Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Recommended Viewing: Methodist Mission Bicentennial Conference Keynote Addresses

In April, Global Ministries hosted a conference celebrating the bicentennial of Methodist mission entitled "Answering the Call: Hearing God's Voice in Methodist Mission Past Present and Future." Among the elements of that conference were four keynote addresses, which are now available for viewing on YouTube. You can find them at the links below.

Keynote Address #1
The Virtues of Mission,” The Rev. Dr. Arun Jones, Dan and Lillian Hankey Associate Professor of World Evangelism, Candler School of Theology, Emory University, and Bicentennial Steering Committee Member

Keynote Address #2
Overcoming Wars, Violence, Political, Social and Economic Challenges through Mission: Mission as Peacemaking and Peacebuilding in the North Katanga Area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” Bishop Mande Muyombo, North Katanga Episcopal Area, The United Methodist Church

Keynote Address #3
"Trauma Informed Evangelism," The Rev. Elaine A. Heath, Ph.D., Abbess, the Community at Spring Forest, and Former Dean, Duke Divinity School

Youth Address
Turn ______ Upside Down,” Joy Eva Bohol, Program Executive for Youth Engagement, World Council of Churches (WCC), and Global Missionary, Global Ministries

Monday, July 29, 2019

African Clergy Salaries

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Director of Mission Theology at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries.

While my last post looked at the salaries of African United Methodist bishops, this post will look at the salaries of African United Methodist clergy. Whereas bishops in Africa are paid quite well relative to average income in the country, clergy in Africa struggle in many places.

Exact figures for pastoral salaries in the central conferences is difficult to find online. Anecdotal stories about the financial struggles of clergy in African central conferences abound. As explored in a previous post, total giving in central conferences is limited, a result of the weak economies of many countries in the central conferences. The money available for pastoral salaries may be even more limited than suggested by those figures.

While innovations such as cell phone banking are pushing banking services to more and more people, even in developing countries, in many places, United Methodist members’ access to cash, even in local currencies, is limited. This problem is especially acute in rural areas that are not well-connected to larger economic systems, places where war or disaster has interrupted normal economic functions, and countries experiencing currency crises.

The upshot of limited access to cash is limited ability to give cash donations to the church, which can then be used to pay pastoral salaries, from which pastors can buy the necessities of living. Instead, pastors either receive in-kind salaries through donations of food and other goods by parishioners, or go without a salary from the church, or at least without a full salary.

In cases in which pastors cannot draw a salary or much salary from the church they serve, they must instead rely on spousal support, as this story from Nigeria hints at or rely on farming to provide basic foodstuffs for their families, as is the case in some parts of Liberia, Angola and Zimbabwe, and likely other places in Africa. UMNS has also reported on farming as a means for clergy to build up retirement funds in Zimbabwe. More on retirement funds later.

Another source of support for African (and Eurasian) clergy salaries comes from US subsidies. Many annual conferences in the central conferences rely upon donations from the US to supplement their pastors’ salaries. These donations may come either through Advance specials or through direct conference-to-conference partnerships. Such giving must be regular and the receiving annual conference must have a means of distributing such funds to pastors for such donations to affect the salaries of all pastors in a systematic way. Moreover, such US subsidies raise questions about creating dependency in one of the most basic functions of a church.

In addition to low salaries, pastors must often use the limited cash salary they have to pay for expenses related to their ministry, especially transportation. The costs (in time or money) associated with pastors serving remote or widely-separated regions explain the popularity of the Bike and Bibles program (see stories about Libera, Sierra Leone, and Congo) run by conservative laymember Joe Kilpatrick of North Georgia.

Pastoral salaries in some areas of Africa have improved in regularity and amount, as this reminiscence from Zimbabwe makes clear. Moreover, some annual conferences, such as those in Zimbabwe and Mozambique, have adopted a system of salary equalization to ensure that all pastors are earning an equitable amount, regardless of the congregation they serve or its location. Not all United Methodist pastors in Africa are starving by any means.

There is also now the Central Conference Pensions program overseen by Wespath. This program includes a pool of money that is used to help annual conferences in the central conferences to set up their own pension programs, separate from the various pension programs that serve US pastors. While over $25 million has been donated by US United Methodists for this program, that money is used as seed money and to help cover the administrative costs of the program. The individual pensions depend upon contributions by United Methodist pastors in the annual conference that established the pension. Thus, these pensions provide a vehicle for retirement savings for pastors in the central conferences, but they don’t really address the issue of salaries, since it is the pastors’ own money which is funding their retirement.

Despite recent improvements in salaries and benefits for African United Methodist clergy, it is clear that being a clergyperson in Africa is quite often a sacrificial calling in financial (and other!) terms.

All of this information helps to put into perspective two issues: First, the power that African United Methodist bishops have relative to clergy in most places in Africa, power that is not only ecclesial but also financial, as explored in my last post.

Second, the potential offense created by asking African clergy delegates, who may be struggling to put food on the table for their families, to vote on retirement plans for American clergy who live comfortable, middle-class Western lifestyles. Certainly, there needs to be some way for The United Methodist Church to act as a body on issues related to American clergy compensation. But the disparity between how clergy compensation works in the United States and how clergy compensation works in Africa is a significant impetus for work that Wespath and the Connectional Table have undertaken for the sake of creating an alternative structure to address such US-specific issues.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Bishops' Salaries and African UMC Economics

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Director of Mission Theology at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries.

As indicated in a previous post, one way in which United Methodists in the United States subsidize the ministry of United Methodists in the central conferences is through the Episcopal Fund, one of the seven general church apportionment funds.

Episcopal areas in the central conferences do contribute to the Episcopal Fund (central conference apportionments make up 2.81% of the Episcopal Fund), but the amount they receive from that fund exceeds what they put in, thus generating a subsidy.

GCFA has reported that the cost for a central conference bishop on average is $930,000 for the current quadrennium, or about $232,500 per year. This total for episcopal expenses includes salary, housing allowance, office allowance, and travel.

In 2018, the UMC spent $1,016,903 in Africa, $234,670 in the Philippines, and approximately $373,832 in Europe on episcopal salaries. Subtracting salary from the total expense leaves about $150,000 per bishop for benefits, housing, office, and travel expenses. Benefits might account for $30,000 (40% of average salary). Presumably less than $20,000 (the American limit) is for housing. No more than $10,000 is for office expenses. That leaves up to $100,000 per year in travel expenses per central conference bishop. While this may seem high, note the large expenses in flying bishops from remote locations in the central conferences to the Unites States for frequent meetings.

Taken all together, the UMC as a whole is spending about $4,650,000 per year on central conference bishops. By contrast, all central conferences together gave $621,241 in 2018 to the episcopal fund. Thus, central conferences received about 7 ½ times what they spend on episcopal compensation.

Even more important is the disparity between episcopal compensation and the average income of people in many of the central conference countries. In the United States, a bishop’s salary is 2.7 times the average income for a resident of the US. In Germany, it’s only 1.7 times as large, and in Russia, it’s only 2.3 times. But in the Philippines, a bishop’s salary is 9.4 times the average income.

