By the Rev. Elizabeth Murray
I love connectionalism more than Peter loved the Lord, and my friends will affirm this fact about me.
I think connectionalism is one of the strongest aspects of our denomination. It excites me to see how we, as United Methodists, can use our connection to work together, collaborate with ideas and resources and fellowship with one another. Someone said to me once, “All you United Methodists know each other!” It’s true. Even outside of the annual conference, United Methodists are connected throughout the country and the world.
I accompanied the Charleston District recently on their district-wide mission trip to Otavalo, Ecuador. On our mission trip, we had the privilege of working alongside people in the Methodist church in Pijal, Ecuador, especially their pastor, Pastora Carmen. There, Methodists worked hand-in-hand to build the second story of their secondary building, a space that would be used as a living quarters for Pastora Carmen and out of town guests. Additionally, the clergy on the trip gathered for a few days with the Methodist pastors of Ecuador for a pastor’s retreat where we shared about our lives and ministries.
Even though the Methodist church in Ecuador is an autonomous church, it is still connected with our denomination through the General Board of Global Ministries and their missionaries and mission trips, like the one that came from the Charleston District. The South Carolina Annual Conference has partnered with the Methodist Church of Ecuador to work together to further God’s kingdom together.
Connectionalism is a strong tool, and one of my favorite memories from the trip proves that point. The bishop of Ecuador’s wife had a South Carolina baseball championship hat on when we visited in their church. We found out it was a gift from Tom Wall, the Wesley Foundation campus minister at the University of South Carolina. Having come out of that Wesley Foundation myself, I exclaimed, “Tom Wall is my pastor!” This is a small, yet very real, example of the beauty of the connectional system we have in The United Methodist Church.
Connectionalism is a great tool that we have in the UMC. We are able to pull ideas from other churches and ministries; we can call on general boards and agencies for help in specifics areas, such as immigration or education; we can create lifelong relationships with people who are both similar and different from us; and we can share in our common mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
What are the ways in which your church is able to use connectionalism to further the kingdom of God? It might look like partnering with the other UMC in town for a mission project, leaving a United Methodist Women’s conference feeling inspired, reading the Advocate and learning about new ministry opportunities and resources, or traveling to the United Methodist building on Capitol Hill and meeting other Methodists who share your same passions.
There are ample amounts of opportunities for us to use our connection to bring about God’s kingdom—we just have to cultivate them!