Historic Meeting for Global Mission
With song, prayer and holy conferencing, the directors of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries met for their semiannual board meeting in New York on Oct. 2 and 3. Following the meeting, some of the directors left for Malawi to experience first-hand how the work of Global Ministries engages in God’s mission throughout the world.
A central focus of the meeting was discussing and voting on historic steps to set up offices in Africa, Asia and Latin America. A new Georgia-based headquarters will also have mission responsibilities in the United States. Directors approved the regional operations plan and voted in principle to buy the property of Grace United Methodist Church in Atlanta for the headquarters. The directors unanimously approved the regional office measure; the property purchase proposal received one negative vote. Thirty-one of 36 directors were present and voting.
Bishop John K. Yambasu of Sierra Leone, a director of Global Ministries, reminded his colleagues of the importance of the global missional connection when he spoke about how the Ebola outbreak is affecting lives in his region. He thanked the directors for their support and for the support from the global church as they continue to confront the Ebola epidemic. Global Ministries through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has granted more than $400,000 to support the response to the crisis in Sierra Leone and Liberia. “I am here to say thank you so much,” Bishop Yambasu said. “I thank God we have a connectional church.”
Funding for Mission
Among other actions, the board approved the 2015 Global Ministries budget of $49 million. Directors also approved a policy change to annually increase the Defined Benefit Pension rate for retired missionaries by 2 percent effective Jan. 1, 2015, which is subject to annual review and a one-time pension contribution of 5 percent of the average 2014 missionary salary for those missionaries covered under the Defined Contribution Pension Plan. They acted to provide increasing pension contributions for long-term missionaries who serve 15 years and above. There are currently 340 United Methodist missionaries serving around the world.
Celebrating the $6.5 million that was raised in 2013 on UMC #GivingTuesday, directors enthusiastically voted to match up to $1 million in gifts made online on Dec. 2, 2014 to any project through The Advance as part of UMC #GivingTuesday. Matching funds will be allocated dollar for dollar up to the first $1 million in gifts to Advance projects received online on Dec. 2, 2014 between 12 a.m. EST and 11:59 p.m. A maximum of $2,500 per individual gift to a project will be dispersed as matching funds. A project may receive a maximum of $25,000 in matching funds.
At the UMCOR meeting, the directors approved the 2015 UMCOR budget of $14.7 million. They also approved more than $1.5 million in grants to support ongoing disaster recovery work in Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. Part of those funds will underwrite efforts by the Alabama–West Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church in response to a disaster that developed last spring in the face of record rainfall to coastal and inland areas. Twenty-one inches of rain fell in just 24 hours.
Celebrating the Central Conference Pension Initiative
Barbara Boigegrain, head of the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits, met with the Global Ministries directors for a time of celebration. “I come to say thank you from the 2,817 retired pastors for your support of the Central Conference Pension Initiative.”
Boigegrain shared that the CCPI was initiated more than 15 years ago by Randy Nugent, then head of Global Ministries. It is a long-term solution to provide retirement support for dedicated church leaders and surviving spouses who would otherwise have little or nothing. “What began as a dream introduced by Global Ministries became a reality through joint agency partnership,” she said.
The initiative started as a partnership between Global Ministries and Pension and Health Benefits, stemming from a concern that central conference retirees did not have sustainable pensions. The 2000 General Conference launched an interagency task force. The 2004 General Conference authorized Pension and Health Benefits to raise the necessary funds to provide pension support to the central conferences that needed it. Several agencies collaborated to support the effort including the United Methodist Publishing House, United Methodist Communications and the General Council on Finance and Administration, in addition to Global Ministries and Pension and Health Benefits.
Thanks to interagency efforts and donations from United Methodists around the world, $25 million has been raised to fund the CCPI. To date, $3.9 million has been disbursed, providing a financial foundation while giving central conferences time to build their own contribution base for future retirees. This allows conference pension programs become self-sustaining over time.
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