The Council of Bishops Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships awarded three Local Initiative Grants to groups within United Methodist annual conferences to lead special projects with the goal of strengthening ecumenical and/or interreligious relationships. We are excited to announce our outstanding final recipients who further the witness of unity in this world.

The Kivu Annual Conference of the East Congo Episcopal Area plans to organize and host a series of four trainings on the effects of tribalism on ecumenical and interreligious engagement. Extreme tribalism, or tribe loyalty, has a history of resulting in polarization, violence and unrest. These meetings will be facilitated by lay person Phillippe Kituka Lolonga, his pastor, and the DS/DCM. Local Muslim, Baptist, Catholic, and Methodist young adults will be invited to engage in conversation to outline goals for eliminating tribalism in Kivu and promoting stronger interreligious ecumenity in the area. Lolonga has a deep history of serving his UMC community. This article features his past work in overseeing the Goma health clinic in Karisimbi: http://bit.ly/2cQP9pI.

Led by the United Methodist Campus Minister Rev. Brett Pinder at the University of Maryland, College Park, the young adult group “The Wesley” will partner with the university’s Muslim Student Association to foster a recurring interreligious dialogue on campus in effort to cultivate deeper understanding of each other’s theologies. The two groups plan to equally sponsor bi-weekly gatherings and develop panel discussions and presentations, with a goal of spurring wider engagement in their academic community. Learn more about the UMC at University of Maryland: https://ucmcollegepark.org/

Rev. Ralph Howe of the First United Methodist Church of Pittsfield will be working with the Pittsfield Area Council of Congregations (PACC), an interfaith organization in Massachusetts where leaders of varied faith communities come together to build and strengthen relationships. PACC will sponsor a three-part community forum dedicated to addressing specific theological teachings with insight from a panel of various leaders of the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faiths. Panel presentations will be followed by discussion and a joint social action activity in the local community. The overarching goal is to build a strong community bond in civic engagement and a deeper knowledge of each other’s ideologies. Follow more of the PACC’s efforts on their Facebook page: http://bit.ly/2dwT8pM