Mission Board Celebrates, Reflects, and Prepares at Last Meeting of Quadrennium
By Melissa Hinnen
Plano, Texas, March 26, 2012--Weaving together song and prayer, reflections of challenges and successes, and closing up loose ends while preparing to pass the baton, the directors of the General Board of Global Ministries gathered for the final meeting of the quadrennium. For four years, this elected board of 92 people from four continents has provided support and governance to the mission agency of The United Methodist Church, guiding it through a restructuring process and strategic plan.
In his remarks at a dinner celebrating the work of the directors, Bishop Bruce Ough said, "If there is one over-arching theme to this quadrennium--it is that we have been inspired by the Holy Spirit to dream dreams and see visions." He reminded directors of steps they had taken to conduct an operational audit and restructuring of the organization ahead of the Call to Action. Ough is the Episcopal leader of the West Ohio Annual Conference and presides over the denomination's worldwide mission agency.
Meeting just weeks before General Conference, directors were preparing for anticipated changes. General agencies, including Global Ministries, are potentially facing restructuring as a way to meet an adaptive challenge for the denomination to remain, in the words of Bishop Ough, "a vibrant, relevant, and effective witness." Different plans were outlined to directors and there was time for small group and plenary discussion. In his opening address, Bishop Ough affirmed key elements of Global Ministries' work that will continue even though the actual structure itself is likely to change after General Conference.
Global Ministries' relationship with the Women's Division is one anticipated change. Global Ministries and United Methodist Women have submitted a proposal to General Conference that if affirmed will structurally separate them while maintaining a missional connection. According to Thomas Kemper, Global Ministries' top executive, "United Methodist Women is a powerful presence for God's mission that we now expect to become a separate but partner organization."
An area of continued partnership is in Japan. A Global Ministries Tokyo office would function in relation to a joint foundation already set up by Global Ministries and United Methodist Women. In his report to the board, Kemper announced that Global Ministries is taking steps to regionalize its presence in other areas, including China and Palestine/Israel.
Among the actions taken by the board was the approval of more than $1 million for the 2012-2013 academic year. A total of 206 students from 44 countries will receive leadership study grants. Global Ministries annually makes study awards for programs in fields of benefit to church and society around the world and in the US.
Following a meeting of the Mission and Evangelism committee, directors made a decision to adjust the status of the United Methodist mission in Nepal. They will begin working more in cooperation with other Wesleyan-based communities in the country.
At the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) meeting, the board of directors approved $2.1 million for recovery work in North Carolina, Missouri, North Alabama, and Upper New York—where communities suffered devastating weather events in 2011. The funds will help cover the cost of everything from building materials, to spiritual and emotional care, to case management.
UMCOR also approved $150,000 to rebuild homes in Haiti. Another grant, in the amount of $280,000, will be used—by the Methodist Humanitarian Aid Team (EMAH) of the Methodist Church of Chile—to prepare for disasters.
Spirit of Worship, Prayer, and Service
Christ United Methodist Church hosted the semi-annual spring board meeting March 19-22 in Plano, Texas. This was the first time that directors met at a local church. Kemper expressed his appreciation: "I cannot pass up an opportunity to underscore the value of our convening in a church space to conduct our business as the mission agency of our church."
More than 100 volunteers from Christ Church responded with radical hospitality, driving directors and staff to and from the hotel, offering meeting space and audio/visual support, providing meals and entertainment--including a Texas barbeque. Bishop Earl Bledsoe of the North Texas Conference offered a warm welcome: "Thank you for your commitment not only to global missions but to facilitating the dialogue across land and sea. We are glad you're here."
The church's senior pastor, Don Underwood preached a sermon about the Good Samaritan. Illustrating the church's response to survivors of Hurricane Katrina, he said, "When we start acting like a neighbor we become the church we want to be."
In that spirit, directors spent an afternoon serving in hands-on mission
, volunteering at eight local mission sites in the Dallas area. Kemper told the directors that the universal Good News of Jesus must become "incarnate," that is, alive locally, to be effective in transforming people.
Worship and prayer was an important part of each day. Directors remembered those who had died during the quadrennium. Those named included Sam Dixon and Clint Rabb, who lost their lives as the result of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. A special prayer was said for the Rev. Ed Paup who was the former general secretary of Global Ministries. News of his death was announced during the board meeting.
At the end of the closing worship, directors were sent out in prayer, covered in God's grace. Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, who is the vice president of the board, proclaimed, "We thank you for the amazing journey we have walked with you as members and staff of the General Board of Global Ministries. Send us out to be signs of your grace, offering the hospitality of Christ to all we meet."