Presidents and top representatives from United Methodist schools, colleges and universities across the United States have announced their support for the creation of a U.S. Regional Conference of The United Methodist Church.
There are multiple proposals before the 2020 General Conference that call for the creation of a U.S. Regional Conference, most recently the “Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation” set forth by a mediated group of United Methodist leaders.
At their Jan. 4 meeting, 85 members of the National Association of Schools and Colleges of the United Methodist Church (NASCUMC) signed a joint statement urging the Church to create a U.S. Regional Conference, writing:
“We, the schools, colleges, universities and seminaries affiliated with The United Methodist Church in North America affirm the work of the mediation group and express our support for a new spirit of unity that empowers ministry in contextually relevant ways. In order to cultivate such contextual empowerment, we call upon the denomination to support the creation of a U.S. Regional Conference at the 2020 General Conference in Minneapolis, MN in May.”
NASCUMC is a voluntary organization that was initiated by the United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM). It represents 115 schools, colleges, universities and seminaries in North America and educates more than 260,000 students every year. It is the second-largest group of denominationally affiliated educational institutions in the United States.
A U.S. Regional Conference would function similarly to existing United Methodist Central Conferences in Europe, Africa and Asia. This conference structure would allow churches in the United States greater regional autonomy over how they interpret the United Methodist Book of Discipline.
“Creating a U.S. Regional Conference is a crucial step toward building a United Methodist Church that is fully inclusive,” said Scott Miller, president of NASCUMC and of Virginia Wesleyan University. “For United Methodist-related educational institutions, it’s also a vital step. It would foster the kind of inclusive community in our churches that we already respect and value on our campuses.”
Plans that include a U.S. Regional Conference would set up the removal of existing restrictions on same-sex marriage and allow for the ordination of LGBTQ clergy in the United States.
“Our global connection is so important as United Methodists, especially as a denomination that is closely tied to educational access around the world. Creation of a U.S. Regional Conference allows our Church-affiliated schools to preserve that global connection, while recognizing the need for the contextualization of our shared faith,” said Mark Hanshaw, GBHEM associate general secretary for the Division of Higher Education and secretary for NASCUMC.
The NASCUMC statement closes by pointing to some of the Biblical roots for this shared connection:
“Therefore, we ask the delegates of the 2020 General Conference to vote in favor of forming a U.S. Regional Conference, remembering the words of St. Paul as they structure the Church’s future: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.’”
NASCUMC Updates: NASCUMC also voted on several structural items during its Jan. 4 meeting. A full account of the votes will be published later this week.
About GBHEM: The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry embraces the ministry of learning and leadership formation in The United Methodist Church and the Wesleyan tradition; serving Christians around the world who are shaped by a process of intellectual engagement, spiritual and character formation, and leadership development. We cultivate a dynamic culture of call and vocational discernment that encourages lay and clergy leaders to discover, claim and flourish in God’s ministry and mission for the Church, the academy and the world. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @GBHEM.