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Church response to migration gets boost

A United Methodist leadership body took two actions to boost ministries that relieve the suffering caused by forced migration.

On May 20, the Connectional Table designated $100,000 of the denomination's contingency funds — with the possibility of an additional $100,000 next year — to help United Methodists stand with immigrants.

Your support of the General Administration Fund helps the Connectional Table coordinate mission, ministry and resources at the denominational level.

The day before, the group joined the denomination's Council of Bishops in backing "A Global Migration Sunday Offering," to raise still more funds, which will directly aid migrants and refugees.

The group set the date for the special day of prayer and offering for migrants to be the first Sunday of Advent, Dec. 3 this year. That means the collection will occur during the season when Christians around the world remember that even Jesus and his family were at one time refugees on the run from political violence.

Both the advocacy work and the Advent offering are intended to address an increasingly pressing need.

War, famine and economic upheaval mean more people are on the move than at any time in world history.

For the church, such migration poses both a huge moral challenge — and a chance for revitalization, Connectional Table members said.

"I think this is something we can rally around," said Thomas Kemper, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, the denomination's mission agency, and a nonvoting member of the Connectional Table.

Providing hospitality to migrants, he added, "is something the prophets called us to do; it's something Christ called us to do."

If you want to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, he added, welcoming the immigrant is a good place to start. 

The Advent offering will go to the denomination's Global Migration Advance (No. 3022144), a fund set up in 2014 for donors to designate gifts specifically to support migrants around the globe.

Kemper stressed that this is not a "Special Sunday" — special offerings the denomination collects each year. For now, the request is only for a one-time collection — not unlike what many churches do in response to a natural disaster.

The $100,000 in contingency funds will go toward organizing advocacy work in U.S. annual conferences and jurisdictions, said the Rev. Lyssette N. Perez. She is a Connectional Table member, pastor in New Jersey, and the president of MARCHA, the denomination's Hispanic/Latino caucus. 

Wisconsin Area Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, president of the Global Ministries board and a Connectional Table member, emigrated from Korea to the United States in 1982.

He said he always has considered himself "the fruit of American mission" and wanted to bring that missionary fervor back to the United States as an immigrant-community leader.

"We are facing such a radical challenge in global migration, but I think the church is able to make this journey together."

Heather Hahn, multimedia news reporter for UMNS

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