The United Methodist Church today is in an identity crisis rooted in the role of culture, power, and agency in the negotiation of denominational identity. To confront these challenges, the UMC must recognize the extent to which white American understandings of Methodism have functioned as normative in debates over Methodist identity. To illustrate the intercultural dynamics at stake, we analyze the history of Italian and Japanese immigrants’ struggle to find a place within American Methodism in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These case studies show that Methodism flourished when there was room for intercultural conversation about its nature. Thus, United Methodists need an alternative understanding of our collective identity that evolves out of intercultural conversations that remain alert to the role of culture, power, and agency in identity formation. We suggest that one promising resource in this task is the Methodist practice of conferencing or dialogue.
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