And in Africa, the gap is even larger. It’s 13.3 times as large as the average salary in Nigeria, 34 times in Zimbabwe, 55.9 times in Liberia, and a whopping 111.7 times in the DRC. And that’s not including benefits, housing and office payments, or travel expenses. All told, episcopal compensation in Africa is dozens if not hundreds of times what an average United Methodist might make in a year.

While I have great respect for the difficult and challenging work done by the central conference bishops and the deep faithfulness of the individuals in the role, there are some structural consequences of these US subsidies of central conference episcopal salaries that are vastly out of scale with average income in African countries. Again, these are structural consequences to a structural issue that has been around longer than any of the individuals currently serving as bishops. This is about the system we as global United Methodists have collectively built, not any of the individuals serving as bishops in that system.

Moreover, it’s important to point out the colonialist roots of this system, wherein bishops were initially US Americans, and it was seen as acceptable to pay them many times what those among whom they served earned. Upon the election of leaders from the central conferences as bishops, the reasonable argument was made that they deserved to be paid in line with their American predecessors, not at a fraction of that rate.

Be that as it may, this system has several consequences. First and foremost, it dramatically increases bishops’ roles as patrons, therefore increasing both bishops’ power and the demands placed on them. African bishops may receive a lot of money, but they don’t just keep all this money for themselves. In line with traditional leadership models, bishops function as patrons who distribute resources, including their own money, for the benefit of those they lead. African bishops being paid more also means that the United Methodists they serve expect more from them as patrons, since they are aware of the resources that bishops control, not just through approval and channeling of project funding, but from their own salaries.

However, because the funds that African bishops distribute through patronage come from outside the communities served, rather than being redistributed among those communities as in traditional times, this reduces the accountability of bishops. If bishops hold all of the financial cards in a relationship, there are fewer who can (or are willing to) afford (literally) to challenge the bishops.

This can make episcopal elections hotly contested, as they are not just for positions of spiritual leadership but for positions of significant economic influence that can be used in a manner seen fit by the office holder with little pushback from others. I am not saying that bishops use this situation for their own benefit; again, they are often called upon to use their own resources for the church. I am saying this situation gives bishops a tremendous amount of power, making election as a bishop a very valuable prize.

The value of the prize of being bishop and the extent of the power that bishops wield within the official system paradoxically also increases the incentive for those not elected as bishop to try to cultivate alternative, non-official sources of funding to develop their own power base, since there is little recourse to power left to them through official channels after losing an episcopal election.

It is thus significant, for instance, that the three Africans on the WCA council (Jerry Kulah, Kimba Evariste, and Forbes Matonga) all previously ran unsuccessfully for bishop. WCA funding, connections, and prestige are a way to challenge the authority of the bishops in ways that are not possible through the official channels of the church. Indeed, it is fair to say that the way the UMC has administratively and financially structured the office of bishop in Africa has produced a perverse incentive for other African leaders to affiliate with the WCA to try to build their own spheres of influence.

To the extent that African episcopal salaries are ethical or administrative problem in need of a solution, the solution is not as simple as just giving all African bishops a significant pay cut. There are real issues of procedural fairness to those serving as bishop that should make us reconsider such a drastic approach.

But the UMC could stand to reflect more on how it has structured financial relationships not only between the United States and the central conferences, but within the central conferences themselves, and the complicity of US United Methodists in those systems. And, as The United Methodist Church lurches towards whatever future awaits it, there is no time like the present to rethink how money shapes the denomination, the consequences of that shaping, and the alternative that may exist

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Recommended Reading: Post-GC 2019 Updates from Europe

As previously reported, the actions of General Conference 2019 raised questions about the future for United Methodists in Germany, the Nordic-Baltic Episcopal Area as a whole, and Denmark and Norway specifically within the Nordic-Baltic Episcopal Area. All of these areas have created groups to generate proposals for the future of the United Methodist Church and ministries with and by LGBTQ persons in these countries.

While the total number of United Methodists in these areas is small, these efforts are significant, as they show United Methodists from several cultural settings other than the US trying to grapple with how to balance affirmation of LGBTQ persons by the majority and preserving unity among United Methodists of a variety of opinions.

Since most annual conferences in those areas have now met for 2019, some updates on the processes underway in these areas are available.

All three German annual conferences discussed the results of General Conference 2019 and affirmed the work of the roundtable that the Germany Episcopal Area church leadership council created to explore possible futures for the UMC in Germany. News articles (in German) on those discussions are available for the East Germany, South Germany, and North Germany annual conferences.

The roundtable met for a second time in July and identified three possible structural approaches to differences of opinion over the place of LGBTQ persons in the church. Two would re-organize the Germany Central Conference to create separate organizations within the central conference for conservative churches. All three would allow progressive German Methodists to ordain LGBTQ persons and perform gay weddings. A report and news article (both in German) provide details.

Nordic and Baltic Episcopal Area
Reflections by Bishop Christian Alsted (in English) written after most annual conferences in his episcopal area give a good sense of the variety of responses to GC2019 in the Nordic and Baltic Area. They also provide some details on specific actions undertaken by Denmark and Norway.

The Nordic and Baltic Episcopal Area will have its own roundtable process to discern its future, with a report to be given at the 2021 Northern Europe and Eurasia Central Conference. An update on the roundtable (in English) included information on participants and process. An update from the UMC in Norway (in Norwegian) provides a few more details on process.

In a series of votes, the annual conference in Denmark showed overwhelming support for the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the church. The Danish annual conference also approved creating a commission that will bring suggestions to the 2021 Denmark Annual Conference about how to fully include LGBTQ persons in the life of the church. A report about the 2019 annual conference (in Danish) provides details.

Despite notable differences in opinion, the Norway Annual Conference used a consensus decision-making process to adopt a consensus proposal that called for full inclusion of LGBTQ persons, respect for the minority of Norwegian United Methodists with differing views on this matter, and as much continued unity as possible. A working group of eight people will develop a report for next year's annual conference, laying out proposed actions to achieve these goals. A report on the annual conference (in English) provides more details, as do an announcement (in Norwegian) of those on the working group and a letter from the cabinet (in Norwegian) issued after the annual conference.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Total Local Giving in the Central Conferences

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Director of Mission Theology at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries.

Having looked at how much total United Methodists in the United States send annual to the central conferences (probably over $100 million per year), it is worth looking at how much money the central conferences likely generate themselves in giving by members in those central conferences.

While much uncertainty exists, the total given to local churches in the central conference might be between $110-470 million per year, though likely near the lower end of that estimate. Even the most conservative estimates yield at least $60 million in member giving. As in the United States, the majority of this stays in local congregations, with only a small fraction being used to support connectional ministries.

