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Agency proposes communications initiative outside U.S.

7/24/2003 News media contact: Stephen Drachler · (615) 742-5411

SAN DIEGO (UMNS) - To support the growing role of churches outside the United States, the United Methodist communications agency will ask the 2004 General Conference to approve a new international initiative.

The $2.3 million initiative would provide financial support for partnerships between United Methodist Communications and the denomination's central (regional) conferences in Africa, Europe and Asia. The partnerships would develop culture-appropriate communications ministries and training.

UMCom would work with central conference bishops, communicators and other leaders to determine the nature of the partnerships and provide support for the communications ministries.

The legislation drew a strong endorsement from the central conferences representative on the communications commission, which met in mid-July. "This proposal truly connects the central conferences to the church. It will provide tools to the central conferences to strengthen our connection. We want this," said Djamba Mundeke of Kenshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Membership in churches outside the United States is growing. Between 1991 and 2001, United Methodist membership outside the U.S. grew by nearly 33 percent to 1.5 million, according to data compiled by the church's General Council on Finance and Administration. The United Methodist Church has more than 10 million members in the United States, Africa, Asia (the Philippines) and Europe.

It is important for the initiative to focus on United Methodists outside the United States, said the Rev. Elijah A. Stansell Jr., a commission member from Houston. "We need to do some listening, some learning, some exploring and then find creative ways to work with our brothers and sisters."

"The vitality of communications in the central conferences is crucial to the United Methodist Church," said the Rev. Larry Hollon, top staff member of UMCom. "The voices of United Methodists outside of the United States need to be heard. They can play important roles in their own cultures and in communicating the Gospel around the world."

The General Conference petition proposes creating a separate fund for the Central Conferences Communications Initiative. UMCom, based in Nashville, Tenn., would administer the fund.

General Conference, the denomination's top legislative assembly, will meet April 27-May 7 in Pittsburgh.

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