Talk Story with Karen Georgia Thompson, Associate General Minister & GMP Nominee
On Sunday, July 2, immediately following our meeting with outgoing General Minister and President (GMP) John Dorhauer, we were also granted some time with the GMP nominee, Karen Georgia Thompson. She wanted the time to be for folks in the Hawai’i Conference to ask her questions, as we had already heard much about her in plenary sessions and during her visit to the Western Region morning caucus meeting.
Rev. Dr. Thompson stated that in the UCC we are not a “cookie cutter” denomination where every church seems cut from the exact same mold. Different churches have different contexts, and what works for one church may not work for another. The same program may look very different when implemented in different contexts.
She has observed that as the church, we tend to be risk-averse, but we need to try new things and find out what works and what doesn’t work for our specific context, and then tweak it to our specific setting. We need to be creative without shame or blame if things don’t work out.
When we try something new, after a defined period of time, we need to evaluate the program and determine what needs to change. Sometimes the church gets stuck and continues to do something we know isn’t working.
How do we share about things we are doing and things that are working in our church?
Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to release things that are not working. This is hard for us to do in the church sometimes.
How can we collaborate and interface with the national setting and other churches? We can resource each other and leverage resources. Different groups can each do certain things, but no one group or context can address all the needs alone.
It is important to focus on what we do have, and not on what we don’t. How can we maximize the use of resources through collaboration?
Innovation is not just about what’s working, but also about what hasn’t worked. We can learn from both.
Karen Georgia was also asked about how she cares for herself and what risks the church taken that she was proud of. She refers to her self-care as a “journey to joy,” recovering the things she used to enjoy but stopped doing because life got too busy. In terms of risks the church has taken, she talked about General Synod 33 in 2021 and moving to an all-online format. The current UCC Bylaws did not allow for virtual meetings. The choice was to adhere to the Bylaws and cancel Synod, or go ahead with a virtual meeting and risk someone protesting the decision.
Looking forward, she believes that the church must look pragmatically and spiritually at what it means to decolonize the church. This is an area in which the church has been very safe so far. Are we willing to give up something in order to move in a different direction?
We also need to challenge “faulty theologies” that continue to inform the oppression of people and disrupt lives.
We will have to live into these risks.
The group thanked Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson for her willingness to serve as our next GMP and wished her well as the vote is to be taken on the following day.