In 2017, the Council of Bishops called on members of The United Methodist Church to engage in respectful conversations amongst growing conflict and later called for discussions on issues of sexuality in advance of the Special General Conference. Consequently, the Inter-Ethnic Coordinating Committee of the Western Jurisdiction (WJ) created a curriculum to help people of color listen and engage in conversations on issues of human sexuality. The resource, primarily written by Kristina Gonzalez, Fel Cao, Charles Brower, Javier Olivares, Monalisa Tuitahi, and Derek Nakano, includes video pieces filmed and directed by Rev. David Valera with theological reflections by Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Kuan, President of Claremont School of Theology. Every Conference in the Western Jurisdiction has led conversations using the curriculum.
On February 23, 2019, the MARCHA West chapter hosted the WJ Young Adults Latinx group for a dialogue on issues of human sexuality to prep the young adults for what they might hear and experience during the 2019 General Conference Special Session using the same curriculum. Kristina Gonzalez, a long-time member of the Inter-Ethnic Dialogue Task Force, and Fel Cao, a clergy-person and chair of the WJ Inter-Ethnic Coordinating Committee, led the conversation with hopes of equipping the young adults with multiple thinking processes for engaging in difficult conversations.
The gathering was a safe space and became a brave space for young people to share their stories and feelings around the table. The group was asked to ponder what they felt before they spoke and were reminded that we all bring our own experiences and emotions into every conversation, so they should always examine their perceptions and assumptions.
One young adult agreed, saying,
David Jaimes, Community Organizer with Santa Ana UMC and Program Coordinator for “No Estan Solos” program for the California-Pacific Conference
“With the lack of inter-generational dialogue, it’s easy to dismiss someone because of generational differences even though not everyone in the same generation thinks alike.”
Another young adult revealed that she felt vulnerable sharing around the table. She clarified,
“The younger generation has grown up around the idea of globalization and having access to information such as culture, language, and different forms of seeing life. It is easier for us to recognize that people come from different perspectives. It’s not unheard of to be LGBT within younger generations. We’ve come to this point in our denomination’s history for a reason. One of my hopes for this General Conference is that God is manifested among us, specifically within the relationships that we form. … We need to reclaim the mandate given to us as Christians. We need to repackage the messaging displayed by Christ and share the gospel within the context of the 21stcentury … it is a relevant topic and it is important to be transparent with who we are as a Church.”Aileen Jimenez, a member of the Mountain Sky Conference and MARCHA West secretary
Fel, explained how we look through the lens of our culture to reflect on the gracious action of God in our lives. Via a pre-recorded video, Dr. Kuan further examined the difference in cultural context between biblical times and the culture that we live in today.
For example, in the old and new testaments, the word marriage doesn’t exist. The man was the ruler of the wife and family included multiple wives, several generations, and the family’s slaves. The biblical purpose of sex was all about procreation, and there was no knowledge of the variances in sexuality then. But this is not our understanding anymore.
Kristina left the group with an important question to consider during the Special General Conference. She asked,
“What’s at stake in this discussion of human sexuality and the church? For our families, our communities, our young people, and for our churches?”
- Self-awareness: What do I need to know about myself and my culture to better understand my perspectives?
- Self-governance: How do I govern my emotions around sensitive topics – discomfort, fear or defensiveness? As a leader, how do I help others to do the same?
- Intercultural literacy: What do I need to understand about others – their life experiences, cultures, and worldview to better appreciate their perspectives?
- Social engagement: How will I work constructively and productively with differences now and into the future?