United Methodist mission agency rejects harsh laws against immigrants
April 7, 2006
|A UMNS photo by Rick Reinhard
Protestors rally against impending immigration reform legislation during a March 7 rally in Washington
By Linda Bloom*
STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS) — As the Senate considered a compromise on
immigration legislation, the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries
called upon Congress to refrain from enacting harsh and intolerant laws
against undocumented workers.
That was one of the actions taken by directors during the board’s April 3-6 meeting in Stamford, Conn.
As noted by the statement adopted April 6, the United Methodist Church,
including its mission agency, “has a long history of being in ministry
with immigrants and supporting just immigration policies.”
Directors asked Congress “to refrain from passing laws relating to
immigration that would divide families, make felons out of millions of
workers now in the U.S. who are without green cards or visas, encourage
mistreatment of immigrants or criminalize the efforts of the Christian
church, other faith traditions and social service organizations to help
people in need, regardless of their citizenship status.”
The Board of Global Ministries also called upon fellow United Methodists
“to inform themselves and others about the plight of undocumented
workers in the U.S. and how the church is and can continue responding to
the economic, social, political, legal and spiritual challenges they
Two bishops noted their concerns about the immigration debate during the
meeting. Bishop Joel Martinez of San Antonio, who serves as president
of the board, told directors a story about how his grandmother, then a
U.S. resident, was stopped at the border in 1930 after returning from a
family wedding in Mexico. “None of us are free of responsibility” in the
crisis over immigration, he said.
Bishop Jeremiah Park, a first generation Korean-American, shared a
letter he had written to church members of the denomination’s New York
Annual (regional) Conference.
“We, as Christians, are reminded that we were once excluded from
citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise?But
we are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s
people and members of God’s household (Ephesians 2:12 and 19),” he
Bishop Jeremiah Park
“I would hope that this story of ours would help all of us identify with
the story of those who live as aliens among us. I also hope that the
immigration reform will reflect the spirit of openness, compassion and
hospitality in response to the inhumane plight of the undocumented
residents among us.”
Park is among the United Methodists who will be participating April 10
in immigration-related events in an estimated 60 cities or so. He has
called upon clergy and laity to join him at a 3 p.m. march at City Hall
in New York. The bishop will lead a 1:30 p.m. prayer rally at John
Street United Methodist Church, just south of City Hall in lower
In his address to board directors, the Rev. R. Randy Day, the board’s
chief executive, called for united action by the denomination on the
immigration debate. “In our view, none of the legislative bills
currently before the U.S. Congress would be good for immigrants,” he
The Rev. R. Randy Day
Day also spoke about mission as the “heartbeat of the church.” The
board’s biggest jobs, he noted, are to keep that heartbeat strong and
“provide assistance and facilitation in the church to be a people in
During the meeting, Day announced a new agreement on the mission
relationship between the Board of Global Ministries and the autonomous
Methodist Church of Cuba.
The statement of solidarity and cooperation -- signed March 29 in Havana
by Day, Martinez, Bishop Ricardo Pereira of Cuba and Bishop Juan
Vera-Mendez of Puerto Rico ? was designed to heal a short breach in a
long-term relationship. Misunderstandings about decisions to close out
several designated funds were among issues leading to the breach.
The statement recognized “the incidents that caused a rupture on our
relationship. After a moment of reflection and analysis, we regretted
and mutually apologized for all the events. Reaffirming our respect to
the decisions of both organizations, we committed ourselves not to let
our mistakes to set us apart and interfere in our missionary
Bishop Joel Martinez
Pereira and a delegation from the Cuban church are expected to attend
the board’s October meeting and a delegation of board directors also
will make a visit to Cuba.
Vera told directors the agreement makes “a strong testimony” in support
of the Methodist Church in Cuba and the political struggles under which
it operates. “I think at this moment we have a tremendous opportunity to
increase and improve the relationship with the church in Cuba,” he
A March 27 letter to the board’s officers and cabinet from Vera, Bishop
Minerva Carcaņo and Bishop Elias Galvan had raised the issue of the
situation with the church in Cuba and also expressed concerns about
funding cuts to other churches in Latin America and the Caribbean as
well as the representation of Hispanics and Latinos on the board’s
In his treasurer’s report, Roland Fernandez noted that the board’s
recent budget problems had eased slightly. Operating revenue of $67.5
million for 2005 was up 7 percent over the previous year. The $69
million in operating expenses was the lowest in several years and showed
a $1 million drop from 2004 to 2005. “Efforts made to reduce
expenditures have helped overcome some of the financial challenges we
face,” he said.
Total net assets increased by $4.1 million in 2005 and the general
operating fund had a positive balance of $6.7 million, the highest in
four years. “However, when combined with accumulated unrealized losses,
there is a negative balance of $7.8 million,” Fernandez said.
The depletion in the board’s net assets between 2000 and 2002, in excess
of $112 million, has been stopped but resulted in declining budgets for
the board’s work. A slight increase ? from $56.1 million to $56.7
million ? is being recommended for the 2007 budget.
That increase is occurring despite “substantial reductions” in
contributions from the Women’s Division, which is dealing with its own
budget crisis, he pointed out. The primary reason behind the increase is
higher income from the denomination’s World Service Fund, “which will
be about 49 percent of the total budgeted income,” Fernandez said.
Bishop Woodrow Hearn gave a report to directors on efforts to start a
pension fund for United Methodist pastors in the Central Conferences
outside the United States.
“The old system of block grants was not meeting the needs and it was
becoming increasingly difficult to fund the block grants,” he explained.
A list of pensioners is being developed and a system for the
distribution of emergency funds for pensions in conferences with special
needs is being established, Hearn said. In addition, a task force is
considering the hiring of a professional fundraiser to secure the $20
million that is needed to start the international pension fund.
Dan O’Neill, recently hired by the United Methodist Board of Pensions
and Health Benefits to staff its international desk, was introduced to
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
|Audio Interview with Randy Day