great work of organizing the church for mission can be best understood as his response to God’s actions in the world rather than some grand plan the he dreamed up. Wesley did plan and propose and systematize and manage, but his essential work was to respond to what God was doing. He put himself in a place to be used of God. Even the gathering of the first class meeting was less his own doing than his pastoral response to those whom God was leading into small groups. Yet we in the United Methodist church today often seem to put our faith in plans and initiatives rather than in following the leading of Providence. While there can be no argument that plans and initiatives are important for any organization, openness to changing context(s) and openness to changes within the organization are also very important. The church, in addition, must be responsive to Providence. Failure to respond to change will create difficulty for any organization. Failure to respond to Providence is the undoing of the church. If a church fails to go through the doors that God opens for it, it has failed at the heart of its mission. Change, A Theology of Providence and the United Methodist Church Both British and American Methodism arose in revolutionary times. The world again faces such times. Thus United Methodists are uniquely positioned to welcome and be at home with the incessant pace of technological, social, theological and doctrinal transition. The success of any institution is often highly influenced not just by the institution itself, but by what is going on around it. When things are settled, there is little


reason for change and the institution need not change. When things are fluid, a movement spirit will need to permeate the institution for it to have continued success. Institutions that become captive to ways of living that no longer exist can expect to cease to exist themselves. Institutions that change can thrive. The question to which this text turns is whether Methodism still has within itself the strength to bend and flex; whether it is still open to God’s future or whether it has become tethered to a past social order and thus an antiquated way of being the church. Methodism began as a movement within the Church of England. Early American Methodism was a group of proto-movements that Francis Asbury gathered into an unsettled institution in 1784. The United Methodist Church today is full of protomovements, movements, counter movements, institutions and almost-institutions and is awash in movements from outside the denomination that have, in many ways, highly influenced the denomination itself. Further, leaders of the denomination have begun to call for a greater spirit of movement rather than of institution within the church,1 often leaving this spirit undefined. All of this has led to what seems to be a loss of central focus. Whether or not it can be regained remains to be answered. Some movements of the larger culture are having profound affects upon the church and being, in turn, affected themselves by the church to a greater or lesser extent. These include the women’s rights movement, the civil rights movement, the growth of technology (especially as it has impacted worship), the scientific world-view, “affluenza,” and what James and Molly Scott identify as “anomie and antinomianism2.” All of these are reshaping the general culture to some extent and reshaping and the church in specific


ways. They show that movements do not have to be located within institutions to influence them. Movements within the general church culture are also influencing and being influenced by Methodism. These include the mega-church movement, the Religious Right, ecumenical and interfaith movements, the church growth movement, the seeker movement, praise and worship music and the move toward greater professionalism in the clergy. All of these can be related to movements in the larger culture, but are also movements within the church culture. Movements which an institution has little or no control over can highly impact that institution. Movements within the institution also help define life for the church. Some of these flow from the formal leadership of the denomination, such as the call for a “higher” sacramental understanding as evidenced in weekly communion. The Episcopal Initiative on Children in Poverty is another example. Other movements are formally adopted into the church, such as the Walk to Emmaus movement3 and the Aldersgate Renewal Ministries4. Still others are caucuses within the church, such as the Black Methodists for Church Renewal and Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans. Still others are somewhat independent arms of the church: United Methodist Women, United Methodist Men and the Clerical orders. The Affirmation Caucus and Reconciling Congregations Program represent what might be termed the “full-inclusion” or progressive movement, though the movement is clearly larger than the formal membership of either of these groups. And this has spawned (or perhaps was spawned by) a “non-inclusion” movement, which could be linked to the


Good News and the Confessing Movements. The non-inclusion movement, like the fullinclusion movement, is larger than the formal organizations which carry its banner. Further, the goals of both Good News and the Confessing Movement clearly go beyond a simple non-inclusion platform, calling for wholesale reform and renewal. Thus rather than refer to this set of movements as the non-inclusion movement, I will label it the reform movement. While neither the Affirming, Reconciling Congregations, Confessing nor Good News Movements are formally located within the United Methodist Church, all are tightly knit to the church and find support at the highest levels within it. Thus the agendas that these movements represent are influential upon the life of the church in a myriad of ways, not least to nurturing the complex webs of support and influence that exist within, but not fully across, the connexion. They are wrestling for control and trying to refocus the vision of the church, though in dissimilar fashions. It is normal for the church (or any institution of any size) to have within itself such movements, proto-movements and semi-institutions. This has so been so common historically within the church that it is hard to avoid the conclusion that God has so designed the institution of the church as to be powered in part by the movements within her. However institution and movements rarely seem to be working to further common goals under the Lordship of Christ, though this seems to be at least part of what leaders within the church from Bishop Huie to the late William H. Hinson seem to mean when they call the church toward a movement spirit. What actually seems to happen at the movement level, rather than working together for common goals, is for movements to


