Stamford, Connecticut, April 11, 2011--The chief executive of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries has no doubts that his agency and United Methodist Women will remain "missionally connected" if a proposal for a structural separation is finalized.
Thomas Kemper spoke to the issue during the semi-annual meeting of Global Ministries' directors following the presentation of an action for separation taken the day before by directors of the current Women's Division, the corporate arm of United Methodist Women. The board met April 11-13 in Stamford, Connecticut.
"I am confident that this new relationship would strengthen the mission of our global Church. United Methodist Women has always been a vital part of the mission connection," Kemper said. "We will continue to be intentional partners as we work together in pursuit of God's mission in the world."
The proposal to separate will make its way through the United Methodist system to the 2012 General Conference, the denomination's policy-making legislature, for final consideration and approval. It could not go into effect until 2013.
Connected in Mission
The action for separation was presented by the president of the Women's Division, Inelda Gonzalez. Her comments make clear that structural separation does not mean abandonment of collaborative mission work with Global Ministries.
Harriett Jane Olson, the division's top executive, said that the envisioned plan "will strengthen United Methodist Women's identification with our shared work and will enhance our strong witness in the church and the world."
There are large areas of synergy between the two operations. Under the new structure, these would be strengthened through specific strategies. Perhaps most importantly, Global Ministries and United Methodist Women staff would continue to share information through roundtables and cross-functional teams, deepening collaboration on ministries with related missions. It is anticipated that Global Ministries will continue to provide support with the processing of regional missionaries.
The connection with the Church Center for United Nations (CCUN) will continue to serve as a link to the UN and NGO community. Two Global Ministries' staff persons would serve on United Methodist Women's editorial board with a special focus on resources for mission education. Staff from both organizations would work together to create and distribute an annual mission Prayer Calendar that represents the mission work of the whole Church. In addition, Global Ministries would help promote and assign staff to teach at the United Methodist Women's Schools of Christian Mission.
"This missional network will continue to be an important part of our relationship," said Kemper. "We have existing examples of strong collaboration, such as happened following the recent earthquake in Japan. The United Methodist response includes Global Ministries' missionaries serving there, UMCOR managing the relief and development, and the partnership with the Women's Division-related Wesley Center in Tokyo. There is similar cooperation in Haiti and other places where we minister with the poor and with vulnerable people around the world."
The Women's Division and its predecessor organizations have been part of a succession of Methodist and United Methodist mission agencies across recent decades. Several women's missionary societies were independently organized more than a century ago and became structurally related to what is today Global Ministries in a process completed by 1940.
The current relationship between Global Ministries and the division was defined by the General Conference in 1964. The Women's Division has its own corporate standing and board of directors, providing a large number of the directors of the full board. As a separate entity, the organization would become "United Methodist Women, Inc." The term "Women's Division" would be discontinued.
Noting the long history of work between Global Ministries and Women's Division, Kemper said that United Methodist Women "plays a major role in mission education within the church and keeps the United Methodist connection alert to the needs of justice and equality in both church and society. These contributions will continue in our shared mission in the world."
Global Ministries seeks, on behalf of The United Methodist Church, to embody the Christian and Wesleyan conviction that all of life is within the promise of the saving, judging reign of God. As the global mission agency of The United Methodist Church, its annual conferences, missionary conferences, and local congregations, Global Ministries has personnel, projects, and mission partners in 136 countries.
Melissa Hinnen is the information officer of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.