Black History Month and the Arkansas UMCRev. Elma Joyce Harris-Scott

Black History Month and the Arkansas UMC
Rev. Elma Joyce Harris-Scott

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Each February, Black History Month is celebrated throughout the United States as a way to remember the amazing contributions and achievements of black Americans and other people of African descent throughout history.

Throughout February, we are celebrating the groundbreaking achievements of black Americans in the Arkansas United Methodist Church.

This week, our focus is on a lady whose name many people in the Arkansas Conference might not recognize: the Rev. Elma Joyce Harris-Scott.

The reason that Harris-Scott’s name isn’t well known in Arkansas is that although she was ordained in our conference, she was never given an appointment here.

But her significance in our conference’s history cannot be understated; Rev. Harris-Scott was the first black woman to be ordained in the Arkansas Conference.

Harris-Scott is a graduate of Philander Smith College. She was ordained in 1980 in the former North Arkansas Conference as a deacon — This was during the former 2-step ordination process. Before 1996, deacons were considered provisional elders and did not serve separate roles as we know deacons and elders do today.

Harris-Scott was never given an appointment in Arkansas, and according to Two Centuries of Methodism in Arkansas 1800-2000 by Nancy Britton, she was “considered unappointable and transferred to the Kansas East Conference shortly after her ordination.

She served numerous churches throughout Kansas and retired in the Great Plains Conference in 2016.

Although we do not have much info on Rev. Elma Joyce Harris-Scott, it is important to remember the “firsts” in our conference, and preserve and reflect on our history.

If you have more info on Rev. Elma Joyce Harris-Scott or personal stories you wish to share, please email caleb.hennington@arumc.org.

We celebrate the contributions of black Americans every year in February, but the immeasurable improvements to our society that black Americans have gifted the world should be honored each and every day.

The Need for Space and a New Form of UnityCreating Overlapping Theologically and Contextually Defined Regional Conferences in Four Global Regions

The Need for Space and a New Form of Unity
Creating Overlapping Theologically and Contextually Defined Regional Conferences in Four Global Regions

By Gary E. Mueller

Bishop of the Arkansas Annual Conference

The Landscape Matters

Tod Bolsinger’s Canoeing the Mountains uses Lewis and Clark’s westward journey of discovery to help the church better understand the nature of our journey into a rapidly changing world. Bolsinger chronicles how Lewis and Clark had to adapt to a landscape vastly different from the one they expected in order to complete their mission. His thesis is remarkably simple: the church will only be able to carry out the mission Jesus has given us if we are able to adapt to our actual landscape, and not just forge ahead based on long-held assumptions.

The Current United Methodist Landscape
Four key characteristics shape our current United Methodist landscape.

First, the anger, ugly rhetoric, and blame that enveloped the 2019 Called General Conference Session in St. Louis has intensified to the point that it seems impossible to imagine a future in which progressives and traditionalists can move forward together without each having a structured safe space to live out their convictions faithfully.

Second, since the called session a year ago, a significant group of bishops, pastors, laity, and congregations have vowed to ‘resist harm’ in a variety of ways, including non-compliance. This means that the legislation adopted by the General Conference in 2019 will very likely be unenforceable in the United States in the years to come.

Third, sixteen diverse leaders recently completed a mediation process that resulted in the issuance of a “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation”. This offering proposes shaping the ongoing United Methodist Church as progressive in matters involving LGBTQIA individuals, while also providing a way for those who embrace a more traditional understanding of marriage and ordination to create a new expression of Methodism. It currently seems to be the presumptive way forward for the 2020 General Conference.

While embraced by many, however, the proposed Protocol fails to provide an acceptable solution for the 30% – 40% of the United Methodist Church in the United States that is more traditional concerning human sexuality, but wishes to stay in the United Methodist Church. Those in this group feel ignored by the Protocol at best, and tossed aside as the ‘cost of doing business’ at worst. Perhaps more importantly, they contend they now face a heart-wrenching choice of having to stay in a denomination they believe does not express their deepest convictions or leave the denomination they love.

