News in Brief – March 23, 2012
Brief items for use in local church newsletters
Prepared by United Methodist News Service
As the 2012 General Conference approaches, United Methodist News Service continues to offer information to help readers better understand how the church works. A number of proposals are aimed at restructuring the denomination and its general ministries, so UMNS asked the top executives of each agency to answer five questions about their agency’s role in the church. The responses from United Methodist Men, the Board of Discipleship, the Council on Finance and Administration, the Board of Higher Education and Ministry and the Board of Global Ministries were published last week. To read about how the agencies work, go to www.umc.org/BoardsAndAgencies/
The United Methodist News Service is reporting on activities related to General Conference 2012, the denomination’s top lawmaking body, which will meet April 24-May 4 in Tampa, Fla. . UMNS reports appear as they occur on umc.org and also can be found on General Conference 2012 at gc2012.umc.org. Among the stories this week:
- Despite membership losses increasing at a faster rate than previously expected, the governing board of the finance agency recommended that the General Council on Finance and Administration stay with the $603.1 million budget for seven general church funds for the 2013-16 quadrennium.
- The General and Jurisdictional conference delegations from the East Ohio Annual (regional) Conference has released a statement affirming “the need for significant, strategic change at all levels of our UM connection.” The statement affirms the Call to Action’s primary purpose of increasing the number of vital congregations. It also supports efforts to give annual conferences and local churches more freedom in organization, deployment of clergy based on mission and the realignment of agencies to reduce duplication of effort.”
- More than 560 United Methodist clergy and laity as of March 23 had signed an open letter announcing their support for proposals to merge nine general agencies, nurture young leaders and empower bishops. “We do not believe organizational change alone can ignite a renewed United Methodism,” says the letter addressed to the 988 General Conference delegates. “But we do think this kind of change can focus our national leadership, both our agencies and the Council of Bishops, on the task of revitalizing the 85 percent of our churches that were found to be less than highly vital in the Call to Action studies.” The Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., wrote the letter posted on March 20 after discussions with other pastors of the 100 largest United Methodist congregations in the United States. Pastors of 84 of the largest churches have signed the letter, Hamilton said. The Church of the Resurrection, with more than 8,000 in weekly attendance, is one of the denomination’s two largest U.S. congregations.
- A group of church leaders is calling for an alternative to the proposed reorganization of The United Methodist Church’s general agencies. An international ad hoc group of laity and clergy have put together a restructuring proposal they call “UMC Plan B,” combining contributions from people in 15 annual conference in four U.S. jurisdictions and two central conferences outside the United States. Some of the developers of “UMC Plan B,” have announced their names to the news media. “We are experienced laity and clergy, delegates, non-delegates; some are members of the General Administration Legislative Committee (at General Conference),” their statement said.
- Members of The United Methodist Church’s Connectional Table approved a nine-member committee during its March 5-6 meeting in Nashville to design a nomination process should proposed legislation be approved by the 2012 General Conference. The process would be used by the Connectional Table to select a 15-member board of directors for the proposed Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry.
The directors of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry at the spring meeting in Nashville, Tenn., approved educational standards for certifying campus ministers and a $250,000 loan to expand Africa University’s potato farm.
Former U.S. President Bush, former first lady Laura Bush and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, will participate in the launch of the Freedom Collection at the George W. Bush Presidential Center. The Bushes and Johnson Sirleaf are United Methodists. The Freedom Collection is an effort to document the struggle for human freedom and democracy around the world. The event will be at 6-6:45 p.m. CDT March 28 at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas. Livestreaming of the event will be available online at www.bushcenter.com.
Directors and staff of the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns “express their deepest condolences to Coptic sisters and brothers who mourn the loss of their leader and friend, Pope Shenouda III.” The spiritual leader of the Egyptian Coptic Church since 1971 died March 17. “Christians everywhere were blessed by his humble strength and courageous leadership,” the commission’s statement said. “His lifetime commitment to peace with all of God’s children and the spiritual well-being of his people are a shining example of courageous faith.” In a March 18 letter, the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, top executive of the World Council of Churches, paid tribute to Shenouda’s unwavering pursuit of Christian unity and peace throughout the Middle East and the world. He served as a world council president from 1991 to 1998.