If we estimate that 10% of local giving in the central conferences goes to connectional ministries (in the US it is 14%), then the amount of US money supporting connectional ministries in the central conferences is several times the amount of local money supporting these ministries (which might be about $15-25 million yearly). Put another way, giving from the US perhaps quintuples the extent of connectional ministries (health, education, evangelism, creation care, discipleship, etc.) that happen in the central conferences.

As with estimating the amount of money that goes from the US, there is a lot of uncertainty in the underlying figures for calculating how much giving there is in the central conferences, so these numbers are only rough estimates. An explanation follows.

Let us begin with the relatively easy question of how much money central conferences pay in apportionments. In 2018, the central conferences as a whole gave $788,317 USD in apportionments. This represents 65% of the amount of apportionments assigned by GCFA, which was $1,204,990. The numbers are fairly similar for 2017.

During the first six months of 2019, central conference giving broke down by region as follows:
•    Africa: $73,428 USD
•    Philippines: $21,458 USD
•    Europe: $274,238 USD
•    Total: $369,124 USD
Again, these figures are in line with the data from 2018.

If we were to assume that central conference general church apportionments equaled 2% of total giving in the central conferences, as they do in the United States, then total giving would be somewhere around $60 million, based on requested receipts. Of course, there is no particular reason to assume that general church apportionments make up the same percentage of total giving in the central conferences as they do in the United States, though certainly GCFA is not asking central conferences to give a higher percentage of their budgets to general church apportionments than they ask of US churches. Thus, total giving is at very least $60 million yearly.

Another way to calculate the total church giving in the central conferences is to build a model based on assumptions about average income, church membership by country, the percentage of income given to the church, and the percentage of that total collection available for connectional ministries. This model assumes that United Methodists have an average income similar to that of their fellow citizens. This assumption may not be correct; United Methodists might be either poorer or richer than the average citizen, and this may vary by country.

Despite questions about this central assumption, this approach gives another estimate based on readily available data. Per capita income by country data is available from the CIA, and membership data is available from GCFA. Multiplying the one by the other gives an estimated total income for United Methodists by country.

It is easy to run a variety of estimates based on different assumptions about how much United Methodists give to their churches. In the United States, long-term trends show that individuals give about 2% of their income, and 30-40% of that goes to religious causes.

If people in the central conferences gave 0.7% of their income to the church, as do those in the United States, that would represent $110 million total giving ($77 million in Africa, $8 million in the Philippines, and $25 million in Europe). Since many central conference churches emphasize tithing, it is possible that those in the central conferences are more generous to the church than those in the United States are. Assuming 1% giving yields $158 million in yearly giving. Assuming 3% gives $473 million per year, and assuming a remarkable 5% gives $788 million per year, with the same ratios between geographic regions. Of course, it is possible that different parts of the central conferences give at different rates. Regardless, the lower end of these estimates seems more likely.

Most of this money stays in local congregations. It has been noted that many churches in Africa struggle to pay their pastors (more on this in a future post), and given the small size of many European congregations, pastoral salaries are likely to be high relative to total giving. Moreover, connectional giving is a much less well-developed tradition in many parts of the central conferences than it is in the United States.

Thus, it might be reasonable to estimate 10% of total giving going towards connectional ministries, including district superintendent salaries, conference evangelists, other staff, annual conference programs, and connectional health, education, and charitable ministries. Varying the estimated total giving yields a range of estimates for central conference connectional ministry support from $11 million up through $78 million. Again, a safe estimate might be $15-25 million.

Remember that giving from the United States to connectional ministries in the central conferences is likely to be at least $100 million. Thus, US support of connection ministries in the central conferences is likely to be at least four times as great as the central conferences’ budget for those same ministries.

While it is possible that central conferences could develop stronger programs of self-support for local connectional ministries, it is just not reasonable to expect central conferences to be able to replace a significant reduction in US support with local resources. Moreover, because central conference priorities are likely to focus primarily on the operation of churches and basic denominational structures (bishops, district superintendents, office support, etc.), cuts will primarily impact health, education, poverty reduction, disaster-relief, and other charitable ministries.

Thus, I hope that whatever future form The United Methodist Church takes, that form will allow for continued support of central conference ministries by the majority of US United Methodists. If not, central conferences will have to dramatically cut numerous life-saving medical ministries, educational ministries providing crucial opportunities, and other vital connectional ministries.

Friday, July 19, 2019

How Much Money Does the US Send to the Central Conferences?

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Director of Mission Theology at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries.

Last week, I wrote about US subsidies to the central conferences. Yet that post did not indicate the total size of those subsidies. What is that number? In short, it’s likely that over $100 million a year flows from the United States to the central conferences. Here’s how that breaks down into apportionments, given either directly or through the general boards and agencies, and partnerships with annual conferences, individual congregations, and advocacy groups.

Let’s look first at apportionments. The Ministerial Education Fund and Black College Fund are both exclusively US funds. The Interdenominational Cooperation Fund largely pays for US ecumenical activities and ecumenical activities at the global level that involve central conferences in a rather indirect way. Thus, I will omit it from my calculations, though it is worth noting that the ICF pays membership fees in the World Methodist Council and World Council of Churches that central conferences would have to pay themselves if they were autonomous.

On the other hand, all the Africa University Fund goes to the central conferences. In 2018, that was $2,224,337. An additional $2 million in 2018 from the World Service Fund went to central conference colleges and seminaries through the Central Conference Theological Education Fund.

The Episcopal Fund covers bishops’ salaries, housing, offices, and travel. GCFA has said they expect the total cost for a central conference bishop on average to be $930,000 per bishop for the current quadrennium, or about $232,500 per year. Thus, the total apportionments spend on central conference bishops was about $4,650,000 per year in recent years.

Much of the monies from the General Administration Fund and some from the World Service Fund that go to the central conferences pays for travel costs for General Conference, Judicial Council, the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters, and the Connectional Table. Let us assume that the entire expense of the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters ($65,213) benefits the central conferences, even though that committee has US members. Let us further assume a proportion of the money spent equal to central conference representation on General Conference (40.4% for $1,074,039), Judicial Council (4 out of 11 for $47,752), and the Connectional Table (10 out of 63 for $36,457) benefits central conferences. That yields a total of $1,223,461 in meeting subsidies in 2015 based on 2016 ADCA figures.

It is harder to calculate the apportionment money (from the World Service and General Administration Funds) that goes to the central conferences through the general boards and agencies, because that money is often doled out in individual grants that are difficult to compile, because general agencies draw on other revenues as well, because some programs serve both the US and central conferences, and because central conferences benefit from a percentage of staff time spent providing assistance. Here, I will only try to estimate direct payments, not the value of staff assistance.

Based on line items in budgets submitted to GC2016 that clearly benefit the central conferences, both Church and Society and Discipleship Ministries spend approximately 4% of their budget on central conference programs, a total of about $1 million combined. Again, that doesn’t include staff time and travel spend in assisting central conferences, so the real amount of subsidy is higher.

One might assume that percentage is similar for GCFA and UMCOM, since they, like GBCS and Discipleship Ministries, are primarily US-focused but do provide some services to the central conferences. If that assumption is true, those two agencies combined spent in the neighborhood of $1 million a year directly on the central conferences.