find themselves so deeply at odds with each other and/or their parent institution that rather than moving forward the Kingdom, they at least seem to retard it. Unfortunately, this seems to be the reality of the clash between full inclusion and reform folks within United Methodism today. It may be that God is moving providentially to reform the institution by either opening it towards greater inclusion or more narrowly defining its mission or perhaps God is moving to split the church. Or it may bethat God’s work through the institution and movements is being thwarted by human sinfulness in the movements or the institution or, most likely, both. Whether God is moving through or being thwarted by movements and institutions is unclear. What is clear is that “movement spirit” as currently exists in the UMC is mostly related to tensions, as yet unresolved, within the institution, about the vision of the institution as a whole. Movements within institutions will typically push for slightly different things within the overall rubric of the institution, but the reform and the progressive movements are so directly at odds that it would seem impossible for the desires of both groups to be realized within the same institution. One or the other movement seems likely to prevail while the other will fail. Since the movements are so deeply imbedded into the life of the church, there will be significant fallout over any clear motion in either direction by the institution. The only other option was discussed as early as 1980, when Frederick P. Brooks jr. delivered an address at the Good News Convocation suggesting the “loving division” of the UMC into “two independent bodies, each unified by its theological integrity.”5 The Good News Movement took substantial steps in this direction in 1984 with the creation of its own Mission Society for United Methodists as a supplemental mission agency within the UMC6 and again in 1989 with the launching of the Renew


Network for Christian Women as a voice for renewal and accountability.7 It seems unlikely that when the institutional leadership of the denomination calls for a greater spirit of movement, for “discovering new forms of connection,”8 to quote Bishop Huie, that they are pushing for this type of movement. What then is meant by “discovering new forms of connection?” Can it regain focus without tearing itself apart? It seems that what the denomination is hoping for and what denominational leadership is calling for, is the old spirit of the Methodist movement. A spirit of forward momentum, of vitality, dramatically captured in the old hymn “Shoutin’ Methodist:” They are despised by Satan’s train, because they shout and preach so plain; I’m bound to march in endless bliss, and die a shoutin’ Methodist. The devil, Calvin and Voltaire, may hate the Methodist in vain; Their doctrine shall be downward hurl’d: The Methodist will take the world.9 This hymn was very popular in the days of the “Unsettled Institution,” This particular version is dated from 1805.10 How is the church to reach back to that point? How is the church to regain such powerful vitality? In one sense, of course, it need not reach back, it need only look across the oceans to Korea and Africa to see the song coming true: the Methodist taking the world in strong movement fashion. However in the USA, things seem to be different. Many agree that we have lost something essential; we have lost that sense of vitality that infuses the “Shoutin’ Methodist” hymn with an almost shameful boastfulness11 that seems so very out-of-step with our current reality. It is this sense of vitality, which implies the ability to bend and flex, that is identified with “movement” as opposed to “institution.” What will it take for the church to recover this sense of vitality, to as Bishop Huie says and persons across the spectrum echo; “return to


where Methodism began?”12 There seem to be three functional modes for a recovery of the movement spirit present in Methodist culture today. These are the aforementioned progressive and reform movements as well as what this D.Min. project will call the “unsettled institution movement,” which is made up of those who call for a return to movement vitality within the confines of the institution through the practice of what Scott and Scott term “incremental change.”13 In some ways, the progressive movement has been incredibly successful in transforming the church into a more open and diverse body, especially in the leadership of the denomination. In this, the church has had significant interplay with the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements. A partial list of how progressivism has altered the face of the church includes: 1976: General Conference seats women as clergy delegates for the first time.14 1980: Marjorie Matthews becomes the first woman to be elected bishop of the UMC; she is the first woman in any major Protestant denomination to hold such an Office.15 1984: Judith Craig and Leontine Kelly become the second and third women to be elected bishops of the UMC; Kelly is the first African American woman bishop. Elias Galvan is the first Hispanic American and Roy Sano the first Asian American to be elected bishop.16 1990: Fifty women serve as District Superintendents across the connexion. The South Carolina Conference makes the first cross-racial pastoral appointments. 17 1992: Hae Jong Kim is the first Korean-American elected bishop.18 Clearly progressivism has had a striking impact on the church. However, progressivism’s call for full inclusion for gays and lesbians has fallen upon dramatically deaf ears and has become a point of great contention within the denomination. In fact, not only have those working for full inclusion over the years been rebuffed, they seem to