The Women’s Division, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, honored directors and celebrated the work of the 2009-2012 quadrennium during a March 15-19 meeting in Plano, Texas. Inelda González, division president, received a dedicated grant toward an anti-domestic-violence initiative in her name.
By prioritizing its work and further developing existing partnerships, the United Methodist Committee on Relief is “perfectly poised for what is yet ahead,” said the Rev. Cynthia Fierro Harvey, UMCOR’s top executive, during told a March 21 board of directors meeting in Plano, Texas Directors approved $2.1 million for recovery work in annual (regional) conferences affected by Hurricane Irene and other devastating weather events in 2011, along with $150,000 to rebuild homes in Haiti and $280,000 to help the Methodist Humanitarian Aid Team of the Methodist Church of Chile prepare for disasters. For more on how you can help with disaster relief efforts around the world, go to www.umcor.org.
The National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry recently took a major step forward toward its goal of helping to grow Hispanic/Latino ministries by introducing new grants and by approving fund initiatives for the Western Jurisdiction and three annual conferences. During its meeting in Phoenix Feb. 16-18, the organization approved funding for Hispanic ministry projects in Oregon-Idaho, Florida and Greater New Jersey, as well as matching grants for an initiative to train ministry leaders to seek diversity in their congregations.
Fourth-year medical students around the country, including United Methodist-related Meharry Medical College, learned where they will begin their careers as physicians March 16 during the nationwide Match Day. Fifty-three percent of Meharry’s students matched in the primary care fields of internal medicine, pediatrics and family medicine. The rate increases to 56 percent when obstetrics and gynecology is included in the primary care category. Meharry’s overall match rate was 88 percent for the 2012 class of graduating seniors.
Applying for grants often can seem complicated, leaving a potential applicant overwhelmed with questions, sometimes only to give up on submitting an application. The United Methodist Special Program on Substance Abuse and Related Violence hopes to change that by hosting a live one-hour webcast tutorial at 1 p.m. EST March 30. The webcast is for those interested in substance abuse and related violence ministries, initiatives, and advocacy Update: The address to access the March 30 one-hour webcast tutorial by the United Methodist Special Program on Substance Abuse and Related Violence is www.umcmission.org/live.
About 1,000 Christians are taking part in the annual 2012 Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice, March 23-26 in Washington. A delegation of the nation's leading religious officials unveiled the faithful budget at a national news conference March 22 on the lawn of the United Methodist Building. The faithful budget will be submitted to the U.S. Congress as part of the Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2012 Lobby Day on March 26.
Registration is now open for the 2012 School of Congregational Development, a United Methodist event for laity and clergy to learn how to grow and develop local churches. The event on Aug. 16-19 in St. Louis is sponsored by the United Methodist boards of Discipleship and Global Ministries as well as Path 1: New Church Starts. Fees range from $375 to $475. To register, go to www.scdumc.org.
Looking toward anticipated changes from the 2012 United Methodist General Conference this spring, Ohio West Area Bishop Bruce Ough urged directors of the denomination’s Board of Global Ministries to "call on the Holy Spirit to unleash God's unlimited imagination." Ough, the mission agency’s president, spoke during its March 19-22 meeting in Plano, Texas. Thomas Kemper, the board’s top executive, stressed that mission is "the job of the global church, encompassing many cultures and tongues" and noted that nearly 50 percent of missionaries now come from places outside the U.S.
Bishop Paul Andrews Duffey, 91, died March 18 in Georgia after a brief illness. In 1980, the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference elected Duffey to the episcopacy. He was assigned to the Louisville Area and served eight years. He also was secretary of the Council of Bishops from 1984 to 1988. He served the Chapel Hill Circuit in the Tennessee Conference, then ministered in six different appointments in the Alabama-West Florida Conference: Abbeville; First, Marion; Dexter Avenue, Montgomery; First, Pensacola: First, Dothan; and First, Montgomery. In 1976, Duffey was named district superintendent of the Montgomery District of the Alabama-West Florida Conference.
The Rev. Edward W. Paup, a former bishop of The United Methodist Church and former top executive of the denomination’s mission agency, died March 21 in Belen, N.M., after a long battle with a brain tumor. He served as bishop of the Portland (Ore.) Area from 1996 to 2004 and bishop of the Seattle Area until 2008, when he resigned from the episcopacy to lead the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.