Concerns about the viability of the Protocol are being raised throughout the global church as well. The Liberian Annual Conference recently unanimously passed a resolution calling for significant amendments to the proposed Protocol that would considerably alter its focus. This includes every Jurisdictional, Central, and Annual Conference voting to decide whether to join a traditional or progressive expression, with a 50% plus one vote being the threshold for decision. It also includes a statement that challenges a fundamental assumption of the protocol, “Whereas, any attempt to align or subjugate all central conferences and their annual conferences and congregations to a post-separation UMC by default, as the Protocol proposes, would be viewed as an act of colonialism and injustice against the Central Conferences.” (“Resolution of The Liberia Annual Conference, The United Methodist Church on Proposed Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation” February 14, 2020)

Fourth, Jesus calls those who love him to live in unity. We cannot achieve this on our own, because there are powerful forces pulling us apart. We can no longer fool ourselves into thinking the institutional church can foster it, because the United Methodist Church is fracturing. We cannot expect it to magically appear based on votes at General Conference, because a legislative process can never provide true unity in Christ. We can only receive the unity Jesus offers as a gift, vision, and expectation to live into as we trust him enough to step out in faith.

The mandatory nature of this unity is expressed in John 17:20-24, when Jesus prays that his followers may be one as he and God are one. Its realization is described in John 14:5-8, when Jesus makes it clear we are only connected to each other by being connected to him. Its reality is experienced weekly by the majority of United Methodists, when they sit in pews with people of opposing opinions and experience the truth of Paul’s affirmation in 1 Corinthians 12:14-26, As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” (vv 20-21)

Navigating the United Methodist Landscape in Order to Faithfully Move Ahead
We cannot ignore any of these four characteristics that define our landscape if we are to faithfully and fruitfully guide our beloved church into the future. Yet that is exactly what we seem to have done! The proposed Protocol provides safe space for those who seek a church that is fully inclusive of the LGBTQIA persons. It also offers an easy way for those who wish to leave the connection to do so. But it fails to provide a faithful response for traditional leaning United Methodists who wish to live their faith with integrity within the United Methodist Church; particularly in Africa and the United States, but also in other Central Conferences.

Of course, this is not a surprising outcome. It is easy to become ensnared in a binary choice mindset of “either-or”, “up or down”, or “win-lose”; assume that matters involving human sexuality are the only issues important to traditional leaning United Methodists; and forget that relationships often carry greater weight than issues.

The exclusion of what is probably a majority of United Methodists globally means that we are on a very dangerous trajectory. In fact, any legislation that does not allow those who wish to remain as United Methodists to do so without compromising core convictions in a safe and protected way is unjust.

Adaptive Change Through a “2-by-4” Approach
The United Methodist Church desperately needs an adaptive approach that addresses the full reality of our landscape: painful division; deep and faithful convictions; a flawed Protocol proposal with momentum that fails to provide a place for traditional leaning United Methodists who wish to remain in the denomination; and Christ’s mandated call for unity.

There is an approach that can curate a continuing United Methodist Church which provides clearly defined spaces for laity, congregations, pastors, and bishops to live with theological integrity, while trusting the Holy Spirit to help us live into a new form of unity in Christ. It does this by creating two geographically overlapping theologically and contextually defined Regional Conferences in each of four Global Regions of the United Methodist Church: the Philippines, Africa, Europe, and the United States. Of course, those who do not wish to join this endeavor will be able to gracefully exit the denomination.

The Philippines Central Conference will become the Philippines Region with two geographically overlapping theologically and contextually defined Regional Conferences. The three Central Conferences in Africa will become two Regional Conferences in the Africa Region. The three Central Conferences in Europe will become two Regional Conferences in the Europe and Eurasia Region. The five Jurisdictional Conferences in the United States will become two Regional Conferences.

Overview of Annual Conferences, Regional Conferences and the Global Conference
The roles and responsibilities of Annual Conferences, Regional Conferences and the new Global Conference will reflect the shape of the new United Methodist Church.

Annual Conferences

  • Relate to either the Progressive or Traditional Regional Conference in its Region by a majority vote
  • Recruit, credential, deploy and supervise clergy
  • Begin new places for new people
  • Develop and carry out missional strategy
  • Partner with a global annual conference
  • Develop lay leadership
  • Appoint itinerant clergy through an episcopal system that provides open itinerancy with guaranteed appointments
  • Elect delegates to the Regional Conference
  • Elect delegates to the Global Conference
  • Negotiate relationships with general agencies as desired

Two Theologically and Contextually Defined Regional Conferences in Each of Four Regions

  • Relate to the Global Conference
  • Collaborate with other Regional Conferences, including establishing formal structural relationships if desired
  • Create a “Regional Conference Book of Discipline”
  • Adopt social principles
  • Determine roles and responsibilities for bishops
  • Elect, deploy, and support bishops (bishop’s membership in Regional Conference College of Bishops)
  • Determine standards for marriage
  • Determine requirements for ordination
  • Negotiate relationship with general agencies as desired

