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Study Committee on Latin America and the Caribbean (81579-GM-NonDis-$)

Report of the Study Committee on the Relationship Between The United Methodist Church and the Autonomous Methodist Churches in Latin America and the Caribbean
I. MANDATE
The 2004 General Conference of The United
Methodist Church through the adoption of Petition
41379 mandated that a study on the relationship
between The United Methodist Church and the
Autonomous Methodist Churches in Latin America
and the Caribbean be conducted during the
2004–2008 quadrennium.
The study was to include an
analysis of the present relationships, ways of improving
the relationships, and the identification of opportunities
for mission collaboration. The aforementioned study
committee was further given the responsibility of developing
and implementing a consultation process with the
leaders of the autonomous Methodist churches in the
Latin America/Caribbean region that would allow the
voice of the churches in the Latin American/Caribbean
region to be heard through the sharing of their concerns,
but also their hopes and aspirations.
For these purposes a study committee was organized.
It is composed of 12 persons, three from the
Council of Bishops, three from the General Board of
Global Ministries, three from the General
Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious
Concerns, and three from Latin America and the
Caribbean. In an effort to be good stewards of our
resources the study committee has done much of its
work by conference call and e-mail, but it did hold a
research and planning meeting in February 23-25,
2006 in São Paolo, Brazil, and then conducted a
major consultation on March 1-4, 2007 in Panama
City, Panama. This consultation gathered representatives
from all of the Autonomous Methodist Churches
in Latin America and the Caribbean, representatives
from the general agencies of The United Methodist
Church, and the Study Committee. The following section
presents the recommendations forthcoming from
the Panama Consultation.
II. RECOMMENDATIONS FROM
THE PANAMA CONSULTATION
On March 1-4, 2007 the Study Committee conducted
a major consultation with the autonomous
Methodist Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean
in Panama City, Panama. Delegations of bishops, presidents,
and other leaders from each of the Methodist
churches of Latin America and the Caribbean participated
in the consultation. The following recommendations
forthcoming from this consultation are now
presented to the 2008 General Conference of The United
Methodist Church for its consideration and action.
RECOMMENDATION #1
Together we must redefine and deepen the concept
and understanding of our Connectionality for the
enhancement of relationship, building programs that
will enable the fulfillment of the mission of the church.
Our Connectionality must reflect a spirit of inclusivity,
koinonia, mutuality and respect. To fulfill this proposal
we would recommend that we:
A. Affirm a mutuality in Mission that extends
itself in both directions, from The United Methodist
Church to the Methodist Churches of Latin America and
the Caribbean, and from the Methodist Churches of
Latin America and the Caribbean to The United
Methodist Church.
This mutuality needs to find expression in all that
we do together including in the areas of our . . .
Evangelization and Discipleship
Missions
Pastoral and Theological formation
Christian Education
Projects of Sustainable Development
Worship and Liturgical Renewal
B. Create a committee on Connectional
Program
composed of representatives from The United
Methodist Church, the Council of Evangelical
Methodist Churches of Latin America (CIEMAL) and
the Methodist Churches of the Caribbean and the
Americas (MCCA). This committee should include representation
from the Council of Bishops of The United
Methodist Church, the Council of Bishops and
Presidents of the Methodist Churches of Latin America
and the Caribbean, the general agencies of The United
Methodist Church, the United Methodist Holistic
Strategy for Latin America and the Caribbean
Committee as well as such representatives from
CIEMAL and the MCCA.
The Committee on Connectional Program will meet
once during the quadrennium. The expenses for the participation
of the representatives of The UMC will be covered
by the respective sending agencies. The participation of the
representatives from Latin America and the Caribbean will
be covered by The United Methodist Church, through
funding designated by the General Conference.
Funding request: $10,000
C. Encourage an ongoing program of visitation
of Bishops (i.e., the Council of Bishops’ Global
Visitation, etc.) and other leaders of The UMC
(i.e.,
Volunteers In Mission, General Board of Global
Ministries visits, the Holistic Strategy for Latin America
and the Caribbean, etc.) to the Methodist Churches of
Latin America and the Caribbean, and facilitate the visitation
of the Bishops and lay and clergy leaders of the
Methodist churches of Latin America and the Caribbean
to The United Methodist Church to engage in direct and
horizontal communication that would facilitate a better
understanding of the realities of each mission partner’s
context of ministry and mission.