It’s difficult to say how much the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry spends on the central conferences. They have significant global programs which benefit both United Methodists in the central conferences and other Methodists around the world, but less clarity in their publicly available budgets. Assuming 4% of their program expenses go to the central conferences yields a figure of $1.2 million, but the real number is likely higher. A 10% estimate would give a total of $3.1 million per year.

Then there is Global Ministries. About half of Global Ministries’ missionaries serve in the central conferences. (The other half serve in the US and in other areas of the world not included in the central conferences.) Thus, based on their 2017 accounting statements, Global Ministries probably spends somewhere around $10 million on missionary salaries for missionaries serving in the central conferences. About $10 million in UMCOR grants out of $31.5 million total in 2017 went to Europe, Africa, and Asia, presumably mostly to central conferences. Global Ministries spent about $11.4 million in other grants, program development funds, and meetings. Assuming about a third of those funds went to the central conferences, as was the case for UMCOR funds, that means another approximately $4 million in funding for the central conferences.

Totaled all together, the funds from apportionments and other agency revenues that go to the central conferences are probably in the range of $40 million a year, about 60% of which comes from Global Ministries and UMCOR.

Annual conference giving is harder to estimate. Based on news reports, annual conference partnerships with central conferences typically involve somewhere between $10,000 and $100,000 annually in subsidies. Annual conferences often have between one and five such partnerships. There are 51 non-mission annual conferences in the US. This gives a range of between $500,000 and $25.5 million spent in annual conference, but the real number is likely to be in the middle, perhaps around $5-10 million per year sent to annual conferences. As a reference, just over $11 million each year in 2016 and 2017 went to annual conference advance specials. Another $8.4 million in 2016 and $9 million in 2017 went to other annual conference connectional mission. It is likely that no more than half of that $20 million total went to the central conferences.

There’s yet more uncertainty on local church giving. According to GCFA data on local church giving, in 2016 local churches gave $16.8 million to Advance specials, and in 2017 they gave $33.5 million (driven by strong storm-related giving). Some of this money is already counted in UMCOR totals, and some is for domestic projects. Another approximately $90 million each year went directly to United Methodist-related projects. Although some of that could be for campus ministries, United Methodist-related non-profits, and other domestic mission projects, it is likely that a substantial portion of this money goes to international mission partnerships. While it’s hard to say exactly how much, perhaps half of local church Advance and other mission giving goes to the central conferences, which might be around $50 million.

Another way to try to calculate the amount sent to central conferences by local churches would be to start with the total mission giving by local churches in 2017, reported by GCFA to be $963 million. Subtracting general church, jurisdictional, annual conference, and district apportionments leaves over $550 million dollars. Even if only 10% of that total giving went to the central conferences, it would be $55 million dollars.

While there is thus some significant uncertainty around the amount sent by local churches to the central conferences, it is clear that the total is in the tens of millions, and likely as large as or larger than the amount sent through apportionments.

Finally, there are the caucus groups. To my knowledge, RMN has given in-kind assistance only, not direct grants. Good News pays for meeting expenses for central conferences delegates at a pre-General Conference meeting and occasional other meetings, which are likely in the tens of thousands of dollars. The WCA has vowed to raise $300,000 for central conference ministries. But Good News and WCA spending on the central conferences combined is 1% of the money that goes to the central conferences through apportionment and agency funds. It is a rounding error compared to the total when you take annual conference and local church partnerships into consideration as well.

There are many ways to view the total amount of subsidies – as an act of generosity by the US church, as a form of colonial control by the US church, as a form of just reparations for the inequitable global economic system perpetuated by the US, etc. Moreover, many factors will influence the decisions made about the future of the denomination, and money should not be the driving factor. But money and its influences, bad and good, certainly should be taken into consideration.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Mariama Seray B. Bockari – African Women and Mission, Part II

Today’s post contains the second of two parts of remarks prepared by Rev. Mariama Seray B. Bockari for the panel “African Women and Mission” at the Methodist Mission Bicentennial Conference. Rev. Bockari is a District Superintendent in the Sierra Leone Annual Conference.

Missions in Africa
In 1875, a woman by the name of Lizzie Hoffman influenced the forwarding of the Women’s Missionary Association of the United Brethren Church. After spending one night in prayer, she was convinced that the women of the church should be organized for special mission work.

After the Association was formed, Sierra Leone was the first country in Africa to which missionaries were sent. Then to some other parts of Africa. The expansion of the missionary movement was part of the growing conception of Christian responsibility for the regeneration of African people.

The anti-slavery issue and the humanitarian conscience also played a vital role in stimulating mission work. In included the opening up of Africa to forces of change, namely commerce (i.e., the slave trade), Christianity, civilization and colonization.

The achievement of the purpose of these Christian missions came with some cost. Several missionaries died due to the unfriendly tropical climate. Again in West Africa, the effort to go beyond the coast to reach those inland with the gospel coincided with the southwards expansion of Islam, which posed some threat to the expansion of the work of Christian evangelizing mission. Initially the missionaries had little success because the people received the message with indifference. But as these missionaries continued to practice life in communities, speak truth and show love and compassion, the succeeded. Their cross-cultural ministry offers a unique view of God’s redeeming work in some of the hardest places in Africa.

African Women Missionaries
I am personally blessed by the good example of African women missionaries who labored and continue to toil for the extension of God’s work in Africa.

But as they did, they were faced with challenges. There is socio-economic development, yet there are still alarming levels of poverty leading to other challenging situations and teachings. These include the mushrooming of prosperity gospel churches and movements, human trafficking, modern day slavery and information and communication technologies. These developments progressed or hindered African women in mission.

But despite the challenges, women continue to labour for the gospel, serving as volunteers, giving their time and monies to meet the needs int eh world.

Women’s mission is important in the church so much that, without its organization, the work of the church would not have had such strong support both spiritually and financially.

African women have served the church in the past, and today women are still serving not only in their own country but also cross-culturally in education, the health sector, caring for the home, promoting programmes on HIV/AIDS, conducting seminars and workshops for women and youths in a way of preparing them to become leaders in the future.

Today, African women are sent across the continent on mission work. For instance, Dr. Catherine Mudime is a United Methodist regional missionary working with women, youth and children. She lives in Yaoundé in Cameroon.

Elmira I. Sellu is a United Methodist African woman regional missionary working with women and children. She served in Kenya and someother countries in Africa. She is a Sierra Leonean.

Finda Quiwa is a United Methodist African woman regional missionary working with young people in sub-Saharan Africa. She lives in Sierra Leone. This is to name but a few.

These women and many other African women missionaries have worked hard and continue to work hard and have left a legacy for others to inherit.

The impact of the work of African women on my personal life and ministry
Jesus in Matthew 28:16-20 says “Go ye into the world and made disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things. For lo, I will be with you always to the end of the age.” This was the Great Commission by Jesus, who came to seek and to save the lost, and he calls his church to join in. It was this call that I responded to, a call which prepared me for what I am today.

