When was A Journey of Hope legislation passed?

It was passed in a vote of 303-68 at the October 2020 Special Annual Conference Session.

How much money is being invested? Over what period?

$5.1 million over a five-year period.

How was A Journey of Hope plan developed?

A team of 10 laity and clergy leaders from the Greater New Jersey Conference who have long engaged in social and racial justice, some of whom have experienced racism first hand, led the effort to create measures and actions to engage United Methodists to work for racial justice, inclusion and equity.

It was developed in consultation with leaders and experts from across the country and more than 100 leaders from GNJ including ethnic caucuses, GNJ leadership and GNJ staff.

What does A Journey of Hope's ACT acronym stand for?

Aspiring to something different, Comprehending and understanding that United Methodists are called to live and act differently, and Transforming our beliefs, values, policies, actions to be a more racially just, inclusive and equitable church.

What are the plan's cornerstones?

  • Creating equity in apportioning and using resources.
  • Acknowledging, repenting and addressing past harm.
  • Returning Native American land and preserving a Native American heritage site and burial ground.
  • Forbearing African American congregation’s debt as well as any congregation in a low-income community.
  • Starting 25 new congregations and doubling the number of African American and Hispanic/Latino clergy elders.
  • Building on GNJ’s 10-year intercultural competency plan to deepen understanding of racism and how to work to end the sin of racism.
  • Strongly encouraging and supporting every congregation to develop a Journey of Hope ACT plan integrating the mission of GNJ with ending the sin of racism.
  • Implementing five keystone measures that are central to ending the sin of racism by addressing the actions and measures detailed in the report.

What are the "five keystone measures?"

  1. 50 trained GNJ trainers and facilitators who are actively engaged with 150 congregations that are developing and engaging in A Journey of Hope Plan by September 2022.
  2. At least 50% of GNJ agency chairpersons are People of Color by June 2023 and the number of African American/Black and Hispanic/Latino clergy elders are doubled, and the number of all Clergy of Color is increased by June 2025.
  3. 25 new ethnic congregations (at least 10 African American) by using new technologies and innovative strategies, and strengthen the worship, ministry and finances of 10 existing congregations of color by December 2025.
  4. A handbook of all existing GNJ policies and procedures that have been reviewed and updated to ensure GNJ’s policies and procedures create a culture of racial justice, inclusion and equity by February of 2022.
  5. $4.1 million investment in the health and vitality of GNJ through debt forgiveness, equitable salary and shared ministry apportionment and billables in low income communities by December 2023.

Can BOOM be directed by Conference to ordain elders based on race/ethnicity? How many African-American charges are able to support a full-time ordained elder? How many Hispanic congregations? How many African-American and Hispanic elders currently serve in CC/CR appointments? (Page 11, Measures a)

BOOM does not ordain, only the bishop ordains. BOOM does not determine who full members are, only the clergy executive session does, upon recommendation from BOOM. The clergy executive session acts for the annual conference and only it can approve full members that it believes are “fit and ready” to be full members and ordained by the bishop. This section is actually a call to recruit and support more ethnic clergy in GNJ.

Currently, seven African American elders are serving full-time in nine African American congregations.   One African American elder is serving full-time in a multi-ethnic congregation.  Currently, seven Hispanic elders are serving in Hispanic congregations with two serving in two point charges.  Two African American elders and five Hispanic elders serve in cross racial/cross cultural appointments

How will A Journey of Hope program’s goal to increase the number of specific racial congregations unite us rather than perpetuate our divisions?

Ending the sin of racism is a spiritual discipline that is practiced and engaged individually and together.

Faith and spirituality grows through strong vital congregations. GNJ has congregations of different ethnicities and multicultural/multiracial congregations. We will continue to grow and start congregations of all ethnicities and multiethnic congregations. There are three reasons why we start congregations of a particular ethnicity.

