Mission Directors Consider Theology and Structure Issues
by Elliott Wright
New York, NY, April 22, 2010--Mission theology, strategic planning, and organizational governance were major topics for consideration at the spring semi-annual meeting of directors of The United Methodist Church's worldwide mission agency, meeting April 12-14 in Stamford, Connecticut.
Expanding mission collaboration with annual conferences, congregations, and church institutions was also a recurring theme.
The organizational concerns related primarily to efforts to follow through with the recommendation of an "operational audit" approved a year ago. The audit proposed soul-searching on rationale, funding, and structure of the organization that traces its roots to the second decade of the 19th century. Global Ministries today has personnel, projects, and partners in some 136 countries.
In response to the audit, task forces of directors spent a year dealing with implementation, governance, and agency location. These panels submitted their final reports this April. The agency's executive committee will follow through with proposals and suggestions.
Directors welcomed Thomas Kemper, who for 11 years has headed the mission work of the United Methodist Church in Germany, as the new chief executive of Global Ministries, which has personnel, projects, and partners in 136 countries.
They honored Bishop Joel N. Martinez and his wife Rachel; the bishop served as interim general secretary from September 1, 2009, to March 15, 2010, while the search for a new executive took place.
The board member elected the Rev. Jorge Luis F. Domingues as deputy general secretary to lead Mission and Evangelism, the core program unit; the Rev. Cynthia Harvey as deputy general secretary for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), and the Rev. Bruce Griffith as associate general secretary for missionary services. Griffith, who had held the position on an interim basis, is a former missionary to Central Asia and is a clergy member of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference.
While the future size of the board and its executive decision were considered in committees and plenary, no final decisions were reached. The agency now has 92 directors, and any reduction would need the approval of the policy-making General Conference that meets every four years, the next time in 2012. A 24-member executive committee could be reduced by by-law change.
Board size and operation are issues related in part to the anticipation of declining revenues from traditional sources. The board core budget for 2009 was $61.5 million, down from $68 million in 2008. The treasurer's report indicated a projected decrease from income through World Service, the basic fund of the denomination in the immediate future.
Collaboration in mission is hardly a new theme, but it has become increasingly prudent as traditional revenues decline, giving patterns shift within church and society, and United Methodists increasingly show an interest in direct involvement in mission rather than only signing a check.
The need to expand collaborative efforts was highlighted by both Kemper, the new general secretary, and Bishop Bruce R. Ough of West Ohio, president of the agency, in their addresses. It was underscored by representatives from three large membership churches.
The three were Jonathan Bell, director of mission ministry at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, Kansas; the Rev. Lynette Fields, executive director of servant ministries at St. Luke's United Methodist Church, Orlando, Florida; and Jeff Jernigan, who is chair of the Global Ministries team of the North Georgia Annual Conference and a leader in McEachern Memorial United Methodist Church, Powder Springs, Georgia.
They spoke of the energy for mission that exists within large-membership congregations and their interest in working more closely with Global Ministries in the future.
Elliott Wright is an author and consultant to the General Board of Global Ministries.
Date posted: Apr 22, 2010