I am coming from a predominantly Muslim family (the Fullah tribe). I used to go to the mosque for prayers, and on the feat of Idul Adah and Idul Fithr. I would join others to go to the field for prayers. But it came to a time when my eldest son fell ill, and he would convulse five or six times a day. I had no alternative but to consult an herbalist by then. One day, whilst on my way from the herbalist’s place, I met with an evangelist who introduced me to Jesus. At first, I was reluctant to accept the message, but the little boy was convinced, and by invitation he started going to church, and by the grace of God, he received his healing. It was at this point that I made up my mind to follow the God that healed my son.

After my conversion, I served the church as an evangelist. Then I opted for the ordained ministry. Like scripture says, God delights in the beautiful feet that carry good news to the ends of the earth and among his people. My heart burned with passion for those who have not yet received the gospel. I reached the unreached and engaged vulnerable women in counseling and teaching them to be self-reliant and self-sustainable. Through the support of the women’s regional missionary Mrs. Elmira I. Sellu, the former women’s coordinator, I formed a women’s group and introduced them to backyard gardening. The sales from the produce was used to support themselves and their families, especially for paying fees for their children at school.

As an ordained clergy woman, I was elected president of the clergy women association. We plan programmes and engage in gara tie dying, tailoring and running a piggery. The proceeds, when put together, are used to support needy children in our communities. I want to thank God for giving me the privilege of being sent. Praise the Lord.

Let me conclude this presentation by saying that our God who called men and women to mission in the past is still calling us today. He is ready to use any woman who is completely obedient to His call. He always gives us grace for purposeful living. He is the same God yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8).

Remember, we are created to serve and bring hope to a dying world. Can we seize the opportunity of this gathering which is not yet the “day” when fire shall reveal our work to know what sort of material with which we have built, to humble ourselves and make an honest assessment of our calling so far? Each of us must sincerely respond to the question, “To whom have you answered your calling?” so that we will avoid the unfortunate response of the Master to some, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you workers of inequity.” I pray that the light of the gospel will brighten our need to remain steadfast, unmovable, knowing that your labor in the hard is not in vain. May God give us all, especially the women folk, a definite and external encounter as we continue on our missions.

Monday, July 15, 2019

What Options Do Central Conferences Have in the Face of Reduced American Subsidies?

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Director of Mission Theology at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries.

As a previous post explained, churches, annual conferences, and other groups in the United States provide significant financial, in-kind, technical, and personnel subsidies to churches, annual conferences, and other ministries in the central conferences. However, for a variety of reasons, those subsidies are likely to decrease, perhaps quite significantly, in coming years. The question then arises of what options central conferences have for their ministries in the face of reduced American subsidies.

It is important to state up front that some, perhaps many, of the decisions about subsidized ministries and programs in the central conferences will not be made by people in the central conferences themselves but rather by the Americans who are currently sending the subsidies. For those ministries and programs completely dependent on American or general agency support, it is effectively Americans and/or general agency boards and staff who will make decisions about the fate of ministries in the central conference, not the people from central conferences conducting those ministries.

Despite the ways in which American decision-making will impact those in the central conferences, central conference church leaders also have agency in this process. Thus, there are a variety of decisions they can make or strategies they can adopt in the face of reduced American subsidies.

Before getting to those decisions and strategies, it is useful to get a sense of what a central conference perspective on the ministries subsidized by US Americans might be. One might perhaps think of four categories of subsidized ministries:

1. Ministries that are a priority for Americans, but not a priority for those in the central conferences. Any decent development literature review will reveal that it is common for charitable projects to go forward, not because the intended recipients have any interest in the project or the goods it intends to produce, but because of the desire of the donor(s) to support that project. This practice occurs in US subsidies of central conference ministries as well.

2. Ministries that are a priority for those in the central conferences, but not a high priority. Here, one might think of ministries that provide incremental improvements in quality of life but do not impact issues of life and death nor the basic function of the church. Such ministries include upgrading functional if suboptimal equipment and facilities, expanding the scope of existing ministries such as health and education to reduce difficulties in accessing them, and adding new components to existing ministries.

3. Ministries that provide vital health, educational, or other services but that do not affect the basic functioning of local congregations. These include hospitals, clinics, schools, and the like. These ministries provide important, even lifesaving, services not just to United Methodists, but also to others in their communities. They may also form important parts of United Methodist witness in their local contexts. Nonetheless, local congregations could continue to function as worshipping communities without such ministries.

4. Ministries that are essential to the operation of local congregation. These include salaries and transportation for pastors, Bibles and hymnals for congregants, church buildings, and supervision by bishops and district superintendents.

With those four types of subsidized ministries in mind, here are the range of options that central conferences have in the face of reduced US subsidies for those ministries.

First, central conferences could simply reduce the number or extent of ministries offered according to the reduction in subsidies. Simply accepting ministry cuts as a consequence of US-decided cuts in the amount of subsidies for those ministries is most likely for the first two categories of ministries: those that are not a priority or are a low priority to people in the central conferences. Such cuts might be somewhat disappointing to those in the central conferences, but not devastating.

Second, central conferences could attempt to identify other partners who could make up for the reduced amounts of the subsidies. Attempting to expand existing partnerships is the easiest way to make up for those reductions, so central conferences are likely to ask more of their annual conference and local church partners in light of reduced general church apportionments, though given the threats to such relationships, that strategy may or may not be successful. Non-governmental organizations, either religious or secular, are also likely sources for new funding to make up for reductions in US subsidies. This strategy could work for any type of ministry, though it is more likely to be effective where there are existing partnerships that can be built upon and where the priorities of new funders or funders stepping up their commitments align well with the priorities of those in the central conferences.

Third, central conferences could increase the extent to which their ministries operate on a fee-for-service model. That is, they could charge the beneficiaries of those ministries for the services provided. This approach is most likely in education and health, where fee-for-service is a common practice and may already exist in some form in these ministries as they currently operate. Additional fee-for-service revenues can come either by charging those who had previously received services for free or by increasing the cost of already paid services. The extent to which ministries can successfully collect fees for services depends in part upon the economic capacity of the populations they serve and on the perceived quality and value of the services offered.

Fourth, central conferences could increase the amount of self-funding through apportionments and other giving collected from the churches in those central conferences. Thus, central conferences would attempt to raise more money locally to make up for reduced money (and other subsidies) from the US. Certainly, this approach, like fee-for-services, will be constrained by the economic realities of United Methodist members in those central conferences. This model is also likely to serve as the best indication of what a central conference’s priorities truly are. The operation of churches as worshipping communities and evangelism to start new churches are likely to be the highest priority on which central conferences are willing to spend their own money. Some health and educational services may also fall into this category.

In all likelihood, of course, central conferences will use a combination of these strategies to make up for reduced US subsidies. The exact mix of strategies will depend on the type of ministry, its priority within that central conference, the range of partnerships cultivated by that central conference, and the financial realities in that central conference. This component of the financial realities in the central conferences will be addressed in a future post.