have lost substantial ground on this particular issue. For example, in 1976, General Conference revised the language in the Discipline about “same-sex marriage” from “not recommended” to “not recognized.”19 In 1996 the General Conference added to the Social Principles the statement that “ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”20 In 2000, the General Conference moved that statement to the “chargeable offenses” section of the Discipline.21 And in 2004 the General Conference General Conference amended the Discipline to specify a list of chargeable offenses related to homosexuality that could result in a church trial while also approving a resolution that no annual conference funding may be provided “to any gay caucus or group” or used “to promote the acceptance of homosexuality.”22 It seems to be the case that progressivism as a theological driving force has defined itself around the issue of full inclusion and been unable to make progress in this particular area, and its many successes in other areas have been lost or hidden by this failure. Progressivism seeks to reinvigorate the church by reorienting the churches’ sense of self and of social justice to a more inclusive place. The reform movement also seeks to reinvigorate by reorienting the church but in a totally different manner. Reformers typically call for a return to the classic doctrines and understandings of the church as existed when the movement started. The two leading reform movements are the Good News Movement and the Confessing Movement. The language that they use to describe their missions is similar. The Confessing Movement’s website has this statement of purpose: “In love for the


church, we… present the Confessional Statement for the renewal and reform of The United Methodist Church… This statement confronts and repudiates teachings and practices in The United Methodist Church that currently challenge the truth of Jesus Christ…”23 The Good News Movement is a more developed movement. It is almost 25 years older than the Confessing Movement24 and has a more developed substructure, as mentioned earlier in this chapter. Further, it has clearly absorbed some of the tenets of the progressive movement, listing among its goals to be a “worshipping, caring and inclusive community.”25 However, at its heart, the Good News movement remains, like the Confessing Movement, a call for reform. The Good News Movement defines its purpose as being: “…a voice for repentance, an agent for reform, and a catalyst for renewal within the United Methodist Church. By God’s grace, we will proclaim and demonstrate the power and effectiveness of historic Christianity as emphasized in Wesleyan doctrine and practice.”26 In a sense, both progressive and reform movements share a common goal: to move the denomination in a particular direction somewhat different from the current motion of the institutional church. This is, of course, the norm for all movements. The only real point of any movement is to change something or at least to nudge something in a particular direction. Thus “unsettled institutionalism,” a third mode of seeking to affect change in contrast to the reform and progressive movements, is really quite different from those two movements. Rather than calling for specifics changes or change in a particular direction, it largely calls for a spirit of movement (rather than an actual movement) that


does not change the course of the denomination but instead puts wind under the institution’s sails. It advocates for a large number of movements within the denomination, but these under the control of the institution. Bishop Huie’s address to the Council of Bishops in May of 2007, as reported by Linda Green, is an excellent example of unsettled institutionalism and deserves to be looked at quite closely. It includes the following: “The president of the bishops of The United Methodist Church is calling on the denomination to reclaim its heritage as a Christian movement….”27 Here one can see an appeal to the whole connexion in terms that appeal primarily to those who see in the past the greatest works of Methodism. In this, Bishop Huie is celebrating the historic vitality that Methodism enjoyed early in its history. The central premise of the unsettled institution movement is that it is possible to reclaim that vitality. This is the essence of what many United Methodists seem to mean when they say “we need to be a movement, not an institution.” It is interesting to hear this type language from the leader of the Council of Bishops, the de jure head of the institution. Huie goes on to say: “There is a movement of God’s spirit that is transforming the world and we are witnesses to it, and you and I are blessed by it in this community of faith called The United Methodist Church,” 28 Here is recognition that, in fact, “Shoutin’ Methodism” is changing the world, fulfilling the hymn’s boastful promise. However it is interesting that Huie does not seem to define United Methodism as central to the movement but as almost outside of it. Rather than being a part of “movement of God’s spirit,” we are “witnesses to it” and are “blessed by it”. Is the UMC genuinely outside the global Methodist movement? Globally,


