The Hard Work of the “Now Work” of Mission
By Elliott Wright
Atlanta, Georgia, April 16, 2018—The work of Christian mission is “now work,” and now work “is hard work; it is hard, difficult, and tough” and requires the grace of God.
The Rev. Ken Walden, president-dean of Gammon Theological Seminary, encourages Global Ministries directors in doing the hard work of the "now work" of mission. PHOTO: JENNIFER SILVER
So said the preacher concluding the 2018 semi-annual meeting (April 12–14) of the directors of The United Methodist Churches’ worldwide mission agency. The Rev. Dr. Ken J. Walden, newly installed president-dean of Atlanta’s Gammon Theological Seminary, took his text from a passage in the Acts of the Apostles where St. Paul advises the Christians of Ephesus on what they should do “now” (Acts 20:25).
Over the course of the meeting, directors—37 international agency policy makers—both applied themselves to the “now work” of mission and commemorated the tough, self-sacrificing work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., assassinated 50 years ago.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung of Wisconsin, president of Global Ministries, makes a point in a committee meeting of the agency's directors. PHOTO: ANTHONY TRUEHEART
“Now is the time…” was the theme of the meeting, referencing King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. The agenda included visits to the King Center in Atlanta as well as to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
Walden recalled Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesian church leaders to preach the truth, watch over the congregation, ward off “savage wolves” that would mislead, build self-reliance, and care for those in need while remembering that Jesus said it is “more blessed to give than to receive.”
Gammon, which Walden came to lead in March 2018, is one of 13 United Methodist seminaries. It is a historically black institution, open to all and part of the Interdenominational Theological Center of Atlanta. His sermon provided a prophetic conclusion to the opening sermon by Bishop Gregory Palmer of West Ohio. It also echoed the report of Chief Executive Thomas Kemper who had stressed the hard work of and need for God’s grace in continuing King’s work for justice and reconciliation.
Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation
Working in both program and administrative committees, the directors reviewed current and projected ministries carried out through personnel, projects, and partners in more than 125 countries. Major action focused in the work of rehabilitation following the devastating 2017 hurricane season in the Caribbean, Florida, and Texas, and wildfires in California.
Molly McEntire of the Florida Annual Conference, corporate secretary of Global Ministries, makes a report to directors at their April 2018 meeting. PHOTO: JENNIFER SILVER
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), a board unit, allocated more than $46 million in support of disaster relief and recovery, global health projects, and sustainable development; of which $15 million was added to an earlier award for post-Hurricane Maria relief in Puerto Rico. In his report to the directors, Bishop Thomas Bickerton of New York, president of UMCOR, addressed Bishop Hector Ortiz, head of the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico and a Global Ministries’ director, and said, “We are with you, brother, as we rebuild your island.”
Directors learned that Global Ministries currently has 345 missionaries: 181 in international placements and 47 in the United States, and with 117 young adults. The young adults are primarily Global Mission Fellows who serve around the world and in the United States for two-year terms. In addition, 69 Mission Volunteers are in service, and the agency contributes to the support of 307 Nationals in Mission, individuals selected and deployed to churches and partner organizations in their home countries.
Eight new missionaries, including those placed in the United States, Democratic Republic of Congo, Fiji, and Indonesia, are expected to be commissioned at annual conference sessions in May and June of this year. A new class of 68 Global Mission Fellows will be welcomed in August.
Slightly more than $2 million in global health grants were approved, ranging from $23,000 to the annual conference health board in Zambia to $494,740 to the Hope for the Deaf National Training Institute in Liberia. Allocation of $476,471 went for medical supplies in Sri Lanka and $109,198 to the United Mission Hospital Tansen in Nepal.
A total of $742,990 in scholarships was awarded to 112 students from 33 countries for the 2018–19 academic year. Of those, 36 are new grant recipients and the remainder are scholars continuing their academic work with church support. Global Ministries scholarships are given in four categories corresponding to the four focus areas of the denomination.
Those categories and the amount of scholarship aid in each are: Leadership development ($190,393), congregational development ($342,330), ministry with the poor ($134,682), and global health ($75,585). Scholarship funds come from a variety of budgets and endowments. Congregational development ranks highest, because the board has more designated scholarship trusts for that category.
Civil Rights Drama
Mike Wiley performs his adaptation of “Blood Done Sign My Name,” a civil rights drama from the book by Timothy B. Tyson. PHOTO: JENNIFER SILVER
Friday evening, April 13, was devoted to a production of “Blood Done Sign My Name,” a civil rights drama adapted by Mike Wiley from the book by the same name by Timothy B. Tyson. As performed by Wiley, with the assistance of gospel singer Mary D. Williams, the play deals in part with a United Methodist pastor’s involvement the aftermath of the 1970 murder of black Army veteran in Oxford, North Carolina. A panel discussion after the play highlighted continuities and discontinuities between the U.S. civil rights atmosphere in 1970 and today. Panel member the Rev. Bernice Kirkland, superintendent of the Atlanta College Park District of The United Methodist Church, pointed out the lack of any “real reconciliation” of race issues across the last half century.
Civil Rights Photo Exhibit
An exhibit of photographs from the early civil rights years, including pictures of King and his movement, was premiered at the board meeting. The photos were drawn from a collection by photographer Ken Thompson from the early 1960s under the sponsorship of the National Council of Churches.
• Operating reserves. The board approved a policy on operating reserve balances, setting the optimum operating expenses at six months, the minimum at three months, and not letting the reserves exceed 12 months. This applies to operating reserve balances to “protect the organization from financial negativity impacting its mission and financial sustainability.”
• Mission Initiatives. The board authorized a Task Force for Mission Initiative work. It is to include staff and directors, with the objective of reviewing and recommending policy regarding the development and funding of Mission Initiatives in new places around the world.