Friday, July 12, 2019

A Primer on American Subsidies to Central Conferences

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Director of Mission Theology at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries.
One significant feature of the financial realities of The United Methodist Church is that the American (and Western European) branches of the church provide extensive funding, in-kind gifts, technical expertise, and human resources for a variety of ministries in the central conferences. This practice can be read as a just response to global economic inequalities, a commendable practice of charity, or a form of neo-colonial control. Whether such subsidies are good, bad, or indifferent is a case-by-case personal judgment, and this post will not attempt to make such judgments.

Instead, this post will briefly cover the ways in which American (and Western European) churches subsidize ministry elsewhere and why those subsidies are currently at risk. A subsequent post will explore what options central conferences have if/when those subsidies do decrease.

While the remainder of this post will focus exclusively on American subsidies of central conferences, it should be noted that United Methodists in Norway, Germany, and Switzerland also provide funds, in-kind gifts, technical expertise, and personnel for programs in the central conferences through the work of their mission agencies and church partnerships. Such assistance is real and valuable, though since it occurs at a much smaller scale than American subsidies, this post will focus primarily on subsidies from the US to the central conferences.

First, a review of the mechanisms by which American churches subsidize ministry in the central conferences. There are five main mechanisms:

1. Apportionment funds that are explicitly directed toward the central conferences, such as bishops’ salaries paid from the episcopal fund, the Africa University Fund, the Central Conference Theological Education Fund, etc. In 2018, 99% of apportionments collected came from US churches, so while a future post will examine central conference apportionments as a part of their overall finances, practically speaking, most apportionment funds are a form of US subsidy.

2. Programs, grants, and assistance from the general boards and agencies, which subsidize a wide variety of mission, health, education, social justice, evangelism, infrastructure, and other programmatic expenses in the central conferences. Since apportionments are a significant source of funds for the general boards and agencies, as are direct contributions from Americans, most general agency funds sent to the central conferences can also be regarded as a form of American subsidy.

3. Monies and in-kind gifts given by US annual conferences through direct annual conference-to-annual conference partnerships. US annual conferences often have on-going relationships with annual conferences (or episcopal areas or non-profits) in the central conferences. These relationships typically involve financial support and in-kind gifts and services for a variety of programs and expenses.

4. Monies and in-kind gifts given by US local churches who have partnerships with local churches or entire annual conferences in the central conferences. These may be either one-time fundraising campaigns or on-going relationships that involve financial support and in-kind gifts and services.

5. Monies and in-kind gifts and services given by United Methodist-related para-church organizations. A variety of unofficial United Methodist groups, such as Good News, the Wesleyan Covenant Association, and Reconciling Ministries Network, have historically or have announced their intention to fund ministries in the central conferences or provide services, including training, to central conferences. The funding for such para-church groups is overwhelmingly if not entirely American in origin.

While historically, significant amounts of funds and assistance have gone from the United States to the central conferences via these mechanisms, most of these mechanisms are currently under threat for a variety of reasons.

A primary threat to US subsidies for the central conferences is the threat of reduced apportionments. Some US churches are withholding apportionments to the general church because of their objection to some aspect of the current debate over gay marriage and gay ordination in the church. These withholdings have already made an impact in the amount of apportionments collected since General Conference 2019. In addition, the GCFA board has proposed a steep cut in the amount of apportionments collected from American churches in the next quadrennium. A potential church split would further reduce total collected apportionments. These reductions affect both apportionment funds that go directly to central conferences and funds from general boards and agencies.

The other primary threat is the discontinuation of direct relationships between US annual conferences and local churches on the one hand and annual conferences and local churches in the central conferences on the other. Anecdotal stories have already circulated about both progressive and traditionalist churches cutting existing funding relationships with overseas partners because of their objections to how General Conference 2019 unfolded. More such discontinuations of relationships are possible, and were there to be a church split, it would likely result in further ruptured relationships.

It is difficult to establish a dollar figure for the current amount of ministry subsidies sent by the US to the central conferences. Moreover, the size, scope, and focus of possible reductions in US subsidies of central conference ministries remain to be seen. Nevertheless, it is almost assured that US subsidies as a whole will decline, though the various proposed plans for the future of The United Methodist Church that will be mooted over the next several months will affect these subsidies in different ways.

Given such impending reductions, the question naturally arises, “What will the central conferences do?” A subsequent post will attempt to answer just that question.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Mariama Seray B. Bockari – African Women and Mission, Part I

Today’s post contains the first of two parts of remarks prepared by Rev. Mariama Seray B. Bockari for the panel “African Women and Mission” at the Methodist Mission Bicentennial Conference. Rev. Bockari is a District Superintendent in the Sierra Leone Annual Conference.

The Almighty God and creator of humankind has engaged men and women in the past for the execution of His great programme of redemption. As He did in the past, so He is working through men and women today to show His great love to the lost. At creation, He made them male and female to compliment the effort of each other in the task He gave to them.

Having a purpose to accomplish on earth and having more work to do, God called men and women to be co-labourers with Him in the building of His church here on earth.

What is mission?
Mission means sending or to be sent. Christ came to seek and to save the lost, and He called His church to join Him in this. This is mission.

To be called to mission work is one of the highest callings one can receive. It is a sacred responsibility and should be considered a privilege to become partners with God.

The call to mission is not a preference among alternatives. It is a militant command that requires immediate action. It is usually clear and distinct. And those who are called have some knowledge about or are captured by something beyond human comprehension, e.g., Moses in the burning bush (Ex. 3: 4-6), Elijah in the cave (1 Kings 19: 9-15), or Saul’s encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9: 1-8).

Friends, the God who called in biblical times is still calling people today. From nothing, God made those called to be something, and those who were called were empowered for mission work. Their focus and emphasis in ministry remain unchangeable.

The role of women in the plan of redemption
Although the first sin came through a woman, yet to fulfill God’s plan for redemption, the Saviour came through a woman.

In the Old Testament, women were not relegated to the background of the home and domestic work. They held prominent positions in the church and society.

Deborah was a judge and prophetess in Israel (Judges 4:4). Hulda was a prophetess and spiritual leader (2 Kings 22:14). Esther was queen in Susa (Esther 4: 15-17). Abigail was a woman with brain and beauty (1 Sam. 25:3). All these and Anna (Luke 2: 36-38) are examples of women who influenced their generation positively.

In the New Testament, women also influenced prominent places and situations. In the gospel, we read of several women messengers who proclaimed the Good News (Matt. 2: 1-10; Luke 24: 9-12; John 4:28-30 and 20: 16-18).

In Romans 16, we have records of a number of women who served the Lord in various churches: Phoebe (Romans 16: 1-2), Priscilla (v3-5), Mary and Tryphena. Priscilla was specifically used of God to touch lives of people in Rome, Greece and Asia Minor. She housed Paul, led a home cell group and was assigned by Paul to disciple Apollos (Acts 18:21). Priscilla’s role in cross-cultural service was perceived by Paul as unique.

