2016 Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference Bishops’ Consecration Service. Photo by Western Pennsylvania Conference

Northeastern Jurisdiction Vows to Fight Racism

August 1, 2016 | | GNJ News

The Northeastern Jurisdiction elected two new bishops to serve in the jurisdiction: Rev. Cynthia Moore-Koikoi from Baltimore-Washington and Rev. LaTrelle Easterling from New England at the Jurisdictional Conference held in Lancaster, Pennsylvania the week of July 10.

Rev. Dr. Jisun Kwak withdrew her name from consideration on July 14 after saying, “I praise God for my amazing journey.  I stand in awe of God’s love.  I want to thank Greater New Jersey Conference for endorsing me.  I felt their prayers.  Continue to pray for me as I have to face the challenges ahead.”   Rev. Kwak was endorsed by GNJ in May at the Annual Conference in Wildwood.

The election of Bishops Moore-Koikoi and Easterling marked a historic moment in the jurisdiction. Both Moore –Koikoi and Easterling are African American women, and their election comes on the heels of a powerful statement from the College of Bishops of the Northeastern Jurisdiction that committed “to acknowledge our participation in the sin of institutional racism and to have ongoing conversations with the College about racism, privilege and oppression.”

Bishop Schol, who was presiding during the final election said in celebration of the historic legislation, “The College of Bishop’s may never be the same again.”

The Black United Methodist Pastors, Black Methodists for Church Renewal and Black Leadership Forums of the Northeastern Jurisdiction presented legislation that would turn the College of Bishop’s commitment into action. The resolution included requiring district superintendents, conference staff and lay leadership to confront racism, require training and address the impact of structural and institutional racism that result in the closing of Black churches and start new faith communities.

Rev. Varlyna Wright who helped draft the legislation and is the District Superintendent of the Capital District in Greater New Jersey said, “Greater New Jersey has already committed to a ten year plan to address cultural competency. This resolution takes the commitment one step further. We are a part of one of the most diverse conferences in the denomination and our congregations are ready to move forward to eradicate racism in our communities. We need to get this done!”

The delegates at the conference had an extended conversation in support of the resolution. One youth delegate, stated that the use of the term “Black” churches continues to build walls rather than break them down.  Bishop Schol responded, “Sometimes there is more than one right answer. We need to acknowledge that the wall dividing us by race is real before we can take it down.”

After the resolution had passed, the delegations from each conference stood to affirm that they would commit to action on the steps outlined in the resolutions set forth by their conference leadership.

Rev. Eunice Vega-Perez of Vernon UMC offered prayer after a group of Latino clergy delegates shared their vision for the church. Additionally, Asian-American delegates issued a statement to the jurisdiction celebrating the church’s increasing diversity and inclusiveness.

“We are excited to be a part of the momentous occasion of electing two African-American women bishops. How exciting it is also to be a part of a new movement where we made bold and prophetic resolution and call to action to dismantle racism,” the statement read, acknowledging that there is still work in progress. The statement went on to say, “It gives us much hope that we can face the ongoing challenges of racism, immigration issues, social and economic injustice. It takes everyone to work together to fulfill God’s vision for the church and the world. We are standing here with you to affirm our commitment and to offer our gifts and graces to continue the work of bringing God’s kingdom in our midst.”