Methodism is booming: will we in the USA define ourselves as spectators or as participants? The Council of Bishops met in Mozambique in November of 2006 at least in part as recognition of the great movement of God in Africa through Methodism.29 The truth they witnessed is that the Methodist movement is booming. Are we (here in the USA) so blinded by nationalism and racism that we cannot celebrate that we are doing well if it is across the ocean? The article, here quoting Huie continues: “Huie's vision of the church in the 21st century is one "that is guided more by movement than by institution…”30 What does this mean in practical terms? It seems unlikely to be a call for theological and ecclesiological disorganization. It seems unlikely to be a surrendering of leadership to the progressive or reform movements. Huie and the leadership of the church are faced with a more complex task than Wesley or Asbury. These pioneers had to build institutions from movements. The current bishops have to find ways to release the spirit of the movements without inundating the institution with chaos. The next quote from the article deals with this difficulty: “Noting that movements are not easy but are "downright chaotic and messy," she (Huie) said they often begin with a few people on the margins of culture rather than from the centers of power and authority. The message of a movement is to change the way that things are in the dominant culture,…”31 This points to the great dilemma of the unsettled institution. How does an institution, a “center of power,” unsettle itself without destroying itself? Wesley’s answer to this dilemma, “Make, save and especially give all you can, (thus unsettling yourself.)”32 is immediately applicable to individuals, but difficult to apply in an


institutional context, though this D.Min. Project will make the suggestion that this can be done by truly, fully and wholly opening the doors of the church to all people, including poor undocumented immigrants. Answers that so far have emerged from either the progressive or reform movements would, if carried out unilaterally, unsettle the life of the institution for good or for ill in a way that might be providential, but would seem to be far greater a disturbance than those hoping for unsettled institution seem to desire: an unsettled institution is quite different from a shattered institution. Unsettled institutionalists want the pot to boil, not boil over. The next quote makes this point: “Huie said the platforms that helped launch the church’s movement in the 19th and 20th centuries should be used as the foundations for today’s new initiatives.”33 Thus Huie is not looking for movements that will disturb the institution, but ones that are within the traditions of the institutional church. An unsettled institution is still an institution and needs continuity, stability and clear lines of leadership. Huie goes on to make this quite clear, saying: “I’m ready for The United Methodist Church to step forward into God’s reign on earth as it is in heaven. I believe this Council of Bishops is ready to lead that movement.”34 Having earlier noted (in the same speech) that movements themselves come from the margins, Huie here calls for the Council of Bishops to lead “that movement.” The Bishopric is the center of the institution by its very nature. How can a bishop lead from the margins when they are of the center? This particular task of leadership is quite tricky. Bishop Huie closed her speech reiterating the need for bishops to provide such leadership: “… bishops should be leaders in the journey. "The task of this council is to


lead that movement of God. It is our task to lead the church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”35 Here again, the central difficulty for those advocating for an unsettled institution comes into the picture: How do those at the center of power unleash movements from the margins? Can they, as the leaders of institutions, be at the same time marginal? Unquestionably, it is the task of bishops to lead the institutional church of God, but is it possible for bishops to lead the (or a) movement? It seems unlikely because movement leadership is organic: anybody can lead a movement who has the skills. Bishops, however, have very specialized skill sets that have little or nothing to do with movements and everything to do with institutions. Any particular bishop might be a great “movement” type leader, but bishops as a group are set aside for service for, by and of the institution. Bishops are therefore unlikely to be good movement leaders. Does this mean that the institution can never be “unsettled” again? No, but it does mean that becoming a movement will take serious sacrifice and travel into uncharted waters. It should be remembered that sailors, who prefer safe harbors close to home, are probably quite unlikely to elect a captain who will lead the ship into dangerous waters. How then can this be done? From whence shall vitality come? How can Methodism return to bending and flexing? How will it travel into new seas? How will God pour out blessings upon the people called Methodist? The progressive movement seems to have run its course and while in some ways has become a part of the institution, especially as related to equality for women and minorities, in other ways it seems to have failed miserably, focusing a great deal of its energies on what seems to be a losing and


energy draining cause: full inclusion. Will it be able to reinvigorate the church? It seems unlikely, perhaps mostly because progressivism has become less of a movement and more of a faction within the institution. The reform movement speaks of “getting back to our Wesleyan roots”36 “regardless of how many people, pastors and congregations we still have.”37 However, it is gaining strength in the denomination, particularly at the General Conference level, every Quadrennium and thus has no pressing need to reinvigorate the church as it is. For the reform movement, ironically, the status quo, especially the lack of vitality in more progressive parts of the church – is actually helpful. As the progressive part of the pie shrinks, the reforming portion looks ever bigger. Further, and perhaps more problematic over the long run, the reform movement has established a pattern of draining vitality from the institution towards itself. This pattern seems unlikely to reverse in the future, at least in part because the reform movement has garnered strength by operating in opposition to the larger work of the institution. Both the Good News and Confessing Movements seem to have defined themselves over and against institutional Methodism. In this, they have taken exactly the opposite path that John Wesley took. Wesley did something new in a new age, but his voice consistently and clearly called for unity. This is not the call of the reform movement. Even the 2005 Unity Statement from the Confessing Movement reads in part: The Holy Spirit is at work in our church offering a crucial moment of course correction and the possibility of a deep and lasting reformation. 38 This is not the language of unity. Could the reform movement strengthen an entire, unbroken, United Methodist Church? That page has yet to be written. Will it do so as the


