As the IAMSCU Conference continues in Bristol with various sessions, the emphasis on Friday, April 28, was on diversity. The Opening Devotional moment was led by the delegation from Africa, which includes nearly 40 members representing Primary and Secondary Education, Higher Education, and Theological Education in Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
Chanting African songs with lively rhythms, the African delegation engaged the whole conference in a liturgical moment that prepared participants very well for the conference sessions to be held during the day. The Rev. Dr. Filipe Hoguane was the Liturgist and The Rev. Dr. Sul Nawej (Democratic Republic of Congo) was the preacher, who used his sermon to connect Methodist Education and the Wesleyan Quadrilateral: Scripture, Reason, Tradition, and Experience.
The African delegation also dedicated time to discuss the work of the two associations on the continent: Africa Association of United Methodist Theological Institutions (AAUMTI) and the Africa Association of Methodist Institutions of Higher Education (AAMIHE). The two associations are planning a joint meeting in 2023, building on the energy and experiences of the IAMSCU Conference and the 275th anniversary of Kingswood School. Leaders of both associations also had a meeting with the General Secretary of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) of the United Methodist Church, The Rev. Greg Bergquist, the IAMSCU President, Rev. Dr. Tom Wolfe, the IAMSCU Vice-President, Lic. Adriana Murriello, and Bishop Dr. Kasap Tshibang Owan, who was leading the representation of theological institutions and universities from the Democratic Republic of Congo. During the meeting, they discussed future plans for collaboration, co-cocreation, and the co-convening of the proposed joint meeting. Bishop Daniel Lunge (Democratic Republic of Congo) has invited AAUMTI and AAMIHE to have their joint meeting in Kinshasa. The other United Methodist Bishops in the DRC have supported this invitation and are planning to attend the conference: Bishop Mande Muyombo, Bishop Kasap Tshibang Owan, and Bishop Gabriel Unda.
An important and inspiring session during the conference focused on the possible partnerships among primary and secondary schools around the world. Eleven leaders representing schools from Hong Kong, Argentina, UK, India, and many other countries, introduced their institutions to the audience, showing the work they do in their contexts.
This session also included a video of a choir involving hundreds of students from all over the world, singing a song written especially for the conference: “Doing All the Good You Can!” Students then concluded by saying “The World if my Parish” in various languages from Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and North America. The video of the international choir of students singing this song is available here:
The conference sessions continued during the day with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion, under the motto, “For All, for all!” The Rev. Dr. Heecheon Jeon, member of the Board of Directors of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM), dedicated his talk to explain the concept of WIDEA (Worldwide Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility), which is now a core value in the Strategic Planning of GBHEM.
One particular session focused on the specific situation of Methodist education in the United Kingdom and the various regulatory issues faced by schools in the country. Baroness Estelle Morris, Steve Chalke, Sir Anthony Seldon, and Judith Fenn – the new CEO of the Methodist Independent Schools Trust (MIST) in the United Kingdom – discussed these matters in detail and presented creative ways to address the challenges faced by British institutions. However, questions about Worldwide Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility emerged at various points of the IAMSCU Conference, as delegates from Africa, Asia Pacific, and Latin America questioned whether the legacy of colonialism was still influencing Methodist education. These questions led to important contrasts between the roots of the Wesleyan traditions and the future of Methodist education.