Commission helping United Methodist delegates with visa dilemma

United Methodist officials have expanded efforts to help international delegates gain entry into the United States for General Conference, the denomination's top legislative meeting.

According to information from the denomination's Commission on General Conference, many delegates who previously were unable to schedule visa interviews now have interviews scheduled.

Church officials had discovered that a large number of delegates from Africa and the Philippines had not obtained visas from the U.S. government to travel to the April 27-May 7 meeting in Pittsburgh. Directors of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, meeting March 22-25, agreed to urge United Methodist legislators in Congress to help solve the crisis and appealed to other United Methodists for assistance.

By early April, only five delegates from the Philippines and 10 of 12 delegates from Nigeria had been unsuccessful in scheduling appointments for visas or had been given an appointment date after General Conference concludes, according to the commission. Efforts continue to move appointments to earlier times to enable delegates to obtain the necessary visas in time.

The Commission on the General Conference is coordinating efforts to obtain visas for foreign delegates, working closely with staff from the Board of Global Ministries and General Council on Ministries.

The Rev. James Perry, commission chairman, representatives of the commission asked United Methodists to contact their U.S. representatives and senators to urge them to assist in cutting through bureaucratic red tape to obtain the needed visas for foreign delegates.

He added that U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, (R-Ind.), an active United Methodist who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, is working to obtain visas for delegates who have been refused entry by the U.S. Embassy Consulate Section. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, (R-Ill.), also has tried to provide assistance with visa appointments.

The Commission on General Conference has sent letters of invitation to delegates and embassies, indicating the denomination is responsible for the delegates expenses while in the United States.

News media can contact Linda Green at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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