Building Community, Strengthening Voices for General Conference 2012

February 09, 2012

By Jeneane Jones*

Six bishops and 25 Western Jurisdiction delegates gathered recently in San Diego, California to prepare and empower the voices of people of color for legislative work that will take place at the 2012 General Conference and Western Jurisdiction Conference. 
 
The event held January 27 is being duplicated in other jurisdictions across the denomination. The General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) historically has brought together delegates of color for orientation, one day before General Conference. "This time we've had requests for delegates to spend time to begin the process of holy conferencing, learning about each other and building community ahead of the General Conference," said GCORR General Secretary Erin Hawkins, who opened the meeting.
 
Asked why such an event is necessary, retired Bishop Melvin Talbert explained, "We come here to have these conversations so we have the confidence, the information, [and] the support, to bring our best selves to the Church." Bishop Robert Hoshibata, assigned to the Portland Episcopal area (the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference,) provided his understanding through a prayer for the group, asking that this year's General Conference be an opportunity for delegates of color to have courage to speak when they need to speak. Bishop Hoshibata shared that size matters – that small delegations, such as those from the Western Jurisdiction, can face a more difficult time being heard in a large group. 
 
Cultural competency also can determine how well communities hear each other's messages.
 
The daylong event included a review of the Call to Action Committee's recommendations for restructuring the life of the denomination, and their potential for impacting persons and communities of color.
 
"If we are to have conversations that promote equity and the full participation of all God's people in our Church, we must have ways of building relationships with all people. That means our conversations must be cross-cultural, and cannot remain within racial ethnic communities," says Hawkins. "We're supportive of these events and gratified to see them being led by the episcopal leadership in each jurisdiction. Their presence confirms the significance of this learning experience. It also helps assure that conversations begun here will continue across jurisdictional lines."
 
Delegates were encouraged to use email and multiple communications avenues as a strategic imperative for assuring that perspectives of racial/ethnic communities are integrated into the full conversation at General Conference, and in the total life of the Church.
 
In all, six racial ethnic bishops from the Western Jurisdiction attended – retired Bishops Melvin Talbert, Elias Galvan, and Roy Sano, along with Bishops Robert Hoshibata (Portland Episcopal Area), Warner H. Brown, Jr. (San Francisco Episcopal Area), and Grant Hagiya (Seattle Episcopal Area). Bishop Minerva Carcaño (Phoenix Episcopal Area) organized the event, but was unable to attend due to illness.
 
The next jurisdictional events for Delegates of Color will be:
  • North Central Jurisdiction—March 10, Chicago, IL
  • South Central Jurisdiction—March 31, Dallas, TX
  • Southeastern Jurisdiction—TBD
Email GCORR Director of Annual Conference Relations the Rev. Myungim Kim at mkim@gcorr.org, for more information about these events.
 
Check out the latest Hawkins' View Blog for a thought-provoking take on culturally segregated gatherings. Be sure to let us know what you think!
 

 
*Jeneane Jones is team leader of communications for the General Commission on Religion and Race, and the former Director of Communications for the California-Nevada Annual Conference. She can be reached at jjones@gcorr.org.