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Dr. Jerome King Del Pino

Dr Pino
March 5, 2013

Plenary III

"How can we as a denomination provide institutional mechanisms for the support of racial/ethnic clergywomen? How will your agency undertake efforts to make United Methodists accountable to racial/ethnic clergywomen's issues? What are the specific problematic and policy areas of your agency's work that may or should relate to addressing challenges racial/ethnic clergywomen face? How can racial/ethnic clergywomen shape your programs and policies that support their ministries? Share briefly what steps have the Council of Bishops specifically or your agency taken to the implementation of the seven pathways in relation to racial/ethnic clergywomen."

Dr. Jerome King Del Pino

 

Thank you, madam chair. I am very thankful to be able to be here with you and I assure you that this is the biggest challenge that I have had since I did my doctoral dissertation defense and I want to just simply say that in deference to all of my colleagues here on the dais that I am going to do my very best to be as succinct as possible and when it is eight minutes, I'll stop. Alright? I hope that that is satisfactory.

Let me say first and foremost that the questions that have been asked I believe are going to be addressed in a variety of ways by those who are present here on this dais. I want to set a context for you to understand what is the peculiar or I think a very specialized responsibility that the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry has in relationship to the agenda that has been laid out here during our consultation as well as what really is going to be out there once you leave here. The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry is not understood by many in terms of what is its mandate and I want to share that with you as a context for much of what occurs here since irrespective of what might be the inclinations of other agencies. The reality is that the denomination finally holds the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry responsible for much of the challenge that faces racial/ethnic clergywomen in this denomination and since we relate directly to the Bishops as well as to the Boards of the Ordained Ministry, it is important for us to bear this in mind.

I want to begin my comments in this discussion by noting the specific context of the multifaceted commitment and mandates of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. In October of 2006, the Board of Directors approved a board-wide strategic plan that has given focus and established specific terms of accountability for the life and work of the Board on behalf of the entire denomination. The strategic plan declares that the mission of the Board is "to lead and serve the United Methodist Church in the recruitment, preparation, nurture, education and support of Christian leaders, lay and clergy, for the work of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."

The Board's raison d'etre, its reason for being, is to advocate for and enable the development of leaders for both the church and society. To this end, its beckoning and driving vision is: a new generation of Christian leaders who commit boldly to Jesus Christ and are characterized by intellectual excellence, moral integrity, spiritual courage and holiness of heart and life.

There are then also seven core values which undergird our pursuit of this vision. Among them are:

 

  • Partnership in ministry, which is to say that we are not alone, we are not Lone Rangers in the task of leading the denomination in the development of leaders. We are not alone in that enterprise. Hence, local churches and annual and central conferences, other agencies of the denomination and our higher education institutions, all of these, are partners in the effort to ensure that our development of leaders for the life of the church is something that is dynamic, something that is broad-based, something that is very rich.
  • Theological reflection and discourse. A source of expression of faithful discipleship in the context of both ministry and cultural life as a contribution to public discourse. The reality is that the church speaks to the church more often than it does anything else but it is essential that the church would have resources to speak in clear and compelling ways to a world that is always teetering on some brink of destruction.
  • Loving God with our hearts and minds. Bottom line, anti-intellectualism and the dumbing down of the faith and knowledge, in general, is anathema; it is not accepted.
  • Connectionalism. (I won't start in on that, I may eat up too much of my time.)
  • Stewardship and accountability. The Board has, as the core value, to be good steward of the resources that the general church provides and also to be accountable in its performance of its duties.
  • Respect and integrity. Namely, there are no big I's and little U's when it comes to the way in which the board is to conduct its work. And so there should not be any surprise even though I myself am surprised that 1982 was the last gathering of Racial/Ethnic Clergywomen.

And before I say another word, I want to enter into the record a word of thanks, deep appreciation for someone who has labored very hard in keeping the dream and the flame alive,Angella Current Felder, are you in this room? And I want you to know, sisters and brothers, that there is no one who has been more vigilant and understands the subtle intricacies of how you co-op resources that are being claimant for by others in the agencies in order to be able to do the work that has been done through the Women of Color program as well as bringing us to this great moment in our time together.

  • Inclusiveness, Diversity and Access. For all persons, mark our commitment to higher education and ministry of the church in accordance with the Book of Discipline. That is very important: in accordance with the Book of Discipline.

So mission, vision and core values are the public commitments for which the Board must be held accountable and they are the context within which I want to hazard making some specific proposals that address some, if not, all of the goals of this consultation.

Let me begin this portion by simply saying this: those who may not realize it, it is indeed the case that our church is engaged in a Herculean struggle about who is going to control it in the 21st century. That struggle is not one that is located any one place geographically, it is at all levels of the church and it is occurring in ways that are both subtle as well as blatant. Those efforts that are being made are undergirded by what I call a truncated theology of what it means to talk about inclusivity what means to look at the church and understand that the church is expected to be a replication of that great banquet table that we read about in scripture and that we are not to be doing this incrementally but it is something that we are charged to do in the most radical of ways because the culture is not waiting for us.

The reality is this: that if we go back to the inception of the emphasis or the quadrennial emphasis on the ethnic minority local church of 1976 General Conference Portland, Oregon. First time I was a delegate and then for two successful quadrennia after that, the United Methodist Church, as a merged church finally wakes up and realizes that it is a church that has a very diverse body and it endeavors in very, very demonstrable ways to celebrate that diversity. But the fact of the matter is that it has been stillborn. The reality is, that if we check the demographics against what was present in the church in 1976 and where we are now, we are in trouble.

