Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

Church loan/investment fund shifts sponsors

By Elliott Wright*

For almost 50 years, the United Methodist Development Fund has been a part of the church’s mission agency, Global Ministries, offering both affordable local church building loans and sound investment options for United Methodist individuals and corporate entities.

It has made more than 2,000 loans with a value exceeding $500 million and sold more than $1 billion in investments. The work has proceeded with little fanfare and with fiscal integrity and solid commitment to the church’s overall mission.

General secretary Thomas Kemper offers opening remarks at the banquet. PHOTO: JENNIFER SILVER

Now entering its second half century, UMDF is coming under new leadership and management – that of the Texas Methodist Foundation. UMDF will retain its name and identity as a loan and investment fund and add the national-level work to develop “ministry leadership” learning platforms previously available only in Southwest areas covered by TMF.

UMDF is a church extension fund, providing investment returns to its investors as it loans money in support of local churches and their mission throughout the country. These loans have built sanctuaries, educational buildings, parsonages, fellowship halls, community centers and church-sponsored affordable housing. UMDF has made every effort to offer investors a rate of return equal to or better than bank money-market accounts, while supporting church growth.

The broad range of the current loans runs the gamut from $10 thousand to a few million dollars. For example, the Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago received a $61,307 loan in 2010 to refinance its debt from building improvements. Two recent loans to the Emory United Methodist Church and its Beacon of Light Community Development Corporation in Washington total more than $3.5 million and are part of a $53.3 million redevelopment project around and including the historic church in the Brightwood neighborhood of the nation’s capital. An initial $3 million from UMDF leveraged financing for the entire enterprise, according to local press reports.

“Global Ministries realized a few years ago that the time had come to find a new base for UMDF, one more closely linked to the daily realities and trends of the financial sector, but one respectful of and connected to our church context,” said Roland Fernandes, the chief operations officer of the mission agency and UMDF treasurer, in an interview. “At the same time, TMF was looking for a way to expand its operations through partnerships. Our visions and goals are highly compatible, and TMF has an excellent fiscal reputation.”

As part of the agreement, the mission agency will receive a $25 million endowment from UMDF accumulated surpluses, whose future earnings will be used for the mission work of Global Ministries for generations to come.

The Texas Methodist Foundation was established in 1938 during the Great Depression to help Methodist institutions recover from the financial crisis and continue to meet social and spiritual needs. Today TMF is the largest Methodist foundation in the U.S., with more than $550 million in assets under management. TMF makes loans and grants and receives individual and corporate investments. “Stewarding potential” for both laity and clergy is a key foundation goal.

On Oct. 12, a banquet marking the transition was held during the semiannual meeting of Global Ministries’ board of directors, which had approved the terms of the new plan at a previous meeting.

At the banquet, Wayne Moy, co-director of UMDF, gave a slide presentation on UMDF history. He noted that the fund was founded shortly after The Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren churches merged in 1968 to form The United Methodist Church. UMDF brought together similar funds from each uniting denomination.

Charles W. Foster, a retired financial consultant and former director of the Port of Oakland (California), UMDF board, expressed the appreciation of the development fund to its many investors, borrowers and those who have served as directors over the years.

Kay Yaeger, board chair of TMF and mayor of Wichita Falls, Texas, from 1996 to 2000, welcomed UMDF into the foundation’s sphere. A director of numerous charitable organization and education institutions, she emphasized the shared values and goals of UMDF and TMF.

Tom Locke, the foundation’s president, said the values of Global Ministries and TMF are a good match, commenting that “TMF’s core values are servanthood, integrity and competence.”

The new arrangement becomes official at the end of 2018.

Elliott Wright is the information consultant for Global Ministries.