In contemporary times, women like Martin Luther King’s wife Coretta Scott King, Florence Booth and Mary Slessor have made remarkable positive influences on their husbands, their children and the entire world.

What is the role of United Methodist Church women in relation to this?
Since the merger of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church in 1968, which led to the development of The United Methodist Church, women have been active in mission work. Many people agree that the more difficult and dangerous the work, the more women volunteer to do it, and The United Methodist Church and United Methodist Church women are no exception to this. They have demonstrated a holistic approach with emphasis on both evangelism and meeting human needs.

They have shown a deep commitment and concern to other women and children. Medical work and economic structures were commonly the focus of their work.

Today, some of the ministries of the women in The United Methodist Church include:
  1. Teaching, counseling and leading of other women (Titus 2:25)
  2. Women’s prayer meeting (Acts 16: 12-15)
  3. Ministry of visitation (Matt. 25:36; James 1:27)
  4. Ministry of hospitality (2 Kings 4: 8-10; Hebrews 13:2; Timothy 5:10)
  5. Ministry of singing (Ex. 15: 20-21)
  6. Ministry of soul winning (Matt. 28: 18-20; Mark 16:15; Joshua 4: 28-30)
How can the women of today emulate others in mission?
For the purpose of reaching others for Christ, today’s women can emulate the women in both the Old and New Testament by using their:
  1. Meals: Friends and neighbours could be invited to our homes, during which we share our testimonies (Acts 2: 46-47).
  2. Homes: Women can offer their homes for meeting places.
  3. Talents: We can use our talents to help the poor and needy in the church by teaching them to do petty trading and craft to learn their living. Women can organize lessons for school children and illiterates as a minimal cost with the hope of winning them to the Lord.
  4. Substances: Women can use their money and materials to help pastors, believers and unbelievers.
Women in evangelism in Africa
The role of women in mission and the evangelization of Africa specifically is becoming more and more important as we approach the end of the age. These include:
  1. Ministry to children and youths. Many of the children and youths are wayward, drug addicts and prostitutes. Women of the church can volunteer to care for and teach others the way of salvation that will qualify them for leadership roles in the future.
  2. Ministry of hospitality, comfort and visitation. Women should provide care and comfort to the bereaved, orphans, widows, aged, poor and needy, sick and handicapped.
  3. Prison ministry. The women who are confined to the prison need our love and the gospel to set them free.
  4. Ministry to rural people. The primitive and illiterate who live in villages are more open to women than men. The woman can learn their languages and reach out to them.
  5. Ministry to social misfits. Singles, mothers and prostitutes get discouraged and frustrated because of the hardship and harshness they are exposed to. Church women are more suited for ministering to this category of persons.
In circles where there have been controversies concerning the ministry of women, new openings can be observed. Most churches are giving more opportunities for women to become involved in evangelism, seminary training, missions work, children’s welfare, radio and TV ministries, correspondence and counseling testimonies. All of these are abounding in abiding fruits of women’s ministry. The need for women’s ministry in the church is supported by several reasons, including:
  1. The population of women is about half or more of the population of the world. Multitudes of these women have peculiar needs that attract special attention, which can best be handled by women.
  2. Women by nature have caring, compassionate qualities and experience, which better provide them the opportunities to counsel on sensitive areas in the lives of women.
  3. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh shows that God will not waste His gift on women if it is not needed (Joel 2: 28-29).
  4. Women are better equipped with love, gentleness, tenderness and knowledge needed to reach millions of children in the world and lead them in the right direction of Christ.
There is a diversity of ministries yet undiscovered which women of the African church can be fully involved in. We are to depend on God to open our eyes to these areas and rise up to the great task committed to our hands by Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Recommended Reading: World Methodist Council statement on mission with migrants

Last month, the World Methodist Council brought together representatives from many of its constituent denominations in London to discuss issues related to migration. These included issues of joint ministry and polity that have arisen from situations where migrants from one Methodist tradition have formed churches in a geographic area in which another Methodist tradition predominates.

One result of that consultation is the statement "God Is On The Move: A Call to Be the Church in a New Way."

The statement speaks very positively about migration and migrants and affirms the importance of ministry with migrants and ministry by migrants. It also lays forth a set of principles for ministry collaboration between migrant and host Christian communities. The document and the principles are well worth a read.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Jacqueline Ngoy Mwayuma - African Women and Mission, Part III

Today’s post contains remarks prepared by Rev. Jacqueline Ngoy Mwayuma for the panel “African Women and Mission” at the Methodist Mission Bicentennial Conference. Rev. Mwayuma is administrative assistant to Bishop Mande Muyombo of the North Katanga Episcopal Area. Rev. Mwayuma’s remarks are translated from French.

The Role of African Women in Mission, Today and Tomorrow
Women are the strength and vitality of the churches of Africa by their great number, their drive and their constant availability. They are the bold energy of God, indispensable today as they have never been, capable of provoking a change. They are everywhere and interconnected.

They keep the flame of faith awake, especially in the most remote areas. They transmit the faith to children, who are the face of the future generation of the church of tomorrow.

Despite the zeal of the male missionaries, their efforts do not produce sufficient fruit if they are not helped by women.

For example, consider M. Louis and Madame Deschact and Marc Nelis and his wife, missionaries among the teachers at the United Methodist station of Mulungwishi. They cannot fulfill this ministry themselves. Only women can freely approach pagan women, maintain with them loving relationships, heal their evils, touch their hearts.

It is thus that the doors open wide before women, not only those of preaching but also those of female education, pastoral coordination, the ministry of evangelization, medical work, as well as the exercise of the hospitality.

Africa is a continent characterized by wars, violence, discrimination and poverty. Several African women have decided to lead a fight for a better life through an evangelistic and pastoral ministry. Consider these cases:

- Reverend Joaquina F. Nhanala, first woman United Methodist Bishop on the African continent, serving in Mozambique;

- Reverend Kabamba Kiboko, first woman pastor in the South Congo Annual Conference. Currently head pastor of Forest Chapel United Methodist Church in the city of Cincinnati, OH;

- Reverend Jacqueline Ngoy Mwayuma, first woman Assistant to the Bishop in the North Katanga Episcopal Area in the Democratic Republic of Congo;

- The Reverend Mutombo Kimba, first female Methodist pastor in the North Katanga Episcopal Area, subsequently working in the South Congo region and Zambia;

- Ms. Leymah Gbowee, a Methodist woman from Liberia who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her role in the management of a women's peace movement;

- Mother Odette Kalangwa and Ngoie Mutwale, missionary women from northern Katanga and Tanzania.

Nowadays women have a strong influence, especially in social work, education, technical training, etc.

The future of the mission of The United Methodist Church in Africa is to increase evangelization in difficult to reach areas. We must use all the means available to achieve our objectives, with a single goal of strengthening and extending the trust of the mission. This is based on the church's main mission, which is to put faith into action by making all nations disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the whole world.

