attendees. “I never thought of myself as racist, but after watching videos, reading books, and taking part in seminars, I realized that I wasn’t acting as an anti-racist. It wasn’t due to not caring, but because of ignorance. Just as women could not give themselves the right to vote, our black and brown brothers and sisters cannot be the ones to give themselves equality…Those of us with white privilege need to educate ourselves and others on the racial disparities, the history of racism, systemic racism, and what white privilege means. That is what this resolution is endeavoring to do.”
Before voting on the resolution, members engaged in 30 minutes of “holy conferencing” to discuss it. Holy conferencing is a means of grace that involves entering into community (in this case, conversation) with the purpose of thoughtful, prayerful, respectful discourse and discernment while seeking spiritual encouragement and instruction.
Seventeen people spoke to the resolution, most of whom affirmed it.
“This is what Jesus modeled for us—he never left anyone out,” said Carol Egan, a lay member of St. Paul’s UMC in Mendota Heights. “That’s what we want to do too: to love the way he does.”
Many noted that the church not only should, but must, take an active role in dismantling racism.
“The authenticity and the integrity of our witness going forward as a church in 2021 really rests on our ability to handle and approach anti-racism well,” said Rev. Tyler Sit, who serves New City Church in Minneapolis and encourages us to approach racial justice efforts not as an extra-curricular activity or committee obligation but rather as “ongoing work of repentance and repair that is essential and core to Christian spirituality.”
Rev. Eric Shin, who serves Discovery UMC in Chanhassen and Korean Evangelical UMC in Hopkins, pointed out that racism is very much alive within the church.
“Not only do we face racism out in our society but also in our churches and possibly in our conference,” he said. “What type of racist practices do we have even in our own institution? I’d love to explore that some more and to see how we can dismantle racism in our society but also in the church as well.”
Rev. Chris Carr, pastor of youth ministries at Lake Harriet UMC in Minneapolis, said for those of us with privilege, this resolution provides an opportunity to take on a Christ-like mentality of humility and enter into conversation without getting stuck in places of guilt or defensiveness but instead live into our full personhood in the body of Christ.
Members approved all pieces of legislation before them. Another item of note was the 2022 apportioned budget, which passed by a margin of 336-1. The 2022 budget totals $5,525,000, which represents a reduction of $454,000, or 7 percent, from the 2021 approved budget. With an “uncollectible contingency” of $375,000, the total to be apportioned is $5,900,000. The uncollectible contingency accommodates anticipated shortfalls in some churches’ apportionment payments.
The budget was recommended to members by the conference Council on Finance and Administration (CFA). While the budget will continue to support our current level of ministry and service during this “gap period” until the General Conference meets in 2022, it also recognizes budget constraints of local churches. The budget reduction was made possible because of significant investment reserve returns over the past year. Portions of the 2022 budget and a significant amount of the uncollectible contingency were funded by a combination of investment earnings and reserves.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church