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Bishops take on climate, finances, vaccines

The United Methodist Council of Bishops, meeting in open session Nov. 5, received updates on their finances, affirmed the effort to make vaccine access a missional priority, and approved a study on online communion. Screengrab courtesy of the Council of Bishops via ZOOM by UM News.
The United Methodist Council of Bishops, meeting in open session Nov. 5, received updates on their finances, affirmed the effort to make vaccine access a missional priority, and approved a study on online communion. Screengrab courtesy of the Council of Bishops via ZOOM by UM News.
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Over a busy three and half hours, United Methodist bishops spent the last day of their fall online meeting in November making a range of decisions on church life and global challenges.

Among those decisions, the bishops approved five responses to the climate crisis that is increasing the severity of natural disasters around the world and contributing to record global migration.

The bishops pledged to:

  • Encourage and support action on climate change at the annual conference level, including support for moving toward net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Review the 2009 document “God’s Renewed Creation” to determine how to best address the intersection of climate change, poverty, racism and colonialism.
  • Encourage the use of Board of Church and Society website to sign onto letters related to climate justice.
  • Join the denomination’s 13 general agencies’ pledge to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 across ministries, facilities, operations and investments.
  • Reaffirm the denomination’s Social Principle on Global Climate Stewardship as an ongoing commitment.

The bishops learned two years ago that without changes, the Episcopal Fund that finances their work was in danger of running out of money.

They heard that the Episcopal Fund is now in much better shape. Giving to the fund is up and spending is down.

However, Bishop David Graves — who chairs the bishops’ finance committee — cautioned that much of the Episcopal Fund’s improved outlook is the result of the pandemic.

The Episcopal Fund received nearly $1.4 million in loan forgiveness through the pandemic-prompted U.S. Paycheck Protection Program. Because of travel restrictions, bishops have seen cost savings as they conduct most meetings online. They also are taking on expanded assignments as colleagues retire and bishop elections are delayed.

Also, the Bishops affirmed a denomination-wide vaccination effort, approved its 2022.

The bishops unanimously voted to support the Connectional Table’s initiative to make COVID-19 vaccine equity a denomination-wide missional priority.

The Connectional Table, which acts as a sort of denomination-wide church council, committed to a massive and sustained effort for global vaccine equity, access and education. In practice, that has meant coordinating with ongoing agency and church efforts to counter misinformation and get more shots in arms, especially in countries struggling to afford vaccines.

The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries recently announced a new Advance — church-speak for a designated giving program — with 100% of donations going to UNICEF for vaccinations in low-income countries.

At the end of the presentation, the bishops approved a spending plan of about $21.4 million for 2022 — about $1.4 million less than their approved spending plan for 2021.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty as we move forward around collections and expenses, but we just pause and give thanks for where we are today,” Graves said.

excerpt from a story by Heather Hahn, assistant news editor, UMNS.

One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Fund pays for bishops’ salaries, office and travel expenses, and pension and health-benefit coverage. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Episcopal Fund apportionment at 100 percent.

Your support of the Episcopal Fund  apportionment helps pay the salaries and benefits of United Methodist Bishops and allows them to travel across their episcopal areas providing mentorship and leadership.