5:00 P.M. EST April 20, 2010 | STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS)
Both Thomas Kemper, left, and Bishop Bruce Ough stress that missionaries
will continue to play a vital role in the work of the United Methodist
Board of Global Ministries. UMNS photos by Cassandra Zamphin.
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Global mission is about to become more local.
Officials at the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries are
signaling a “cultural shift” in how the denomination does mission.
Instead of acting as an implementer of mission for the denomination,
the agency must be “a resource to those individuals, churches,
conferences and institutions already in mission,” Ohio West Area Bishop
Bruce Ough, board president, told directors during the April 12-14
Building a capacity for mission among all parts of the connection
should be the standard for all the board’s activities. “I think we
could begin by strengthening our partnerships with annual (regional)
conferences and devoting significantly more staff time to helping
conferences build their capacity to be in global mission,” he said.
Part of that effort would mean strengthening ties to the largest
congregations by attendance. Staff representing two of those churches,
along with a conference mission leader, were part of a discussion on
ministry with the poor.
Jonathan Bell, director of mission ministries for the United
Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., said his and
other large congregations believe “the best days of The United
Methodist Church are still ahead of us.”
A year ago, he said, he was the host of a meeting of mission
directors from many of the large churches to see how they could work
more collaboratively. The group challenged itself to nurture 300 new
young clergy and create new faith communities.
Now, they would like a similar relationship with denominational
leadership. “It would be great if we could cooperate more, but
collaboration would be better,” he said.
Lynette Fields, executive director of servant ministries at St.
Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando, Fla., pointed out that large
churches are “very entrepreneurial” and, because of the breadth and
depth of their congregations, “often filled with resources that our
denominational agencies may not have.”
Alternative funding sources needed
One of the dwindling resources for agencies is churchwide funding, a
fact that Thomas Kemper, the board’s new top executive, acknowledged
as he and others cited the need for alternative sources of funding for
Collaboration – with groups ranging from conferences and
congregations to schools, hospitals and ethnic, racial, geographic and
social networks – is necessary for the denomination’s future success,
“We need to become expert in facilitation, passionate for
partnership and open to the mission visions of our partners,” Kemper
The German church mission board, which Kemper led before coming to
the New York-based Board of Global Ministries, successfully used a
“roundtable” model that brought together all those in a particular
conference or country to share information, set priorities and strive
for transparency and accountability, he said.
That model is being used this week as the Methodist Church in Haiti
convenes a meeting of its partners, including United Methodists,
involved in earthquake relief and recovery.
Both Ough and Kemper mentioned the possibility of establishing
regional mission offices and agreed that missionaries would continue to
play a vital role in the agency’s work. While the patterns of
missionary service differ in the 21st century from the 19th and 20th
centuries, “the need for the church to self-consciously send and
receive missionaries” has not changed, Kemper said.
The Board of Global Ministries currently has some 220 full-service
missionaries in 60 countries, plus about 100 in the United States.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or