D. Support and enable direct relationships
between the local churches and Annual Conferences
of The United Methodist Church with the Methodist
Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean.
E. Activate the Conference of Methodist
Bishops,
as provided for by The Book of Discipline of
The United Methodist Church 2004
, to serve as a forum
where closer relationships can be developed between the
Bishops of The United Methodist Church and the
Bishops and Presidents of the Methodist Churches of
Latin America and the Caribbean.
RECOMMENDATION #2
We must commit to openness in our communication
with each other. We believe that open channels of
communication can enable us to overcome past mistakes,
create a transparency that will facilitate healing in
those places where we experience brokenness, and
allow for the healthy sharing of power. Open and transparent
communication should be affirmed and extended
to all levels of the church. Our channels of communication
presently need to be clarified to facilitate a better
process of consultation and dialogue. To fulfill this proposal
we would recommend that:
A. All communications of The United Methodist
Church and its agencies be conducted through the
official, established and recognized lines of authority
of the Methodist Churches of Latin America and the
Caribbean in the official language of the receiving
churches.
B. In the same spirit of mutual accountability, that
all communications of the Methodist Churches of
Latin America and the Caribbean also be conducted
through the official, established and recognized lines
of authority
of The United Methodist Church.
C. Encourage the Web page managers of The
United Methodist Church and Methodist churches of
Latin America and the Caribbean
, including their
councils and cooperative organizations such as
CIEMAL and MCCA, to include links to each other’s
Web pages as means of communication and information
sharing on our common life and mission.
D. All General Conference documents be translated
into Spanish and made available to delegates
whose language preference is Spanish.
RECOMMENDATION #3
We are convinced that the Methodist churches of
Latin America, the Caribbean, and the general agencies
of The United Methodist Church, the United Methodist
Council of Bishops, and the Connectional Table of The
United Methodist Church, must seek to find a balance in
their mutual programs of evangelization and diakonia,
in order to more fully express the whole mission of God.
To fulfill this proposal we would recommend that:
A. The United Methodist Church accompany
the Methodist Churches of Latin America and the
Caribbean in together being a prophetic voice in the
face of the multiple social justice issues
that create
suffering among God’s people in the Latin American
and Caribbean contexts, giving particular attention to
social injustices caused directly and indirectly by the
international policies and involvement of the government
of the United States.
B. Within a framework of holistic mission, evangelization
and diakonia, The United Methodist Church
through its general agencies, seek means to further the
task of evangelization and the growth of the
Methodist work in Latin America and the
Caribbean.
C.
The general agencies of The United Methodist
Church, in consultation with the Methodist Churches of
Latin America and the Caribbean, intentionally and
cooperatively develop and direct a Holistic Strategy
for Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Holistic Strategy for Latin America and the
Caribbean will meet once a year in conjunction with the
meetings of the Directive Board of CIEMAL and
including representation from the Methodist Church of
the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA). The expenses
for the participation of the representatives of The United
Methodist Church will be covered by the respective
sending agencies. The expenses for an additional day of
the meetings of the Directive Board of CIEMAL will be
covered by The UMC, through funding designated by
the General Conference.
Funding request: $10,000
These recommendations are best understood in the
clarifying light of our shared history. We highly commend
the following historical summaries to you for your
consideration.
III. OUR HISTORY OF
RELATIONSHIP
The action of the 2004 General Conference reflects
the desire of The United Methodist Church to better
understand its past, present and future relationships with
the Latin American and Caribbean region. The United
Methodist Church and its predecessors have related to
this region for more than 165 years. The ties that bind
our churches are enriched by the exchange of missionaries,
volunteers and resources. United Methodists have
strong partners in the autonomous Methodist churches
of Latin America and the Caribbean. The study of our
relationships that has been conducted during the 2005-
2008 quadrennium represents the continuation of a journey
of discernment within our shared Wesleyan
connection.