institution is now constituted? It seems unlikely for the same reason that it seems unlikely of progressivism; the reform movement has also settled into a role as a faction of the institution. Is the United Methodist Church then without hope? In no way. This D.Min. project is written to shine the light of hope upon an admittedly gloomy situation: an institution full of factions but not movements of the Spirit, and suggest both a general and a specific way of recovering the vitality of Methodism while retaining institutional strength. In general terms, this text proposes that the Church can be reinvigorated not by any single specific movement, but by a convergence of several movements, perhaps a multitude of movements, that enhance the work of God within the connexion, exciting the passions of persons both within and beyond the church. This is, of course, something close to the unsettled institution approach. A few examples of such movements would include the Nothing But Nets campaign, the Incubator movement, Disciple Bible Study, and the Episcopal Initiative on Children and Poverty, all of which raised the vitality of the church to some extent by contributing to the good of not just church but society as well. No one movement will be able to do all that needs to be done, but if God provides both the opportunities and the needed leadership, there seems to be no logical reason that the church could not recover its vitality. However, it is of prime importance that the church is vigilant in pursuing what God has for her rather than allowing the distractions of this world to choke out what God has planted within the church.


The suggestion is that, to achieve an unsettled institution, to recover the vitality of the early movement of Methodism, the church adopt and create movements that continue to move the Gospel forward in a manner both consistent with the churches’ traditions and in ways that are open to the future. Thus the church can weed out unproductive movements not by fiat but by replacing them with productive ones, movements that bear fruit for the Kingdom. The diagram on the left below is a visualization the current relationships between the institution of the church (large arrows) and movements in the church (small arrows). The diagram on the right represents a preferred future. It is, of course, quite unrealistic: movements and institutions have never been and will never be in perfect sync because God moves different people in different ways to do different work. There will always be arrows pointing in unexpected directions. An effective institution, however, knows which movements to absorb and promote and how to do so in a way consistent with the overall mission and vision of the institution. Figure 1: church relationships

Were the church to achieve something like the right arrow, the church would recover vitality in two ways: first by an increase in energy for positive works and secondly by a decrease in energy used for infighting. This can be accomplished by the leadership of the church filling the church with mutually agreeable forward motion so


that energies that would otherwise be wasted will be used for the good, thus returning Methodism to a high level of vitality not for any reason related to institutional maintenance, but simply because the church is accomplishing a high level of good. How might this happen? How might the church achieve a greater unity of institutional and movement goals? How might the church be a providential movement? By building unity, momentum and excitement around widely shared goals and thus starving energy from the widely divergent goals that sap vitality from the institution by their counter-productivity. In addition to the programs and movements listed earlier (beginning with the Nothing but Nets campaign) the leadership of the denomination should seek to promote movements that are "downright chaotic and messy," …(from) the margins of culture39 as Bishop Huie has acknowledged, but which are also consistent with the larger mission of the church, and that are appealing to church and society. One such movement that has found something of a place within Methodism and could lead to a reinvigoration of the church is multi-culturalism. This is a movement that the institutional church can foster and through it recover vitality. The church has made a strong doctrinal commitment to multi-culturalism, even baptizing new members into “the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations and races.”40 But this doctrinal commitment needs to be followed up with practical application in the local churches. The realization of this possibility is the story of Chapel Hill UMC and the central focus of this text. The realization of this possibility could also be the story of Hispanic ministry across the connection, and thus will be examined in some detail.