  1. Language – we have a number of people who feel comfortable worshiping in their first language or multiple language and so we start some congregations that are language specific.
  2. Location – sometimes we start churches in an area where we do not have a congregation and that community may be all white or another race.
  3. While you are correct, in the kingdom of God, we will all be together and we long for that day. When ethnic people are a minority in a congregation, regardless of the race of the majority, the minority loses spiritual practices and styles that are unique and important to them. For instance music, preaching, exuberance, and liturgy varies from culture to culture. We do not want to lose these unique gifts and therefore it is important to have churches of all different races.

What is being defined as an “African-American congregation?” There appear to be 52 local churches that are majority African-American. But 22 of them are located in municipalities with a median household income above $55,000, which is the first criterion for other congregations to utilize forbearance. There are a number of Asian, Hispanic and Anglo congregations located in municipalities with a median household income below $55,000, but they have to satisfy criteria that few churches across the Conference would be able to meet. Is it fair or reasonable to extend forbearance to some churches in less distressed areas while making it less than practicable in more distressed areas? (#5a on p. 12)

GNJ defines a congregation’s race or ethnicity as 75% of the members are from the same ethnic or racial group. A Journey of Hope includes a plan for all congregations in low income communities to receive a reduced shared ministry and billable rates if the congregation meets the objectives outlined. The forbearance program recognizes and seeks to repair past harm because of how Native Americans and African Americans were treated in Greater New Jersey and by the church since our beginning.

Are the pre-1982 and CRSP plans fully funded with WESPATH? Is it just to completely forgive some debts but not others?

GNJ’s pre 82 and CRSP plans are fully funded.

Are there other congregations that may have overextended their building programs while located in less advantaged areas? Should this be a broader analysis? (Section 5b)

We have experienced this with ethnic congregations and we are not aware of any Anglo churches that have had the same experience.

Has any analysis been done of the resulting shortfalls for permanent forbearance of billables and partial forbearance of Shared Ministries? We do not have a report from CFA as apparently required by Paragraph 615. (section 5a and 5e)

The forbearance program is extended for past billables. The analysis has been done and indicates that with careful stewardship and all churches giving their fair share, we will fully meet our goals for shared ministry and billables.

We do not have a report from the Conference Trustees for either 2019 or 2020 as required by Paragraph 2512.6. Do we have an analysis of properties held for sale by the Trustees or the 13 churches listed for closure at Conference to indicate an estimated value? (Section 5f(i))

Additional information is included in this year’s budget.  We will research this request and provide the additional information.

Is the $1 million envisioned as principal for capital needs or program funds? Might there be a better way to fund certain needs? Other churches with capital/deferred maintenance needs have been told that funds from Conference would not be available. 

The $1 million referred to in A Journey of Hope plan is for Native American Church and burial site preservation.

What is “offered/returned” intended to mean in practice? Would there be an actual sale or simply a direct transfer of property? What are the churches in the “eastern portion of Salem County” or at least which municipalities? (Section 5f(ii))

This only refers to property in Cumberland and Salem Counties and would not be sold but transferred. Properties or townships have not been identified.

How many “agency chairperson” positions exist? How many are currently held by “persons of color?” It appears that in 2012, almost 80% of the laity were Anglo and in 2018, it is 78%. (Page 11, Measures e.)

33% of current elected leaders of annual conference agencies are Persons of Color. If the present slate of nominations are elected it will increase to 55%.  A list of chairpersons can be found in the 2019 Journal and the 2020 Nominations report.

The legislation says: At least 50% of GNJ agency chairpersons are People of Color by June 2023. While I think this effort to include People of Color in positions of leadership is very good – I was thinking 50% might be almost disproportionate to the numbers?

Leadership was talked about quite a bit in A Journey of Hope team. There were proposals for 40%, 50% and 60% or better. The thinking was that we are doing a better job in identifying and mentoring white leadership than People of Color leadership, particularly with African American and Latino/Hispanic. While 50% is about 20% higher than the number of congregations and membership of People of Color, the 50% would be a mechanism for developing more People of Color in leadership.