Mission leader proposes offices outside United States
Apr. 27, 2007
NOTE: Photographs and audio available at http://umns.umc.org.
By Linda Bloom*
STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS) - Recognizing the need for "a greater visible reality" of the global nature of The United Methodist Church, the head of its mission agency wants to establish offices in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
"Think of these not as field offices but as branches, much as a university might have schools in various locales while retaining a single board of regents," said the Rev. R. Randy Day, chief executive, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
Day made the proposal during his address at the board's April 23-26 spring meeting in Stamford. The Board of Global Ministries is headquartered in New York.
While noting that many details must be worked out, Day said the branch offices "will play key roles in the successful implementation of our objectives in the new quadrennium, including the emphasis on overcoming poverty and improving global health."
The regional offices would encourage accountability, strengthen communications and allow for a more rapid response to disasters of all kinds, he said.
"We are a denomination global in our attitudes and affections, and the time has come to make this visible in our operational nature," Day told board directors. "I think God is leading us in this direction."
Day noted that the Board of Global Ministries is the lead agency for the denomination's program emphasis on ministry with the poor during the 2009-2012 quadrennium. The board's proposal for that ministry includes undertaking pilot projects in collaboration with conferences in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the United States.
Asia, Africa and Central America
Several board actions involved church development and mission work in Asia, Africa and Central America.
Board directors approved a $100,000 grant to assist the denomination's Nepal Mission to purchase land and build a mission center. They also were presented with a $100,000 gift for the Nepal Mission from Chang Wook Kim, a member of Arcola United Methodist Church in Promise, N.J.
Kim's son, Jung Ho Kim, made the presentation on behalf of his father, who was out of the country on a church trip. He recalled his parents' love of mission work, which had taken them and other members of the Arcola church to Nepal, Malawi, Mexico and Bolivia.
His father was on one such trip in March 2006, in a remote village in Bolivia, when his mother, Young Ja Choi, was killed in a car accident. The donation for Nepal was made in her memory. "My mother's death only strengthened my father's resolve to continue the mission work through our church mission group," he said.
The Nepal Mission is led by the Rev. Devi Bhujel, a missionary with the Board of Global Ministries, and now has 22 congregations. The new mission center will house a congregation, living space for the congregation's pastor, and office and training space. The Northwest Philippines Annual Conference is a partner in providing resources.
A $108,632 grant was approved to support the Evangelical Methodist Church of Costa Rica. The money will help develop ministries along the borders with Nicaragua and Panama, start ministries with indigenous people and fund programs through its Children and Family Institute.
Two requests regarding changes in denominational status were referred to the United Methodist Council of Bishops for consideration. One was from Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa of Zimbabwe, who wants what is now the Malawi District of the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area to be established as a missionary conference. Such a designation would require action by General Conference, the denomination's top legislative body.
The United Methodist Church in Malawi was formed in 1986 and has 18,329 members, five ordained elders and 12 local pastors.
The second request would allow the Board of Global Ministries to establish a mission in Southeast Asia consisting of Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, and asks that the Council of Bishops assign a presiding bishop to the area. Each country would be a district, with a missionary from each country appointed as district superintendent. The Board of Global Ministries would help organize a board of ordained ministries for the mission.
Status of finances
In other business, board treasurer Roland Fernandes reported that, for the first time in several years, there was no operating deficit during 2006. Operating expenses for the year were $67 million, a decrease of $1.8 million from 2005.
Assets were steady between 2003 and 2005, and the sale of Concord Telephone Co. stock in 2006 led to a $20 million increase in net assets.
That sale helped address accumulated deficits in the board's unrealized gain/loss account, which occurred between 1997 and 1999, according to Fernandes. Several program funds totaling $59 million were created out of unrealized gains without actually realizing the gains. The subsequent fall in the stock market resulted in the deficits.
"Looking at the unrealized gain/loss account at the end of 2006, you can see the balance as a positive $10.3 million compared to a negative $14.5 million at the end of 2005," he said.
Board directors also:
* Reviewed first drafts of proposed legislation and resolutions for the 2008 General Conference.
* Approved a resolution, "A Commitment to Unity in Mission and Ministry," endorsing the vision of the Council of Bishops to emphasize four areas in the future course of the denomination's work and life: leadership development, congregational development, ministry with the poor and global health. The resolution has been approved by the boards and commissions of other general church agencies this spring, signaling their intention to collaborate closely with one another on the denomination's priorities.
* Learned that a search has begun to fill the position of chief executive, United Methodist Committee on Relief, with the expectation that a candidate will be elected during the board's annual meeting in October.
* Paid tribute to the late Rev. J. Harry Haines, a former missionary and board executive who led UMCOR from 1966-1983.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
United Methodist News Service Photos and stories also available at: http://umns.umc.org
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