Global Conference

  • Craft a deeper unity in the United Methodist Church
  • Create a “Global Book of Discipline” that focuses on doctrine, mission, and shared heritage
  • Convene the Global Conference every four years to focus on unity, evangelism, mission, and ecumenical matters
  • Maintain GCFA
  • Support Africa University
  • Support Historically Black Colleges and Universities
  • Coordinate UMCOR on behalf of all the Regional Conferences
  • Meet annually as Colloquy of Bishops from all Regional Conferences to focus on unity, learning, shared mission, and unity in Christ

Process

  • All General Agencies will become free-standing and negotiate relationships with Regional Conferences
  • Regional Conferences (and Annual Conferences in those Regional Conferences) can use the cross and flame or some version of it
  • Annual Conferences will choose which Regional Conference in their Region to join
  • Congregations and pastors not agreeing with the decision of their Annual Conference can join the other Regional Conference in their Region
  • WesPath will continue to manage pensions for the entire United Methodist Church
  • Two Regional Conferences will be created in each of the four Regions in 2020-2021
  • Annual Conferences will vote concerning which Regional Conference to join in 2021
  • Laity, congregations, clergy, and bishops will be able to choose a different Regional from their Annual Conference in 2021-2024
  • $39,000,000 will be committed to addressing racism and will be available to both Regional Conferences in the United States
  • Annual Conferences and congregations that do not wish to be part of the United Methodist Church will be provided with a gracious and easy exit

Can ‘2X4’ Work?
Creating two theologically and contextually defined geographically overlapping Regional Conferences in each of our four Global Regions will provide space for everyone who wishes to remain in the United Methodist Church. It avoids forcing people to be part of a church with which they disagree or enforcing conformity through disciplinary measures. It connects people in mission and ministry who might be tempted to stay in their kindred groups. It offers wonderful opportunities to create a more nimble church with significantly lower apportionments. Perhaps most importantly, it expresses the unity Jesus mandates in John 15: Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” (vv 4-5)

It is fair to inquire, however, whether this proposal for navigating into the future can become a reality. It can. First, the legislation that has already been written can be easily adapted. Second, the General Conference can amend whatever comes before it when it gathers in May in Minneapolis. Finally, even the high threshold of two-thirds support needed from General Conference and Annual Conferences for constitutional amendments ensures that this is not merely a win for some and a loss for others, but a way forward for everyone who loves the United Methodist Church.

We are in a fragile and tender time. The risks are high and the consequences potentially tragic if we make decisions that tear apart the Body of Christ in local congregations and our global connection. Yet we can be filled with hope that we can experience both the space we need and the unity Christ gives us to embody for one simple reason: the Holy Spirit always triumphs.

Come, Holy Spirit, come!

Black History Month and the Arkansas UMCEuba Mae Harris-Winton

Black History Month and the Arkansas UMC
Euba Mae Harris-Winton

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Each February, Black History Month is celebrated throughout the United States as a way to remember the amazing contributions and achievements of black Americans and other people of African descent throughout history.

Throughout February, we are celebrating the groundbreaking achievements of black Americans in the Arkansas United Methodist Church.

This week, we are recognizing Euba Mae Harris-Winton a lifelong Methodist spiritual leader and guide for many people during her 95 years on earth.

Euba Mae was born on June 26, 1923, to the Rev. Daniel Haven Edward Harris and Martha T. Hill Harris in Cotton Plant, Arkansas. Her father, known as the Rev. D.H.E. Harris to many, was the pastor at Mallalieu Methodist Church in Fort Smith from 1900 to 1907. Strong leadership ran in Harris-Winton’s family, as her father was not only a pastor and a District Superintendent, but also the first black minister to serve on the Board of Trustees of Philander Smith College.

Mallalieu Methodist Church played a significant role in Harris-Winton’s life, and she would return to the church many years later to open the Mallalieu Community Center in 1970, with the mission of strengthening the church’s outreach ministry, with a focus on improving the wellbeing of minority groups and low-income families.

Harris-Winton was the executive director of the Mallalieu Community Center from 1970 to 1997 and was instrumental in helping immigrants from both Cuba and Vietnam during that time adjust to living in the United States.

