|Mission agency reviews impact of economic crisis|
Treasurer Roland Fernandes reports on the finances of the
United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. UMNS photos by Cassandra
By Linda Bloom*
Oct. 21, 2008 | STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS)
While the global economic turmoil will not immediately affect operations
of the mission agency of The United Methodist Church, the crisis does
present new opportunities for the church to be in mission, its leaders
"Now is the time for the church to be the church," says Bishop Bruce Ough.
"Now is the time for the church to be the church," said Bishop Bruce
Ough after his election as president of the Board of Global Ministries.
He declared that those on the margins who will suffer the most "are the very people God has called us to minister to."
This year’s economic meltdown, triggered by a collapse in the housing
market followed by mayhem in the investment and banking industries,
dominated the headlines during the board’s annual meeting Oct. 13-17 in
As a jittery stock market seesawed by hundreds of points each day,
the financial climate was a concern for the mission agency. Continued
decline in investments could "impact the board’s general operating fund
significantly," according to a report delivered by Global Ministries
Treasurer Roland Fernandes.
The agency’s total net assets, including restricted funds, stood at
$210.8 million at the end of 2007, the highest level since 2000. Over
the first eight months of 2008, receipts from general church funds were
up by 3 percent, but investment income decreased by $1 million.
"The key thing will be how we end the year," Fernandes told United
Methodist News Service, noting that much of the board’s funding comes
through general church contributions. “We may have to adjust our
interest investment income for next year.”
He added that there has been "significant underspending" of the agency’s 2008 budget to date, "so we have some flexibility."
Looking beyond its own budget issues, the church needs to be a
presence during this economic crisis, according to Ough, not only during
Sunday worship, but in the workplace during the week.
"We have a lot of fearful people, not just in our churches, but in our
communities," he said. "I think it’s a wonderful time for the church to
step forward and say, 'hope always trumps fear.'"
The Rev. Bau Dang
He noted that many local congregations already are engaged in
ministry with the poor. "That audience is just going to get larger in
the midst of this crisis," he said.
The Rev. Edward Paup, the board’s top executive, agreed with Ough.
"In this time of economic crisis, we cannot forget those who have the
least," he said. "Economic recovery will never be complete until poverty
is fully addressed and strategies to eradicate it are in place.”
Acting on the recommendation of the finance committee, board
directors adopted a $58 million budget for 2009, a decrease of $2
million from the budget approved for 2008.
The Rev. Bau Dang of San Diego, finance committee chairman, said
concern remained over some investment income, noting that "it could
affect the income of our overall budget."
He expressed personal concern over another type of crisis—the steady decline of United Methodist membership in the United States. "I want to see how we can use this money (board budget) to bring about the revitalization of our churches," he said.
Seeking ways to respond
Several speakers addressed the board’s Women’s Division meeting on
economic themes. Members of United Methodist Women were encouraged to
explore ways to directly respond to the housing foreclosure crisis by
working with other partners on counseling and advocacy actions for
homeowners in distress.
Directors also participated in a letter-writing action "to the
president-elect of the U.S.," asking for a fair and just policy on the
Women’s Division treasurer Martha Knight believes giving levels will remain steady.
In her report on the first eight months of 2008 to Women’s Division
directors, treasurer Martha Knight noted that revenue was higher and
expenses lower than the same time period in 2007. In addition, the staff
particularly had been conservative on spending over the past two
"We are still ahead over the last four years," she told United Methodist News Service. "I find that very hopeful."
The value of Women’s Division investments did drop by about $11
million through August. "The unrealized losses to date will require
staff to look closely, first at the impact to the pension plan for
deaconesses and missionaries, second at the future of mission funding
from endowments," she said in her report.
But Knight believes that giving levels will remain steady. "I have
great confidence in United Methodist Women," she said. "When the chips
are down, they help each other."
The challenge, she said, will be to address the special needs of
women and children and create some new initiatives around the financial
*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.
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