Sam McBratney reflects on the 2019 gathering of IAMSCU in the USA in June.
The International Association of Methodist-related Schools, Colleges and Universities is not the easiest acronym in the world – IAMSCU. It is, in fact, a network made up of over a thousand institutions of education, formal and informal, from kindergarten to doctoral programmes, stretching from Hawaii in the West to Samoa in the East. With Southlands College’s Methodist heritage, the University of Roehampton is proud to be a member and currently Southlands’ Head of College, Dr Christopher Stephens serves on the IAMSCU Board of Directors.
In June 2019, IAMSCU held a joint meeting at Emory University in Atlanta, GA with representatives of theological colleges from the US and United Methodist-related Universities and Colleges. It was a busy time of networking, saying farewell to key personnel within IAMSCU and GBHEM (the General Board of Higher Education & Ministry, one of the agencies of the UMC), and welcoming new people into key roles.
Despite our incredibly varied contexts, it is always surprising to hear how many challenges we have in common as we attempt to create places of learning that are inspiring, nurturing and transformational for students, staff and communities. In so many places, Methodist-related institutions are bringing opportunities to marginalised and hard-to-reach communities, prioritising a values-based education that promotes well-being of the whole person and strives for justice, equality and inclusion. It is truly inspiring to be in the company of so many hard-working people who are using education to change lives and communities around the world!
In particular, the current debate within the United Methodist Church regarding the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ people shaped part of our agenda this time. It was therefore refreshing and highly appropriate that we gathered at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library in the City that raised Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, to honour those who have consistently worked within our network for full human rights and dignity. One of Methodism’s key words is ‘connection/connexion’: we, at Southlands and Roehampton are eager to discover how connections made then will grow to fruition in the coming year.