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United Methodist Bishop Calls for More Missionaries in More Places

by Elliott Wright

Bishop Bruce Ough
Bishop Bruce Ough addresses Global Ministries Board of Directors.
Image by: Cassandra M. Zampini
Source: GBGM Administration

Stamford, Connecticut, April 12, 2010--Bishop Bruce R. Ough of West Ohio wants the large mission agency over which he presides to increase the number and distribution of its missionaries worldwide.

He made the appeal on April 12 to directors of the General Board of Global Ministries, meeting in Stamford, Connecticut, in their semiannual meeting. He also called for more "mission initiatives"--efforts to start mission work, including evangelism and human services, in new places. The Ohio bishop is president--a position somewhat like the chairman of a corporate board--of the agency that currently has personnel, projects, and mission partners in 136 countries.

Global Ministries currently has some 220 full-service missionaries in 60 countries, plus about 100 in the United States. There are also several categories of short-term mission service, plus partial support of indigenous mission personnel in countries around the world.

Vietnam an Example

An increase in missionaries and mission initiatives, the bishop said, is part of what it means for Christians to "go into all the world," as mandated by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. To the Global Ministries' directors, who come from many countries, the bishop states: "I encourage us to develop the leadership and funding capacity to increase both the number and distribution of our missionaries and mission initiatives. I know first-hand the Kingdom fruit being born by these efforts."

Bishop Ough described the effective work of United Methodist missionaries in Vietnam since the mission board started an initiative there a decade go. There are today more than 160 congregations with almost 11,000 members.

"This week," Ough said, "a team from West Ohio is conducting a motorbike rally through the hill country of Vietnam visiting, encouraging, teaching, and praying with United Methodist congregations along the way. They will participate in the baptizing of 250 new Christians. On Saturday I will be in Vietnam with Rev. Jung Song Kim from our staff to join those already present for the dedication of the United Methodist Center in Ho Chi Minh. On Sunday I will be in Hanoi, representing Global Ministries and the entire United Methodist Church, in seeking the formal recognition of the United Methodist Church in Vietnam by the Vietnamese government. This is cool."

Other Proposals

The appeal for more missionaries and mission initiatives was one of six proposals made by Bishop Ough to the Global Ministries' directors in his semi-annual address. His overall theme came from the account in Matthew 12 of the women who encountered the Risen Christ on the first Easter and "clung to his feet."

Ough noted that the mission board in recent months had experienced a "nearly overwhelming amount of transition, transformation, trauma, and tragedy"--including rapid turnover of chief executives, reductions in staff and budget, and the deaths of two top executives in the January 12 earthquake in Haiti. He said this is a good time to hold on tightly to Jesus as new starts are made under a new administration.

The other five proposals were:

  • Complete an organizational restructure for the sake of being better equipped to focus outward. "Our focus is outward to the needs of the world," he said. "As important as it is to complete this [organizational] task, we cannot let the restructure become the mission."
  • Integrate four areas of mission focus into all aspects of its work. These denominational priorities are new congregations, leadership development, ministry with the poor, and global health. The four, said the bishop, are endemic to the work of God's mission.
  • Become a resource for individuals, churches, regional conferences, and institutions that are engaged in mission rather than thinking the agency must do all the mission. The board's role is to encourage and build capacity, he said.
  • Act decisively to emphasize the "global" nature of its work. He suggested that the board explore whether it might be more effective in setting up regional operations.
  • Develop multiple funding sources rather than continue to rely almost entirely on a few sources in a time when older members with strong mission commitments are becoming fewer, and patterns of mission support tend "to focusing more on high-touch, high-emotional impact projects."

In concluding, Bishop Ough returned to the gospel account of the women on the first Easter morning. He noted that after they encountered a living Jesus, they ran to tell others.

"Dear friends," said the bishop, "it is time to run and tell--not to sit back and wait for the world to come to us, but to go to the world. As we go, let us hold on to Jesus for dear life, not out of fear, but out of wonder and joy and total surrender to the mission."

>>Read the full text of Bishop Ough's address.

>>Read all Board Meeting stories.

Elliott Wright is an author and consultant to the General Board of Global Ministries.


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Date posted: Apr 12, 2010