UM Council of Bishops Opens Office of Christian Unity




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

international denomination.


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