The depth of the historical ties and profound faith
relationships between the people called Methodist of
Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South
America and United Methodists has enriched our mission
history. The roots of Methodist communities in
the Latin America/Caribbean region are on the island
of Antigua (Caribbean), where a congregation of Afro-
Caribbean slaves developed in the 1760s; it was the
first Methodist congregation outside of England and
Ireland. Within the Spanish Caribbean, Methodism in
British and African Methodist Episcopal expressions
has been present on the Island of Hispaniola
(Dominican Republic and Haiti) since the 1820s. In
South America, Methodist work was begun in 1836 in
Brazil and Argentina, and in 1838 in Uruguay through
mission initiatives from Methodists in the United
States. With the major exception of British mission
outreach along the eastern coast of Central America,
the Dominican Republic, and Haiti, most Methodist
mission initiatives in the region came from the predecessor
denominations of The United Methodist
Church: Mexico (1873), Cuba (1883), Chile (1878),
Peru (1888), Puerto Rico (1900), Bolivia (1906),
Panama (1906), Costa Rica (1918), and the Dominican
Republic (1922). At the time of the formation of The
United Methodist Church (1968), the Evangelical
United Brethren Church was involved in mission work
in Brazil, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and Puerto
Rico. In recent years, new Methodist communities
have developed in Guatemala, Ecuador, El Salvador,
Nicaragua, Columbia, Venezuela and Paraguay, and a
United Methodist mission initiative is currently underway
in Honduras.
Early mission outreach throughout the region was
frequently met by hostility, even violence, and some followers
of the Methodist way paid for their faith by
imprisonment, social exclusion, and even martyrdom.
This heritage of fidelity is treasured by the Methodists
of the region, and is a reality that has few parallels in
U.S. Methodism.
In the early years, oversight of mission initiatives
was the responsibility of bishops from the United States,
mission agencies, and mission superintendents. The
General Conference of 1920 formed a Central
Conference, a regional organization, with two episcopal
areas in Latin America.
The Methodist Church of Brazil, experiencing significant
growth in the early years of the 20th century,
petitioned both the 1922 and 1926 General Conferences
to provide episcopal leadership that would be resident in
that country, a practice which would become the norm
in Africa, Europe, and the Philippine Central
Conferences. The failure of the General Conference to
act in favor of its petition led Brazil to become an
autonomous Methodist Church in 1930. In that same
year, the Methodist Church in Mexico, facing hostile
anti-American sentiment because of the Mexican politi-
cal situation of the day, also made the decision to
become an autonomous Church.
Over the years a growing concern among a number
of the Latin American churches was the need to have
greater possibilities for self-determination and identity.
The volatile anti-American political situations in Cuba
and other countries during the 1960s and 1970s underlined
the need for denominational legislation that would
permit flexibility in changing and complex situations
and contexts.
The Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the
Americas (MCCA), constituted in 1967 by churches
developed through British Methodist mission efforts,
entered into a relationship with The United Methodist
Church as an affiliated autonomous church. It, along
with Mexico and Puerto Rico, now has a Concordat
relationship with The United Methodist Church that
grants it representation and full participation in the
General Conference of The United Methodist Church.
IV. HISTORIC ACTIONS
The General Conference Commission on the
Structure of Methodism Overseas (COSMOS), formed
in 1948 to address the situation of non-U.S. churches,
brought a recommendation to the 1968 General
Conference that enabled churches desiring autonomy to
more easily take the step toward autonomy. The
Methodist Church of Cuba became autonomous that
year, and in 1969 Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, and
Bolivia followed, with Costa Rica and Panama becoming
autonomous in 1973. In 1992 the Methodist Church
of Puerto Rico became autonomous and, after a 12 year
transitional process, developed a concordat with The
United Methodist Church that was approved by the 2004
General Conference of The United Methodist Church.
The 1968 COSMOS recommendation that there be
representation of autonomous churches on the General
Board of Global Ministries was not acted upon. Thus,
Central Conferences have a presence within the Board
of Directors of the General Board of Global Ministries,
helping to identify and shape responses to their needs,
but there is no one on this Board of Directors to speak
for or see through the eyes of those from Latin America
and the Caribbean. Historically, Latin America ranked
with Africa and Asia as United Methodist mission priorities,
receiving major commitments of staff leadership,
missionary personnel, financial resources and program.
Today, however, many perceive that this commitment
has become considerably less when compared to funding
and commitments extended to other regions of the
world.
At the 1968 General Conference of The United
Methodist Church, COSMOS was disbanded and it was
determined that all matters related to autonomous
churches would be referred to the General Conference
Committee on Central Conference Affairs. This decision
has had serious negative consequences for the
autonomous churches. Any concerns raised by the
autonomous churches are considered in a situation
where they are without representation and by a body
which is, in fact, constituted to advocate for Central
Conferences rather than for autonomous churches.
