|A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose
Most United Methodists - 62 percent - are age 50 or older, and the church is seeking new ways to serve them.
March 9, 2005
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Tenn. (UMNS)—Society and the United Methodist Church are “graying,” and
the church cannot afford to abandon or under serve older adults,
according to an expert on aging and older adult ministries.
2020, the number of people in the United States over 50 will grow by 74
percent, while the number of people under 50 will grow by only 1
percent. In the United Methodist Church, about 62 percent of the members
are 50 or older, said the Rev. Richard H. Gentzler Jr., director of the
Center on Aging and Older Adult Ministries for the United Methodist
Board of Discipleship.
was addressing the denomination’s Committee on Older Adult Ministries
at its first meeting for the 2005-2008 quadrennium in Nashville, March
5-7. The committee advocates for older adult concerns and supports
ministries “by, with and for” older adults in the church and society.
The Rev. Hazel Bennett, elected as chairwoman of the committee, said the
words “by, with and for” are important. “Older adults want to serve as
well as be spiritually enriched,” she said. “We don’t want something
prepared for us without our input. Older adults can serve as long as
|A UMNS photo by Ronny Perry
The Rev. Hazel Bennett (far left) meets with other members of the Committee on Older Adult Ministries.
Gentzler set the tone for the meeting with a presentation on the history and biblical foundation of the committee.
the time of Jesus Christ, the life expectancy was 22 years old,”
Gentzler said. “In John Wesley’s time it was 35; 100 years ago, it was
47; and today in the U.S., it is 80. It won’t be long until it is 120
years old, which the Bible speaks of.”
“Ageism is happening in many congregations,” said Bishop Violet Fisher,
New York West Area. “It is showing in the leadership of our churches. We
forget the gifts seniors have to offer, one of which is seniors are
financially supporting our churches.”
Bishop Violet Fisher
church that recognizes every member of its family will not leave anyone
out, said Marvin Cropsey, an editor at the United Methodist Publishing
House and a consultant to the committee.
committee will look at issues that are important to older adults and
submit legislation for the 2008 General Conference. One issue it will
discuss is mandatory retirement for pastors and bishops. A resolution to
do away with mandatory retirement failed to pass at the 2004 General
Conference is a perpetrator of ageism,” said Bennett. “Many pastors can
be effective beyond age 70. The committee will be working on some hard
The committee has $80,000 to use for grants for older adult ministries.
Guidelines for criteria, submission procedure and the application form
were discussed. The grants will be given in 2006 and 2007.
|A UMNS photo by Ronny Perry
Cole, the Rev. Hazel Bennett and Suanne Ware-Diaz discuss the
procedures for administering grants for older adult ministries.
committee also voted to hold a convocation for annual conference
councils on older adult ministries in 2007. At the committee’s March
2006 meeting, plans will be announced for the design of the convocation.
2004 General Conference approved legislation to encourage each annual
conference to create a conference council on older adult ministries.
Bennett said the committee would work to get councils formed in every
other action, the committee elected James F. Fox, Northeastern
Jurisdictional representative, as vice chairman of the committee, and
Cathy Rafferty, North Central Jurisdictional representative, as
recording secretary. Bennett, chairwoman of the committee, is the
Southeastern Jurisdictional representative.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.