During the 1960s, after the Methodists of Latin America expressed their wish to have more freedom to make their own decisions, a special work team was formed by the Church of the United States that found a solution: autonomy. You can read about The United Methodist Church of the U.S. (UMC) here and about Methodism’s peppered history and how, at one point, it had strong ties with the Ku Klux Klan during the 1920’s.
Consequently, during the 60’s´and 70’s the churches south of the border and the Caribbean were formally separated from their brothers and sisters in the United States. Furthermore, alliances were formed between them in 1969 with the development of CIEMAL, The Council of Evangelical Methodist Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Prompted by a preoccupation that relationships were seriously weakened between the Methodist Churches of our hemisphere, between March 1 and 4 of 2007 the United Methodist Church (U.S.) and the Methodist Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean joined together to explore the history of these actions and to consider what it means to be autonomous but connected, thus coming up with the concept of connectionalism.
The event, sponsored by a committee to study the matter, was created by the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, the highest level legislative body of this denomination. Its goal was to examine their relationship with the Methodists of Latin America and the Caribbean. “We are very separate in many ways,” said Bishop Paulo Lockmann of Brazil, who was the President of CIEMAL.
“CIEMAL has helped to promote that the General Conference arrive at a resolution to form another study committee,” said Lockmann, noting that his organization feels somewhat abandoned by the United Methodist Church. “Today our relationship is mediated by one or two agencies of the United Methodist Church,” he added.
In fact it has only been in recent years, following the workshop in 2007, that leaders of the United Methodist Church’s Hispanic caucus (MARCHA) has seriously wanted to strengthen relationships between Methodists in the United States and Latin America.
So far, many meetings, workshops, etc., have taken place but little connecting has occurred. “Now that we have what we call connectionalism we should intentionally start to build communications bridges and don’t leave the rest (Latin America) in isolation,” said Bishop Juan Vera-Mendez, former leader of the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico.