Religion and Race top executive to stay on

Erin Hawkins, top executive of the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race, speaks on May 10 to the United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS
Erin Hawkins, top executive of the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race, speaks on May 10 to the United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS

Erin Hawkins will remain top executive of the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race, reversing her earlier plans to take on a new role in California.

The commission’s new board, at its organizing meeting, unanimously elected Hawkins on Sept. 29 as top executive for the next four years, the board announced on Facebook.

That means she will continue to lead the Washington-based general agency devoted to promoting racial equality and equipping local churches to reach more racially and economically diverse people in their neighborhoods. 

In early June, Hawkins announced plans to return to her native California and become executive director of connectional ministries in the California-Pacific Conference.

Hawkins said in a statement that her decision to remain in her current position “is solely related to where I feel God is calling me at this time.”

She mentioned recent events where United Methodists have sought to bring healing, justice and peace. These include the unrest following a police shooting in Charlotte, North Carolina; the Standing Rock Sioux-led protests against an oil pipeline; and the massacre in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo.  

“I have come to believe that my work as a denominational leader tasked with challenging and equipping our church to resist oppression of all kinds and to boldly embrace and include ALL in the human family no matter their cultural identity, is not done,” Hawkins said.

Bishop Grant J. Hagiya, who now leads the California-Pacific Conference, said he is saddened that Hawkins will not be working directly with the conference but he believes she will directly affect issues of importance throughout the United States. 

“With so many ethnic lives being taken by violence, the civil unrest of some of our cities, and the rising intolerance of our nation, Erin is needed in national leadership for such a time as this,” he wrote.

Hagiya told United Methodist News Service: “We sometimes must sacrifice for the greater good. This is clearly the case for Erin!”

Hawkins, 40, joined Religion and Race in 2000 and became its top executive in 2007, making her the longest-serving current top executive among the church-funded agencies. She also has been the youngest top executive for much of her tenure.

Her agency has a staff of seven and is currently planning to hire three more people.

Hawkins, a longtime member of St. Mark United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, credited people in the California-Pacific Conference for helping her discern her gifts.

“It has been your love and support that allowed me to rise through the ranks of our connection,” she said in her note to the conference.

“And I resolve to, in my time left as general secretary, represent the mission of this conference by inspiring the world as a passionate follower of Jesus Christ so all may experience God’s life-giving love.”

Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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