United Methodists continue relationship with Puerto Rican Methodists

The special relationship between the United Methodist Church and the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico will continue, delegates of the United Methodist General Conference have decided.

Despite questions about the Puerto Rican church receiving benefits not usually accorded to an autonomous Methodist denomination, more than three-quarters of the delegates voted May 3 to approve the concordat between the two bodies.

In comments before the vote, Bishop Joel Martinez pointed out that the United Methodist connection to Puerto Rico dates back 104 years. Half of the Puerto Rican population lives in the United States, where more than 200 Puerto Rican pastors are serving in some sort of ministry. The concordat represents a commitment that “is vital for our future in reaching the growing Hispanic/Latino population in the United States,” he said.

The Rev. Randolph Nugent, a New York delegate and retired chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, noted the need to continue a close working relationship with the Puerto Rican church and said that relationship has been endorsed by previous General Conferences.

In 1972, the then-Puerto Rico Annual (regional) Conference successfully petitioned the General Conference to become an affiliated autonomous body, and a transition process was approved. Twenty years later, a set of guidelines was established to further develop the transitional relationship through the year 2000. That year, General Conference extended the interim agreement through 2004.

The concordat agreement approved May 3 renews the special provisions drafted in 1992 and covers such items as mutual recognition of ordained ministries, voting rights at each other’s General Conference, interaction with United Methodist agencies and the Council of Bishops, and partnership in mission programs.

*Bloom is the director of the New York office of United Methodist News Service.

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