According to a newspaper article written by Bennie Mae Ware Gunn, printed in the May 2001 issue of The Lincoln Echo (Vol. 8, Issue 12), “Mallalieu Community Center was a multi-cultural center long before the term was commonly used.”

Harris-Winton also worked with people from low-income families to get their college degrees, and helped workers find jobs through the Western Arkansas Employment Development Agency.

Euba Mae Harris-Winton. Photo courtesty of the United Methodist Archives.

Other accomplishments she achieved during her long and impactful life include being the first black delegate elected from the former North Arkansas conference to attend General Conference in 1980; president of the North Arkansas Conference United Methodist Women from 1986-1989; and a 1987-1988 recipient of the Ethel K. Millar Award presented by Hendrix College.

One of her five children, Jonathan D. Keaton, was ordained as a United Methodist bishop in 1996. Bishop Keaton is a retired bishop who served as episcopal leader of the Ohio East, Michigan, and Illinois Areas of The United Methodist Church.

Shortly after her death on March 11, 2019, Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas honored Harris-Winton’s extraordinary life on the floor of the United States Senate Chamber.

Boozman said, “I was honored to know Mrs. Euba and will personally miss her example, kindness, advice, and willingness to help others. She was a rare individual who never stopped fighting to improve the world.”

At the time of her death, Euba was a member of Mission UMC and participated in St. Paul UMC’s United Methodist Women.

Thank you, Euba Mae Harris-Winton, for your dedication to improving the lives of those who need our help the most.

We celebrate the contributions of black Americans every year in February, but the immeasurable improvements to our society that black Americans have gifted the world should be honored each and every day.

The 2020 Christian Ministerial Alliance William H. Robinson, Jr. Social Justice Luncheon

February 17, 2020 (Daisy Bates Day in Arkansas)
Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church – Wesley Hall
4823 Woodlawn – Little Rock, AR
11:30 – 1 p.m.

The 2020 William H. Robinson, Jr. Social Justice Luncheon will honor Rev. Dr. O. Jerome Green and Rev. Dr. Anika Whitfield, along with James Wilson a youth honoree. The William H. Robinson, Jr. Social Justice Award is given annually in recognition of outstanding service in the area of faith and justice with an emphasis on contributions made in the past year. Awards are given to a clergy, a community leader, and a youth annually. The recipient must be involved in local civic/community activities, demonstrate a passion for service and justice, and seek to aid the under-served and under-represented.

Rev. Dr. O. Jerome Green is the President of Shorter College, North Little Rock, Arkansas. Rev. Green is being recognized as the visionary leader for the college’s Second Chance Pell (SCP) program that provides educational opportunities to incarcerated adults.

Rev. Dr. Anika Whitfield, a podiatrist, is a social activist with leadership roles in Grassroots Arkansas, and Save Our Schools. Rev. Whitfield is being recognized for her work toward bringing about equity with the Little Rock School District’s infrastructure and advocating on behalf of educators.

The Christian Ministerial Alliance, in recognition of its partnership with the Gentleman’s Club at McClellan High School, is also recognizing James Wilson. James is Vice-President of McClellan’s DECA program as well as Vice President of Student Council. He is a participant in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission’s L.E.A.D program.

The 2020 Presenting Sponsor is The Methodist Foundation of Arkansas whose mission is to create and administer permanent charitable endowment funds to strengthen and expand Methodist ministry in Arkansas. Their gift is in honor of the ministry of Rev. William H. Robinson, Jr., whose name the event bears.

The William H. Robinson, Jr. Social Justice Award is given annually in recognition of outstanding service in the area of faith and justice with an emphasis on contributions made in the past year. Awards are given to a clergy, a community leader, and a youth annually. The recipient must be involved in local civic/community activities, demonstrate a passion for service and justice, and seek to aid the under-served and under-represented.

The Christian Ministerial Alliance is the owner of the L. C. and Daisy Bates Historic Home and is a 501.c.3 organization.

For more information, contact Rev. Maxine Allen, 501.539.0280.

Black History Month and the Arkansas UMCRep. John Walker

Black History Month and the Arkansas UMC
Rep. John Walker

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Each February, Black History Month is celebrated throughout the United States as a way to remember the amazing contributions and achievements of black Americans and other people of African descent throughout history.

Throughout February, we are celebrating the groundbreaking achievements of black Americans in the Arkansas United Methodist Church.

John Winfield Walker: attorney, state representative, and a devoted United Methodist

This week, we are recognizing the achievements of former Arkansas State Representative John Winfield Walker (June 3, 1937 – Oct. 28, 2019).