With God's help, I wish that all mission activities continue, for Jesus said in the Gospel according to John (10:10b) that he came to give a life in abundance. It would be better that the people who will be brought to Jesus enjoy this life in the church of God. The church must open its buildings and systems to persons with disabilities, orphans, widows and widowers, must welcome those who have mental and psychological difficulties and work in a way that integrates each person.

And then the church is called to reflect the love of one’s neighbor by reassuring them of their basic needs such as food, clothing, housing, education, health care etc.

Jesus himself was the example. Wherever he went proclaiming the word of God, he was not indifferent to the sick, nor to the hungry (Luke 7:21), nor to the suffering. In the Gospel according to Matthew (15:31), the crowd was in awe to see that the mute spoke, that the crippled were healed, that the lame walked, that the blind saw. All glorified the God of Israel.
As a church, all these activities should not be separated. They must evolve simultaneously.

Since it is the primary activity, evangelism must be the main purpose of a church for the transformation of the world, bringing lost souls to Christ (Matthew 28:19).

The Church must support all activities without regarding one as more important than the other.

The Church must ensure active participation in all activities, according to the organization, in order to contribute to its development.

The Church must expand the ministry of compassion to needy people, because faith and social work go together hand in hand. This leads us to say that the relationship between these activities must be regarded as an equal one.

To do so, it is appropriate to give the woman all the necessary training so that she is able to regain her dignity and improve her condition of life in the church. Education is necessary because it allows her to play her full part and ensures greater integration into the structure of the Church in the decision-making process.

We affirm that men and women are created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27). All human beings are endowed with an equal degree of the same dignity. In the Lord, the woman is no different than the man, and the man is no different than the woman.

For just as the woman was taken out of the man, so is the man born by the woman, and all come from God (1 Corinthians 11:11-12). What is important is to encourage African women to bring their stone to the building of the church, that they are not only necessary in the field of the family, that they have ecclesial positions like men because of the educational and transformative power of this equality for a church of tomorrow.

Women’s potential must be taken into account by entrusting them with responsibilities in the ministry of evangelism because they are very present and very engaged in the daily life of the communities. Without the contribution of women, the Africa of tomorrow will not succeed in its evangelizing mission.

Monday, July 1, 2019

The World Methodist Council and World-Wide Methodism

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Director of Mission Theology at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries.

One of the reasons why the COSMOS proposals for an International Methodist Church or a World Methodist Council of Churches never really got off the ground was the existence of the World Methodist Council (WMC) as an alternative avenue for relationship. At the same time, some United Methodists now have suggested that the WMC could be a means for maintaining relationships in the likely event of a breakup of The United Methodist Church. Thus, it is worth describing what the WMC is, how it is structured, and what is does.

The World Methodist Council is made up of over 70 participating Methodist, Wesleyan, and United denominations. Some of these are autonomous Methodist churches in the British Methodist tradition. Some are autonomous Methodist churches in the American Methodist tradition. Some are world-wide churches in the African-American Methodist tradition. Some are world-wide churches in the American Wesleyan/holiness tradition. Some are nationally-based united churches that were formed from the merger of Methodist and other Protestant churches.

One very important member denomination of the WMC is The United Methodist Church. The UMC is the largest participating denomination in terms of membership, and it provides a lot of the personnel, organizational structure, and drive that enable the work of the WMC.

The UMC also contributes the largest amount of funding to the WMC. The UMC contributes about two-thirds of the total dues from participating denominations, which collectively make up 83% of the WMC's operating budget. Put another way, the UMC is responsible for over half (57%) of the WMC's total budget. This doesn't include indirect subsidies, such as the UMC covering the expenses for representatives from autonomous churches to attend the World Methodist Conference. Any future in which there is less UMC money to support shared ministry is quite likely a future in which the WMC takes a substantial financial hit and is less able to facilitate shared ministry.

There are several means by which the WMC promotes intra-Methodist relationships and shared ministry. Perhaps the most visible is the World Methodist Conference, which happens every five years. The origins of the WMC as an organization lie in the World Methodist Conferences, which have been meeting periodically since 1881. The next Conference will be in 2021 in Sweden. This group has no legislative power over participating denominations. It focuses on fellowship, worship, electing officers for the WMC, and overseeing the WMC's committee structure.

Carrying forward the work of the WMC in between conferences are a council president (currently J. C. Park of South Korea), a very small staff led by the General Secretary (currently Ivan Abrahams of South Africa), a steering committee, and a system of program committees.

Because of the extremely limited personnel resources in the WMC itself, much of the work that the organization does, it does through its program committees. Yet the committees vary greatly in the extent to which they function effectively and facilitate significant shared ministry among participating denominations. More effective committees are often dominated by a few strong individuals with clear ideas about what they want to accomplish and an understanding of the WMC as a salutary way to accomplish it.

In addition to the committee structure, the WMC serves as an umbrella for "affiliate" programs, which are operated mostly independently, but which have at least a nominal connection to the WMC. That connection can help draw in a wider variety of Methodist/Wesleyan/United participants to these programs and can also serve as evidence for or a justification of the "world-wide" nature of such programs. In reality, much of this programming originates in, is led by, and is funded by (mostly United Methodist) Americans or British Methodists.

The work that the WMC carries out generally falls into a few categories: education, evangelism, ecumenism, history, and peace-making. In education, the WMC is the origins of the International Association of Methodist School, Colleges, and Universities, which is mostly supported by GBHEM of the UMC, and other affiliate scholarly programs. In evangelism, the WMC serves as an umbrella for World Methodist Evangelism and the World Methodist Evangelism Institute, both American organizations with origins in the work of Eddie Fox and Maxie Dunnam. In ecumenism, the WMC operates the Methodist Ecumenical Office in Rome and the Methodist Liaison Office in Jerusalem (funded and staff mostly by Americans and Brits) and represents Methodists in discussions with other world faith communions. In history, the WMC maintains the World Methodist Museum in Lake Junaluska, NC, and has connections to some other affiliate programs. In peace-making, the WMC awards the annual World Methodist Peace Award.

As one can see, the WMC is often dominated financially and programmatically by The United Methodist Church and its American members, but in ways that often depend upon the current structures of apportionments and boards and agencies. Moreover, this domination by American United Methodists causes tensions with other participating denominations, who may resent this dominance or may have a different sense of what world-wide Methodist priorities should be.

Thus, there are three main challenges to the WMC serving as a means of continuing currently internal UMC international relationships in a post-UMC world. First, without the UMC as it currently exists, the WMC is likely to be a less robust organization that is less able to facilitate relationships and shared ministry. Second, if (post-)United Methodists try to remake the WMC for their own purposes, this could encounter strong resistance from other Methodist/Wesleyan/United denominations who already to some extent resent UMC domination of the WMC. Third, the priorities that the UMC might have for the WMC in serving as a means of continuing relationships may clash with priorities other denominations (some of whom already have internal international collaboration) may identify for the organization.