Multi-culturalism in the church could be said to have started with Jesus, the Galilean. Galilee was a borderland between Judea and the Greek states. Thus its people, Jesus and the Apostles included, were stigmatized as inferior to both Greeks and Judean Jews. Galileans were a “mestizaje”41 – a people created from the mixture of two other peoples, and Jesus was, culturally and linguistically, a mestizo.42 The Galilean distinctive is evident in that Peter was “betrayed by his accent.” (Matthew 27:33) Not only was Jesus of mixed origin, but he also lived out a radical inclusivity: teaching in the synagogues with the Pharisees but also eating with sinners, thus showing his concern for all cultural groups. Jesus lived and endorsed a multi-cultural lifestyle. The church that God created at Pentecost of “Parthian and Mede” would also become a mestizaje – a blend of Jew and Greek but forged into a whole new people, a people deeply enriched by its diversity. The church that desires to live out the New Testament ideal needs to include both “Greek” and “Hebrew.” John Wesley’s field preaching, indeed the entire Methodist movement, at least in its earlier stages, was of and for the economically marginalized, as was the early American Methodist movement. Wesley was able to relate to “high” and “low” society in class-conscious England. While early American Methodism had some wonderful successes in cross-cultural work, it also had dramatic failures. Today as well, the church has a mixed record as it relates to multi-culturalism. While in the gathered church, significant leadership positions have been given to women and minorities, the local church remains mono-cultural. The church is failing to minister to Jews and Greeks at the same table.


Why has the local church failed to reflect the whole church? Why have members and leaders of local churches have failed to enact Jesus’ inclusiveness? Charles Foster writes; “Points of cultural conflict (are rarely theological.) They originate instead in the realm of personal interactions.”43 The problem is not disagreement; it is instead a failure to get along. How can this be changed? Foster later writes: “(P)astors and lay leaders, mostly by trial and error, have discovered that they must their congregations – those images, relational ties cross the boundaries of race and culture.”44 Attending to the infrastructure of the church is hard work, adding cultural bridges to that infrastructure makes the work enormously more difficult. This is particularly true because pastors in the UM tradition are used to inheriting infrastructure and these new bridges have to be built, not just maintained. Making sure that there are enough PB&J sandwiches and milk is one level of difficulty, adding tamales, burritos and horchata to the mix raises the bar. Recognizing that multicultural ministry is hard work, why should it be pursued? Recognizing further that Hispanic Ministry is not just multicultural but also multilingual and even multinational, why should United Methodism (or any denomination) pursue it? This question is inseparable from the larger questions of how a church understands its vision. Essentially, churches should pursue Hispanic ministry for the same basic reasons they pursue any other ministry. However, in addition to the myriad of reasons related to social justice and evangelism, at least three institutionally related reasons present attend to the infrastructure of

and patterns of conversation that


themselves; age related and generational issues, fruitfulness, and having a local church that reflects its parish. In a church struggling with issues related to an aging population, churches that develop Hispanic ministries can balance out (and even reverse) age imbalances. And at the same time, many Hispanics in the United States are separated from their parents and elders in other countries. These two situations can remedy one another in the local church. Of course, this will change a church. A related reality is that this generation of Hispanics is going to set patterns that will endure for many years, especially in areas where Hispanics are just becoming settled. A church (or business or school) that evidences openness to the first generation may or may not have an advantage with the next, but an organization that shuns the first generation will have sown tares. The extreme emphasis on work in the immigrant Hispanic culture in the USA is reminiscent of other immigrant groups who came here to work and work hard. This hard working attitude is often carried into the churches, producing much fruit. Hispanic churches will typically worship, study, pray and serve others far more hours per week than non-Hispanic congregations. Thus they become vital centers of piety and good works. In a church where vitality is an issue, devoted new laity and clergy should be seen as a Godsend. As Hispanic leadership emerges, if it is allowed to emerge, in local churches, these churches should sense within themselves a fresh spirit. Additionally, established local churches that become involved with Hispanic ministry begin to practice serious inclusion: racial, economic, linguistic and national inclusion. This practice leads them into being not only parish but New Testament


churches. When said churches are brave enough to choose leaders for themselves that are cross cultural, they have crossed the Rubicon into reliance on God, rather than culture, for guidance in the way the church should be, mirroring the selection of Greeks to serve tables – a position of both intimacy and leadership, in Acts 6:5. When churches surrender themselves to reliance on providence rather than cultural norms, genuinely good and powerful things begin to happen. Movements begin to happen. Multi-culturalism is never a one-way street. For cultural groups to come together there must be mutual dependence between groups and individuals. Mutual dependence simply means that both groups make meaningful contributions to the whole. Both Jew and Greek worked together in Acts 6. This is an apt model. Everyone carries what weight they can carry in whatever way they can carry it. Everyone is allowed to contribute what God would have them give. All traditions are honored and people on both sides of the table learn from each other. This is the physical enactment of ubuntu, where tables are filled with PB&J as well as tamales. An important element of this in the church is the acceptance of the spiritual disciplines of others, including worship practices, holidays and biblical interpretation, without compromising ones’ own. Practically speaking, this is extremely difficult to do. It means trying new things without losing the old. It is the bending and flexing that the institutional church (local and gathered) has seemingly forgotten how to do. Finding common theological ground with those from outside one’s cultural group is often easier than finding common practical ground. Christians can find ways to agree (or disagree) about ideas, but what you do with traditions and practices are where the rubber hits the


