More than 300 participants from 30 countries across the Methodist connection and educational institutions worldwide gathered for the International Association of Methodist Schools, Colleges, and Universities (IAMSCU) conference on the campus of Universidad Madero, a Methodist school in Puebla, Mexico. An IAMSCU conference occurs every three years and has become a major pan-Methodist event for scholars and leaders to discuss Methodist education around the world. The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) plans and provides resources for much of the IAMSCU conference, and administration for IAMSCU programming throughout the year.
The previous IAMSCU conference was hosted in Hiroshima, Japan in 2014, and focused on peace, reconciliation and human rights. The related theme for this year’s meeting in Puebla was “Tearing Down Walls: A Pathway to Peace, Healing, and Humanity.”
Prior to the start of this year’s IAMSCU conference, participants gathered in Puebla, Mexico for pre-event seminars on topics including education, peace, human rights, and well-being in a global perspective. Regional IAMSCU groups also met for business lunches. IAMSCU consists of five global regions, each with their own sub-groups: Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America. Participants also enjoyed the hospitality of the people of Mexico. Participants were hosted by local churches, interacted with more than 150 volunteers, tasted culinary traditions of Puebla, learned about the fine programs offered at Universidad Madero, and established new partnerships. Participants could visit the Baroque Museum, Puebla’s historical downtown, the pyramids of Teotihuacan, and the old city of Cholula.
A Dynamic Program
Pre-conference seminars included sessions with scholarly presentations selected through an academic, peer-review process, and showcased the teaching, research, and community engagement of faculty and community members related to ecclesiastic and academic institutions from various parts of the world. The program included 50 presentations selected from nearly 80 submissions. The selected papers are being considered for publication in a book series that will be available to members of IAMSCU.
Kirsty Jenkinson of Wespath gave a day-two lecture titled, “Well-Being through Environmental Stewardship.” Five panel discussions were held throughout the conference with participants joining from each of the five IAMSCU regions. The 2017 panels included:
- Education for Liberation, facilitated by Amos Nascimento, United States
- Education for Peace and Reconciliation, facilitated by Elisabeth Charles, India
- Environmental Education, facilitated by Mark Davies, United States
- Education for Human Dignity, facilitated by Stephen Hendricks, South Africa
- Business and Investment Partners in Education, facilitated by Vivian Bull, United States
During the conference, students, faculty, staff, and leaders of schools, colleges, and universities had strategic meetings that yielded many results:
- The Student Program was attended by 70 students and led by Adriana Murriello, Victor Valerio, Paul Carr, Gina Thesée, and Luther Felder. Based on the success of this program, a new initiative has been proposed to bring high schools together and develop new programs for young students.
- Theological institutions from various parts of the world, especially from Latin America, began to organize themselves to promote collaboration and develop new theological programs within IAMSCU.
- University leaders discussed new forms of partnership. A letter of intention between Africa University (Zimbabwe) and Universidad del Centro Latinoamericano (Argentina) was signed to promote global education through IAMSCU.
- A “Puebla Declaration” was also presented, which served as a declaration of IAMSCU to promote global education cooperation among institutions related to IAMSCU, nurture the tradition of Methodist education, promote peace, human rights, human dignity, global citizenship and environmental stewardship (view English version or Spanish version).
Focus on Immigration
The opening ceremonies celebrated IAMSCU’s diversity, including a procession of participants in academic regalia carrying national flags, and a keynote speech from Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, California-Nevada Annual Conference. The bishop’s powerful and inspiring message included a challenge to schools, colleges, universities and theological seminaries related to The United Methodist Church, to “tear down walls and promote peace, healing, and humanity!” Bishop Carcaño leads the task group on immigration for the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church.
The timely conference theme was chosen before news of the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe, and before the U.S. president made promises to build a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border. The conference content was based on the values of Methodist education, and the theme referred to a global context. The conference explored immigration issues and the history of the walls that once separated East and West Berlin, and the walls that continue to separate Israel and Palestine, North and South Korea, and Europe and Africa.
“Conference participants were challenged to think about the walls we establish in our own minds when considering the separation between “us” and “them,” “rich” and “poor,” etc.,’ said Amos Nascimento, associate general secretary, global education, GBHEM.
In a report to the IAMSCU conference, Rev. Dr. Kim Cape, general secretary, GBHEM, stated, “GBHEM is a global agency, deeply engaged in ministry in various contexts, and profoundly concerned with recent events, challenges, and discussions about immigration, refugees and asylum issues. Therefore, immigration has increasingly become an important task in our ministry.”
GBHEM oversees and supports the work of more than 60,000 clergy worldwide. GBHEM works consistently to provide Methodist leaders with the resources needed to follow God’s call around the world.
The IAMSCU Board of Directors reiterated the importance of a resolution on immigration it had approved in 2015. An excerpt from this resolution states, “In this era of unrest, violence, and war, the world faces a humanitarian crisis in terms of migration, immigration, slave trade, and refugees which involves millions of people.” The resolution identifies children as those especially affected and victimized by these circumstances, and noting their specific need for compassion and care.
New Leadership and Special Award
Dr. Marcio de Moraes was reelected as president of IAMSCU and new members were chosen to compose the IAMSCU Board of Directors. Additional plenary sessions were hosted throughout the conference to conduct organizational business.
The Almir de Souza Maia Award for Excellence in International Scholarship was awarded to Mab Huang, a political science professor at Soochow University in Taipei, Taiwan. Huang is known for his research and courageous, insightful writing around the topics of human rights, social justice and human rights education.
The Ken Yamada Distinguished Leadership Award, presented jointly by IAMSCU and the National Association of Schools and Colleges of The United Methodist Church (NASCUMC), was awarded posthumously to Dr. Ted Brown.
Dr. Brown, had been chosen for this honor prior to his unexpected death on May 20. Dr. Brown served as the 30th president of Martin Methodist College for nearly 20 years, and as IAMSCU president for six years. At the time of his death, he was serving as interim associate general secretary for the Division of Higher Education at GBHEM. He previously served on the GBHEM Board of Directors for two consecutive quadrennia, as vice president of the Division of Higher Education.
A World Without Border
Bishop Kenneth Carter, Florida Annual Conference, gave the closing sermon at IAMSCU: “What God is Tearing Down and What God is Building Up.” In his sermon, he challenged the attendees to think of a world without borders. Referencing the work of Doctors without Borders, Carter said, “What if there were a movement called Methodists without Borders. What if we believed that the salvation we offer, mind, body and spirit, is so important that it transcends the vagaries of human politics and laws, and the walls we construct to protect our power and privilege?”
The conference concluded with the Episcopal leadership challenging participants to become a movement: Methodists without Borders, to express commitment to peace, healing, and humanity.
Founded in 1991, IAMSCU recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. Established at the World Methodist Conference in Singapore, 20 institutions from around the world initially joined together. Today, IAMSCU includes 1,042 education institutional affiliates in more than 80 countries. The structure of the organization consists of the assembly, board of directors and executive officers (president, vice president and secretary/treasurer). The board of directors is composed of members from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America. The IAMSCU Board of Directors meets annually, and elections for new officers are held every three years at the IAMSCU conference. For more information on IAMSCU or GBHEM, visit GBHEM.org.
About GBHEM: As the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s mission is to lead and connect the educational and ministerial life of the church. Every elder, deacon and licensed local pastor benefits from our training and candidacy programs. Many young adults find help in clarifying their vocation and God’s call on their lives through our leadership and discernment programs. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @GBHEM.