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Carter sees changes in 27 years with United Methodist Advance

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A UMNS photo by Linda Bloom

The Rev. William T. Carter shows off 50th anniversary mementos of the Advance for Christ and His Church.

June 6, 2006

By Linda Bloom*

NEW YORK (UMNS) — Americans are giving more money than ever before to help people in need, but the ways in which they are giving are changing.

That’s the perspective of the Rev. William T. Carter, who has led the United Methodist Church’s second-mile giving program for the past 27 years.

Carter, 64, based at the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, is retiring June 30 as the top staff executive for the Advance for Christ and His Church. He is a clergy member of the Northern Illinois Annual (regional) Conference.

The why of giving — being bound by the common experiences of humanity and the recognition that all peoples are “striving to better their lives” — remains the same, according to Carter.

But many donors today are more interested in specifying where their dollars go. “Young people believe in designated giving more than they believe in general giving,” he noted.

And many don’t want the fuss of writing a check, so the more the denomination allows for credit card and online giving, “the better off the church is going to be,” he observed.

A response to suffering

Carter, a native of Greenwood, Miss., grew up in Chicago and holds degrees from Philander Smith College and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary — both United Methodist schools.

In his years with the Advance, he has seen it all — from the loose change mailed in by Sunday school students to the record-smashing outpouring of contributions after the South Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.

When it was created after World War II, the Advance for Christ and His Church served as the denomination’s response to a world that was suffering in physical and spiritual ways. It offered United Methodists a way to voluntarily support specific ministries.

In the first few decades, the bulk of the money raised went to projects outside the United States, with a focus on missionary support and world hunger. Domestically, a “parish partners” program placed priority on the denomination’s missionary conferences, including the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, Rio Grande Missionary Conference, Alaska Missionary Conference and Puerto Rico. (Since then, Rio Grande has become a full annual conference and the Puerto Rico church has become autonomous.)

As membership grew outside the United States and the role of the missionary changed, “the Advance became a development arm of the board,” Carter said, pointing to the Africa Church Growth and Development program as an example.

Eventually, disaster situations began commanding more attention ? and more dollars. In 1999, the Advance received a record $44 million, $10 million higher than the previous record in 1985. Much of the increase was a response to the refugee crisis in Kosovo and an earthquake in Turkey.

“Before, you heard about disasters but you didn’t really feel disasters as much,” Carter explained. More recently, he added, disasters have become “television-friendly.”

Whether by hurricane, flood or tornado, these televised disasters also are found more often in the United States. “You have a huge increase in giving because it’s been so close to home,” he said.

And Carter realizes that all the giving doesn’t go to the Advance. He estimated that the $80 million donated to the United Methodist Committee on Relief for aid work after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita is only a fraction of what probably went directly to the denomination’s annual conferences that suffered in the hurricanes.

More increases expected

As the Advance undergoes an administrative transition, the Rev. R. Randy Day, chief executive of the Board of Global Ministries, has temporary leadership.

Despite the change, the program’s commitment remains the same: 100 percent of every gift goes to mission.

Carter expects donations to the Advance — which average $30 million to $35 million annually in years without major disasters — to continue to increase.

“I easily see it averaging around $50 million a year,” he said. “The reason is that it’s a trustworthy program.”

*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.

Audio Interview with Bill Carter

Online giving is part of the present.

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