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Discernment and education support starting points to develop Christian leaders

In a message to GBHEM's directors last year, the Rev. Kim Cape, general secretary, said, "We are shifting our weight from a regulatory agency to a capacity-building agency."

With a focus on leadership, education and young people, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry is "Preparing Global Leaders for a Global Church."

This shift is bearing fruit as new initiatives emerge for equipping leaders for ordained, licensed and certified ministry in United States and in central conferences around the world. Through recruitment, preparation, nurture, education and support, Cape said, the agency is "building capacity for contextual United Methodist leadership across the personal and professional life-span here and everywhere."

At the same time it continues to serve as a regulatory agency with the University Senate and annual conference boards of ordained ministry, GBHEM is shaping a new understanding of how to support people who are discerning God's call in The United Methodist Church.

Two new initiatives implemented during the 2013-16 are helping the agency live into this shift.

The 2012 General Conference created a three-quadrennium Young Clergy Initiative Fund to increase the number of young clergy in the United States. Grant recipients were encouraged to raise matching funds, doubling the church's investment. Cape told GBHEM directors that, by requesting matching funds, "We were able to leverage the $7 million ($5.2 million actual) from General Conference into $12 million."

The grants are for developing new projects that allow greater numbers of young people to strengthen their relationship with God while discerning God's call on their life.

Through the Central Conference Theological Education Fund, faculty and students at 22 theological institutions in Africa and Asia and four seminaries in the Philippines now have access to e-books on Christian education, evangelism, preaching, counseling, church leadership, United Methodist worship and Wesleyan theology.

The e-reader project is a collaboration of GBHEM, Discipleship Ministries and the United Methodist Publishing House. Staff works closely with the individual schools to ensure consistent training and updated content, which is available in English, French and Portuguese.

It is not an overstatement to say that the e-reader project is revolutionizing theological education in Africa, says the Rev. Myron Wingfield, associate general secretary in GBHEM's Division of Ordained Ministry.

While GBHEM and Discipleship Ministries provide major funding for the E-Reader Project, support also comes from annual conferences, local churches, individual donors, universities and from the students themselves through fees that help offset the price of the e-reader and its content.

As it continues to lead work in the denomination's focus on "developing principled Christian leaders," GBHEM will contribute to a goal for the 2017-20 quadrennium to recruit, train and engage 3 million "difference makers," United Methodists who will transform the world as they put faith into action.

"With God's help, I am confident we can answer the challenges of our day with theological excellence, excitement, commitment and practical imagination," she said.

The Rev. Melissa Hinnen, freelance writer and associate pastor of Asbury UMC, Croton-on-Hudson, New York.

The World Service Fund provides basic financial support to program-related general agencies, which are especially important to the common vision, mission, and ministry of The United Methodist Church. Through World Service funding, agencies support annual conferences and local congregations in living out God’s mission for the worldwide Church. General agencies also provide essential services and ministries beyond the scope of individual local congregations and annual conferences through services and ministries that are highly focused, flexible, and capable of rapid response.

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