I want to submit to you that it has to do with leadership, leadership and leadership. It has to do with the fact that there are those of us who have been in leadership who have not been able or have been unwilling to make the challenges that are necessary in order to be able to move within this in the life and work of this church in such a way that we're going to continue the tearing down of barriers and walls that have existed and that the generation now passing has done so much in bringing about the changes that were necessary. I think that it is important for us to be mindful of the fact that this denomination, at this point in time has more opportunity than it realizes. So much of what we have been struggling with has been focused in loss of members and in therefore loss of dollars. The United Methodist Church does best in its stewardship when the stock market is up. Isn't that something? Didn't Dr. Malveaux tell us last night that we needed a new system of economic justice, a new economy, a new understanding and yet the United Methodist Church is at its best financially when the market is up? That is important for us to be mindful of because in no small way the resources of the church in order to develop leaders has been pegged to that very reality. I think that we need to overcome that and there are specific ways to do it. I am not going to spell those out at this point in time but I want to suggest to you several things that I think are going to address the realities that have been brought to us in this excellent report on the Status of Racial/Ethnic/Minority Clergywomen in the United Methodist Church.

The first proposal I want to make is this: that indeed we need to be about having a cultural study as requirement for the M.Div. curriculum of the 13 United Methodist seminaries. Now, what do I mean by that? Before you applaud, you need to understand what I mean. I do not look upon our seminaries as training schools; they are not ITT. They are citadels of learning where folks go to learn how to think not in order to be able to learn by rote. And therefore in my making this proposal, I am saying that in no small way we need to have our seminaries to look at their entire curriculum and rather than tagging something on to that which is going to be unpleasant for somebody who is really in love with his or her field, we're going to have to say to that professor, you want to remain on tenure here, you are going to have to think more integratively than this.

The second thing I want to propose is that in these cross-racial appointments and providing educational materials for clergy, bishops and the cabinets, I want to suggest to you that our problem is not fundamentally intellectual; our problem is spiritual and that is not to, in any way, obviate the need for us to provide the resources that I think do in fact need to be provided. We have had some good resources be developed through the board but I want to suggest to you this morning is this: that there must be intentionality on the part of the supervising authorities in ensuring that there is a theology that undergirds the appointment of persons to congregations that are not of their ethnicity or of their culture. We as a people, who are Christian, believe that there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither gentile; we believe that it is possible for all to be one with Christ. Our problem is fundamentally theological and for us to continue to do sociological analysis of this is only going to postpone our really coming to terms with what really ails us. And so these resources must be developed but I want to suggest that we are really going to have to call upon the best minds of the church, both lay and clergy, who are going to be willing to commit themselves to think and to reflect upon this and enable us to have resources that are going to speak to what are the genuine needs of communities that are in shock when they must in fact invade their comfort zones in order to be able to participate in the birthing of this new world in this nation at least, where there is going to be a greater number of women and men who are not Eurocentric background.

Thirdly, I want us to consider the possibility of our being able to have a greater number of resources developed particularly in terms of research projects regarding the relationship between gender and race. This is not something the General Board can do by itself; it is something that is going to call for actual, not collaboration because collaboration is only a way of saying I am going to do what I want to do after we finish talking. There's got to be consultation and accountability amongst the agencies in regard to how we are going to provide such resources for the church.

Fourthly, I believe that the issue of language diversity is something that we have not yet put our best minds to. Namely, we are very monolithic in our understanding of how we go about preparing women and men in order to be able to serve within the total connection. The reality is the way we function right now, it is a pipe dream to assume that somebody has to be prepared well enough that theoretically they can serve at any church in any conference. The reality is that that is not going to happen. And until we are in fact able to be more serious about that, we need then to be more humble and to say that we can approach the issue of language impediment in a way that is going to still be responsible, that is going to ensure that women and men are placed in pulpits, are placed in positions of leadership and they will not be individuals who have empty heads, they will be able to communicate but we are going to have to be able to do that far more creatively than we have done.

Number five: I believe that there will be, from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, a greater commitment than we have had in the past, a greater commitment to holding the seminaries accountable for the way in which they build their faculties. Now be clear, I don't sit on the Board of Trustees on any of the 13 theological schools and seminaries, one of my staff does (Rev. Moman), we are not able to dictate anything; we don't have a proprietary interest in our seminaries. But it is the case that our seminaries do belong to the church; they are schools of the church. And so the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry is committed to ensuring that we have high level conversation regarding how those who are women of color within this denomination who have prepared themselves well are to be given an opportunity to be able to serve within the life and work of our 13 theological schools.

Number six: As a part of the education fund, I believe that we are going to look at being able to establish scholarship for women in theological education in different parts of the world. Our resources in the United States are not as limited as some people say they are but what I want us to understand here today is this: that if we are serious about the development of global leaders for a global church, it means that we are going to have to be prepared to provide the resources in order to do that. And so that is our commitment.

Seven and finally: I believe that the Board is committed to being an advocate for racial/ethnic clergywomen in related to their theological education, their ordination and their appointments and that will be done through the networking that the board has with the Boards of Ordained Ministry as well as the Boards of Higher Education and Campus Ministry. I believe that this is a very great time to be alive and that those of us who are committed to providing resources are ready, willing and able to do that. Thank you.

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