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Global mission board looks to future direction


Bishop Bruce Ough, president of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, addresses directors at an April 27 meeting in Stamford, Conn.
UMNS photos by Cassandra M. Zampini.

By Linda Bloom*
April 30, 2009 | NEW YORK (UMNS)

As the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries considers the future of mission for the denomination, the way the agency staffs and operates its programs will change.

On April 29, directors of the mission board approved a series of recommendations aimed at developing a restructuring plan “for more effective ministry.” The plan – to be finalized in October -- will almost certainly include a re-grouping of staff and program areas and possible staff reductions and changes in governance.

Mississippi Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, a board vice president, presented recommendations from the executive committee during the spring board meeting, after directors had received an “organizational audit” prepared by Management Partners, Inc., a Cincinnati-based firm. The audit was discussed in executive session and its details were not made public.

Several task forces will be established by the end of May to work on restructuring plans and a theology of mission statement, in collaboration with the Rev. Edward Paup, the board’s top executive, the staff cabinet, and the board’s personnel committee. Implementation of changes would occur no later than the beginning of 2010.

Specific recommendations requiring a change in the Book of Discipline, the denomination’s book of law, would receive further consideration by board directors and ultimately result in legislation for the United Methodist General Conference in 2012, according to West Ohio Bishop Bruce Ough, president of the Board of Global Ministries.

The executive committee affirmed both the denomination’s four areas of focus and the mission agency’s own goals. “We will continue to be faithful to the disciplinary mandates of making disciples of Jesus Christ; strengthening, developing and renewing Christian congregations and communities; alleviating human suffering and seeking justice, freedom and peace,” the committee wrote in its preamble to the recommendations enabling the restructure process. 

‘Very broad framework’

In an interview with United Methodist News Service, Ough called what the directors had discussed in executive session “a very broad framework” for how the agency would be restructured.

“This meeting was designed in large part…to point in a direction,” the bishop said.

He noted that the final report from Management Partners is still being edited. “There are 218 specific recommendations that will be coming,” he said.

In general, the work of the board is expected to be grouped into four areas. The Women’s Division also remains a part of the agency. Its directors have improved, in principle, a strategic plan for changes within the division and United Methodist Women.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief, “a well known and very respected brand,” would continue in its present structure, according to Ough, and constitute one area.

Two other area groupings would combine staff and programs related to finance and administration and those related to fund development and communications. “Much of telling the story is to create the environment in which people feel good about giving to missions,” Ough added.

All mission program units -- such as community and institutional ministries, mission contexts and relationships, mission personnel and evangelism and church growth -- would coordinate their work together in another area.

No staffing decisions

The board has some 300 staff employees, including Women’s Division staff. “No decisions have been made yet about which specific staff positions might be modified, consolidated or eliminated,” Ough said.

Directors did approve a recommendation from the executive committee providing for “a retirement incentive for eligible GBGM employees.” He called that a tool, which could be used as staffing is rearranged.

However, it is likely that the restructure will mean the elimination of some positions. The consultants, according to Ough, “believe the work could be done more efficiently and therefore could result in some staff reduction and cost savings.”

Decisions about staffing will fall to board’s executive cabinet, working with the implementation task force, and the board’s personnel committee, he said.

Concern was expressed about being able to provide a fair salary based on geographic location. In its audit, Management Partners pointed out that church employees working in the New York area receive 86 cents on the dollar compared to Nashville-based employees.

Directors approved a recommendation to petition the Committee of Policies and Personnel Practices of the denomination’s General Council on Finance and Administration “to institute a pay differential for various geographic areas.” The Board of Global Ministries has made a similar request in the past.

On a broader level, issues of governance – the number of board directors, the frequency and length of meetings, the structure in terms of committees – will be considered as part of the restructuring, according to Ough.

While Management Partners did not make a specific suggestion about the number of directors, he explained, the consultants did share some general data, including “some research that indicates the larger boards get, the more dependent they are on staff,” resulting in less participation.

A task force of directors also will consider how the agency “locates itself across the globe” to carry out its vision and mission work, but Ough stressed that directive does not necessarily include a relocation of the board’s headquarters.

As part of the finance committee report, board directors approved paying up to $125,000 to Management Partners to assist in implementation of the operational audit recommendations. Action by the board’s emergency funding committee to pay the firm “up to $200,000” for the work on the audit itself also was approved.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.  

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Resource

Board of Global Ministries

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