Indeed, this has tended to put a vast part of the
Methodist work in the world “off the map”.
The 1968 General Conference did commit The
United Methodist Church to give the same importance
to the autonomous churches as it would give to United
Methodist Central Conferences. It seems clear that this
has not happened. Thus, the action of the 2004 General
Conference, calling for a study of relationships with
action recommendations to the 2008 General
Conference, is a recognition of the unsatisfactory nature
of the present situation and the inadequate state of the
connection in the Western Hemisphere.
Although Latin American leaders desired and advocated
greater self-determination as a necessary step for
effective mission in their contexts, a number of Latin
American, as well as some U.S. leaders, regret that the
1968 decision was itself not more flexible in that it did
not provide for alternative avenues of relationship adaptable
in changing situations. Behind this regret is the
conviction that Wesleyan theology and ecclesiology do
not support the concept of “full autonomy” for any unit
within the Methodist connection. John Wesley’s very
assertion of the world as his parish makes the case for
close linkages among Methodist brothers and sisters
everywhere.
In 1998 twenty-two Latin American bishops, representing
the 17 member churches of CIEMAL (Council
of Evangelical Methodist Churches of Latin America
and the Caribbean), stated in a message to the United
Methodist Council of Bishops: “We yearn, along with
you, to strengthen the bonds of connectionality of the
churches of Latin America and The United Methodist
Church.” In response, the Council stated: “The Council
of Bishops is committed to strengthening the bonds that
bind us together.” A joint meeting of the Council of
Bishops and the Bishops and Presidents of the churches
of CIEMAL and The Methodist Church of the
Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA) in 2002 in Puerto
Rico was an important and historic step in this process.
Indeed the Council of Bishops of The United
Methodist Church has long been open to receive the
charisma and wisdom of one bishop from the
autonomous churches. However, the challenges and
opportunities for us to walk together as good stewards in
mission and ministry for the sake of the Gospel and
Christ’s own compelling call to us to be one, encourage
us to seek even deeper connections with our Methodist
brothers and sisters of Latin America and the Caribbean.
The 2004 General Conference action to approve
Holistic Strategies for Africa and Latin America and the
Caribbean underlines the extraordinary opportunities
and urgent need to strengthen our relational and mission
partnership in the hemisphere.
V. CONCLUSION
As we have done our work it became clear to us
that we needed to find ways to further document the history
of our relationships with the autonomous Methodist
Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean as well as
articulate our understanding of what it means to be a
connectional church. We have been gifted by the good
work of Dr. Robert Harman and Dr. Wilson Boots as
they have provided a summary of the history of our relationships.
Bishop Aldo M. Etchegoyen, General
Secretary of the Council of Evangelical Methodist
Churches in Latin America and the Caribbean
(CIEMAL), Bishop Peter D. Weaver of the Boston Area
of The United Methodist Church, and the Rev. Dr.
George Mulrain, President of the Methodist Church of
the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA), have helped
us to gather our fundamental theological perspectives on
autonomy and connectionality. We include these significant
contributions for your study and reflection.
We who have had the privilege of serving on the
Study Committee have been deeply blessed. We have
grown in our understanding of what it means to be the
people called Methodist. Our own commitment to the
value of our Methodist connectionalism has been deepened
and strengthened. Along the way we have
lamented the lost opportunities to be one in mission and
ministry with our Methodist brothers and sisters from
Latin America and the Caribbean. We are hopeful, however,
for our future together and pray that the 2008
General Conference many be inspired by God’s own
Holy Spirit to find a way to strengthen our connectional
ties with our sisters and brothers of Latin America and
the Caribbean for the sake of the very work that Christ
Jesus has mutually given us.
We would move the adoption of this report and
the recommendations made within it.
Respectfully and Prayerfully Submitted,
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, Chair
Lonnie Brooks, Secretary
Bishop Joel N. Martinez
Bishop Juan Vera
Dr. Aida Fernandez
Dr. Randy Day
Dr. Larry Pickens
Marcia Fitzner
Bishop Elias G. Galvan
Bishop Aldo M. Etchegoyen
Bishop Paulo Lockmann
Dr. George Mulrain
Dr. Wilson Boots, Consultant
Rev. Sam Dixon, Staff
Rev. Jorge Domingues, Staff