road. An example from the narrative section of this text was a Saturday night prayer vigil held the first Saturday night of every month from about dark to midnight by the Hispanic congregation at Chapel Hill. This was no problem with this traditional Hispanic service in and of itself, but on the two or three occasions when the sanctuary was left a bit untidy, there was a problem. People expect a public space, especially a church, to be left clean. The Anglo congregation had to be forgiving and the Hispanic congregation had to be more diligent. Both took care of their responsibilities and no real problems grew out of the arrangement. Mutual dependence of different groups is one level of multi-culturalism, one experience of ubuntu. A more personal experience of ubuntu is found in the establishment and deepening of interdependent relationships between persons of differing cultural groups. It is at this level that real personal understanding, hence real transformation, is more likely to occur. People, not groups, are best able to experience the joy of multicultural exchange. Thus the movement to a more multi-cultural church can really only occur at the local church level, though it at times seems to need institutional guidance. It is primarily at the personal level that persons can come to understand what Paul wrote to the Galatians about becoming one in Christ: As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:27-28) Ubuntu, Multi-Culturalism, Movement and Institution Desmond Tutu, whose experiences of multi-cultural exchange span and in many ways define his life, has developed the traditional African understanding of Ubuntu45


(introduced on page 2) into a theological system that embraces both African and European religious and cultural contexts. The center of his Ubuntu theology is “the achievement of absolute dependence on God and neighbor in such a way that human identity is discovered… through a person’s relationships with God and others.”46 Ubuntu theology asserts “persons are ends in themselves… through the discovery of who they are in others.”47 Further, “our own humanness depends on seeing (our humanness) in others.”48 Thus interdependence is at the heart of what it means to be both human and particularly Christian and “is the inalienable characteristic of the Body of Christ.”49 That the natural manifestation of multi-culturalism is the knowledge of one’s self is a powerful reality. Powerful enough to build up true interdependent communities, recognize persons as distinctive in their identities, combine the best of first and third’s world thought and theology into a new and distinctive mestizo, and strong enough to overthrow the apartheid in South Africa and potentially strong enough to end the segregationof the American church.50 Sadly, it is lacking from most local churches. Perhaps even sadder, often the gathered church experiences multi-culturalism as something that must be endured rather than as a gift from God. Is it possible for an institution to foster ubuntu, both the fruit and process of multiculturalism? It was possible in South Africa, and it is possible, by the grace of God, in the United Methodist Church. But “possible” does not mean easy. Ubuntu only really happens at an individual level when people of various backgrounds are brought together as equals. It requires leadership that builds bridges and calls for unity while keeping the institution (local and otherwise) centered on mission. And it requires providence. If God


is not in it, it cannot and will not happen. Without God’s movement, the institutional concerns that can choke out grace will surely choke out Ubuntu. Ubuntu helps persons to distinguish who they are as individuals from who they are as members of a particular cultural group. It does this by adding additional facets of understanding to a person’s life, facets that emerge from conversation between persons unlike each other in some way. Generally, this process of interaction is very normal, it is how most learning occurs. What makes ubuntu special is that it is interaction between individuals who are part of groups that have, for some reason, limited interaction. Whatever the cause of this limitation, (geography, language, fear, etc.) once it is bridged, new learning can occur. Further, once bridges are built that can sustain the weight of real conversation, which is not an easy task that requires courage, persons who are in groups that are not only limited in their interaction but in fact at some level of opposition to one another can begin to learn from one another. This results not just in the incremental type of growth that we see in children and other students, but in the transformation of persons on both sides of whatever divides exist. This transformation comes from persons realizing that they are more than their identity as the member of a particular group, that they share a common humanity with their “opposite.” This is usually an empowering experience because it does not take away from one’s sense of self, unless one has defined themselves as a non-other, but instead enriches the sense of self, creating a new dimension in one’s soul. It is, at the same time, both clarifying and bewildering. Ubuntu between ethnic groups in the USA, can be an extremely difficult process. Its extreme difficulty can be traced back to slavery. While mass enslavement is not a continuing evil, the reality that whites are more powerful than non-whites is, though most


whites choose not know this. Whites often maintain this ignorance by not interacting with non-whites on anything resembling an equitable level. The price for this ignorance is the inability to achieve true ubuntu, which can be defined as something very near true humanity.51 In mixed-cultural, evenly empowered, groups, individuals can come to understand who they themselves are through others. And while this happens on an individual level, but has implications for movements and institutions.