Walker was born in Hope, Arkansas. In 1954, Walker had the distinction of being the first African American undergraduate student admitted to the University of Texas after the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954. However, because of lingering racism following the Supreme Court decision, Walker was not allowed to attend the University of Texas. Instead, he returned to his home state and graduated from Arkansas AM&N — now the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff — in 1958 with a degree in Sociology. Walker had the unique privilege of hearing Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak at his graduation ceremony.

Walker would go on to receive a master’s degree from New York University in 1961 and a law degree from Yale University in 1964.

Walker returned to Arkansas in 1968 and set up a general practice of law in Little Rock with an emphasis on civil rights cases. That same year, he opened one of the first racially integrated law firms in the South, Walker and Chachkin.

Throughout his career as an attorney, Walker was involved in a majority of reported cases that involved racial discrimination in the state of Arkansas. One of his landmark cases was the Pulaski County school desegregation case. The federal lawsuit, which first came up in 1982, said that three school districts in Pulaski County were unconstitutionally segregated. Walker fought tirelessly on behalf of black students and parents in this case until his death in 2019.

Walker also had a nearly decade-long career as a state politician, elected as the representative for District 34 since 2011.

Walker’s focus was on education as a state representative and was known for his smart, detailed questioning of other members of the Arkansas legislature. Upon his death, many people commended his bipartisanship and ability to work with all people.

But above all, Walker was a man of faith and was a devoted member of his United Methodist Church, Wesley Chapel UMC in Little Rock, for more than 50 years. 

Wesley Chapel’s pastor, the Rev. Ronnie Miller-Yow, had this to say about the life and legacy of Walker:

“Brother Walker would often tell me this: ‘Reverend, you don’t have to come from a big place to make a big impact.’ He would say that to me as a young pastor. I met him when I was 29. I believe his point to me at the tender age of 29 was simply to serve God. It’s not about the biggest steeple, but about participating in the work of Jesus Christ on each. The work found in Luke 4:18-19 that says, ‘…to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ This is the Life that brother Walker tried to live and he inspired others to join him in that quest.”

Thank you, John Walker, for your service to your city, your state, and your United Methodist Church.

We celebrate the contributions of black Americans every year in February, but the immeasurable improvements to our society that black Americans have gifted the world should be honored each and every day.

Black History Month and the Arkansas UMCRep. John Walker

Black History Month and the Arkansas UMC
Theressa Hoover

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Each February, Black History Month is celebrated throughout the United States as a way to remember the amazing contributions and achievements of black Americans and other people of African descent throughout history.

This month, we are celebrating the groundbreaking achievements of black Americans in the Arkansas United Methodist Church.

Theressa Hoover

Our first focus in this series is on Theressa Hoover, a well-known name in Arkansas, nationally, and globally in the Church.

Theressa Hoover was the first African-American woman to become a top staff executive for the United Methodist Church, serving as the chief executive for the Women’s Division of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, the corporate body of the United Methodist Women, from 1968 to 1990.

Hoover grew up in Texas and Arkansas and studied business administration at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas. After graduating from Philander in 1946, Hoover helped form the Little Rock Methodist Council, a group of 19 black and white Methodist congregations that helped to change a former turkey farm into what is now Camp Aldersgate. The camp was dedicated in 1947 for African-American youth but now serves children and young adults with special needs.

Hoover was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2000, and continued to mentor young women of all races until her death on Dec. 21, 2013 at the age of 88. Her funeral was held at Sequoyah United Methodist Church in Fayetteville, where she was a member.

In 1990, the United Methodist Women established the Theressa Hoover Community Service and Global Citizenship Award to honor Hoover’s service to the UMW, the church, and the ecumenical world. According to the UMW website, “It recognizes her interest in community service and public policy and the way in which she expanded on her early experience to encompass a global view of reality and human possibility.”

Hoover’s lasting legacy can be found all over Arkansas, but most visibly at Theressa Hoover United Methodist Church in Little Rock. The church was chartered in 1981, and serves the community of Little Rock with a number of programs aimed at helping the homeless of Little Rock as well as individuals suffering from addiction in all its forms.

Thank you, Theressa Hoover, for your wonderful contributions to not only Arkansas, but the entire global United Methodist Church!

We celebrate the contributions of black Americans every year in February, but the immeasurable improvements to our society that black Americans have gifted the world should be honored each and every day.