By Ginny Underwood
NEW YORK, NY -- The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church marked
an important organizational transition in the denomination January 1 by launching an
Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships (OCUIR).
Following action by the 2012 General Conference, the new office replaces a General
Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns and consolidates the
ecumenical and interfaith ministries within the Council of Bishops. The General
Conference, held every four years, is the top legislative body of the 12.1 million-member
The rationale for the change is to strengthen the United Methodist ecumenical religious
witness around the world through the leadership of the bishops, according to Bishop
Mary Ann Swenson, ecumenical officer for the council. “This structure will allow
United Methodists to rethink our current relationships and gives us an opportunity to
think of a new future that supports the denomination-wide goal of creating more vital
congregations through local ecumenical and interfaith outreach.”
The office will have an 11-member steering committee, including lay and clergy
representatives from each jurisdiction in the United States and the central (overseas)
conferences. The steering committee will convene in New York Jan. 24-26 to begin
organizing the work of the office.
“We will begin with a visioning process to discern where God is leading the
denomination in new ecumenical relations and work,” said the Rev. Stephen Sidorak,
ecumenical staff officer for the OCUIR. “While the mandates of the ecumenical and
interreligious relations remain the same, the approach to how we do this work will
change.” Sidorak was staff executive for the former General Commission on Christian
Unity and Interreligous Concerns.
Immediately following the 2012 General Conference in Tampa, Fla., a transition team
was named to begin the review of legal procedures to consolidate the OCUIR into the
Council of Bishops. The Council of Bishops passed a resolution in November 2012 to
establish the OCUIR. The office will remain in New York with its previous staff. The
transition team will function through October 2013.
About the Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships (OCUIR)
The OCUIR is the part of The United Methodist Church that engages with and talks to other
Christian denominations to work toward unity and peace. The OCUIR seeks to strengthen
interreligious relationships, which enable community building. For more information, visit