What is truly powerful about Ubuntu, and what makes it of particular interest in a discussion of movements and institutions, is that when Ubuntu occurs within an institution, the institution itself is transformed. This transformation can come from and occur on the margins52 or come from the center of power because it comes essentially from the transformation of individuals. It is a movement within people’s hearts, a movement of the Holy Spirit, not under the control of the institution. It is “messy and chaotic” because individual Ubuntu/transformation grows into group Ubuntu, where an entire group, at least as large as local church, is able to look at itself with deeper and enriched eyes to understand what it truly is and is not. At that point, the group will, by necessity, change. It will become a new group or a new dimension within an institution. It will become a Mestizaje: a people made up of the blending of two other groups and made into a new thing. Very messy, very chaotic and very powerful. For example, the youth (Anglo and Hispanic) at Chapel Hill began to refer to themselves as “Mexi-teans,” (Mexican-Tennesseans) fully aware that this class of people existed, as far as they were aware, only at that church.53 In this, the whole group accepted a radically different selfconception than would have even been possible at the same church ten years before. This


mestizaje is the power of God at work to bring about reconciliation. It has the power to recreate the entire nations (ie. South Africa) if it is allowed and encouraged. It has the power to change a local church. It has the power to change a denomination. The institutional church cannot create such a movement within itself, that is the work of God, but it can facilitate this work by intentionally striving towards it by genuinely welcoming the stranger.

Having discussed Providence’s use of movements and institutions generally, and ubuntu and multiculturalism in specific as ways that institutions can be revitalized, this D.Min. project now turns to the story of the work of God at Chapel Hill UMC in Riddleton TN, a small institution in a small community that allowed itself to be moved by the Spirit of God in a way that has resulted in a powerful upsurge in the work of God, a powerful upsurge in ubuntu, in that place.




Bishop Janet Huie, "God's World is Waiting," United Methodist Reporter, November 16 2007, 2. Dr. James B. Scott and Dr. Molly Davis Scott, Restoring Methodism (Dallas: Provident Publishing, 2006), 18.
3 2

Matthews, Timetables, 257. Ibid., 235. Ibid., 239. Ibid., 243. Ibid., 249. Bishop Huie, “God’s World is Waiting,” 2. Norwood, The Story of American Methodism, 232. Ibid., 232. Ibid., 232. Bishop Huie, “God’s World is Waiting,” 2. Scott and Scott, Restoring Methodism, 31. Matthews, Timetables, 235. Ibid., 239. Ibid., 243. Ibid., 251. Ibid., 253. Ibid., 235. Ibid., 257. Ibid., 263.




















Ibid., 269.

Confessing Movement, "Confession," (accessed November 19, 2007).


Matthews, Timetables, 227 and 257.

Good News Magazine, "Who We Are," (accessed November 19, 2007).



Linda Green, "Bishops' President Calls for New Church Movement," United Methodist Reporter, May 2 2007, 1.


Green, "Bishops' President Calls for New Church Movement," 1.

Robin Russell, "Mozambican President Welcomes Bishops, Receives Resolution," United Methodist Reproter, November 1 2006.


Green, "Bishops' President Calls for New Church Movement," 1. Ibid., 2. Wesley, Sermon 126. Green, "Bishops' President Calls for New Church Movement," 2. Ibid., 2. Ibid., 2. Scott and Scott, Restoring Methodism, 31. Ibid., 33.








Confessing Movement, 2005, "Unity Statement," (accessed November 20, 2007).


Green, "Bishops' President Calls for New Church Movement," 2.

The United Methodist Publishing House, The United Methodist Hymnal (Nashville TN: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989), 34.


Virgilio Elizondo, The Future is Mestizo (Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado, 2000),



Ibid., 79. Charles E. Foster, Embracing Diversity (No City Given: Alban Institute, 1997), 21. Foster, Embracing Diversity, 100.



Michael Battle, Reconciliation, The Ubuntu Theology of Desmond Tutu (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 1997), 39.


Ibid., 49. Ibid., 43. Ibid., 45. Ibid., 33. Ibid., 40. Paula Harris, Doug Schaupp, Being White (Downers Grove, Il: IVP, 2004), 118-119. Green, "Bishops' President Calls for New Church Movement," 2. Personal Memory.