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United Methodist Men get new home, ensure future ministry

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Photo by Dewayne Lowther

The Rev. Joseph Harris, outgoing top executive of the Commission on United Methodist Men, says goodbye at a farewell party.

July 21, 2005

By Linda Green*

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (UMNS)—The United Methodist Men’s organization will reach true adulthood by the end of 2005, when its headquarters moves to a new building.

Participants at the 9th National Gathering of United Methodist Men cheered upon hearing the announcement that the Commission on United Methodist Men will be moving into the facilities being vacated by the Nashville, Tenn., office of the denomination’s General Council on Finance and Administration.

The men’s organization, once part of a division on men’s ministry at the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, became a churchwide agency in 1996, but has been housed in a suite of offices at the discipleship agency. The commission has been seeking its own office since then.

Gil Hanke, president of the men’s commission and a layman from Nacogdoches, Texas, announced the move during the gathering’s final plenary session July 17.

“I am pleased to tell you that by end of this year, the General Commission on United Methodist Men will have its own office, with its own building that will be financed in a way that will not interrupt one piece of the ministry that we do,” Hanke said. “Our staff and everybody who works for us as volunteers will finally have the space they need to do the ministry we are called to do.”

The commission is financing the purchase of the building through donations and through the United Methodist Men’s Foundation.

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A UMNS photo by Linda Green

Bishop William Morris has been named interim head of the Commission on United Methodist Men.

Bishop William Morris, recently named interim general secretary of the commission, told United Methodist News Service, the building is a part of a new beginning. “It is definitely a new beginning for us in that we will have a facility that can house a staff ... and our brand of identity. A part of what we are about is to have our own identity.”  

United Methodist Men is moving in new directions and getting a new facility provides an avenue and space for ministry, he said. “The point is to be open to what God wants you to do and be faithful to the task.”

To those who doubt the commission’s ability to sustain itself in its own building, Morris said, “We have people who have been extremely blessed in our denomination. We (the church) are not poor. I don’t think the issue is ever one of money; it is the issue of stewardship and commitment, and we have people who can do what needs to be done. With the blessings of God and guidance of the Holy Spirit, we have to challenge those people to understand that God has called them to give, something they ought to be doing.”

The 2,200 men attending the assembly pledged to do their part to help pay for the new surroundings and to ensure that men’s ministry would continue for future generations.

On the spot, the men filled out pledge cards to express their continued financial support of scouting and youth ministries, the Upper Room Prayer Line, hunger-relief efforts and compassion ministries, and they also pledged support for new efforts to train and recruit younger men into United Methodist men and form local church men’s groups.

“The question before the whole church is how do we deal with youth and young adults and young families and bring them into the church?” Morris said. “This is true too for United Methodist Men.”

The tradition of the gathering at Purdue University extends back many years and has been described as a “life-changing event” that allows men from across the world to come together for a time of fellowship, spiritual renewal, instruction and inspiration.

“This gathering of United Methodist Men is unique in our church in that there is no other large gathering of men across the United Methodist Church,” said the Rev. Joseph Harris, the commission’s outgoing top executive.

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A UMNS photo by Linda Green

Carl Pierce of Flushing, Mich., likes getting the chance "to be with men who have the same ideals."

Carl Pierce of Flushing, Mich., attends the quadrennial men’s gathering to be in the presence of Christian men and find out more about God. The 2005 gathering was his fifth because “this is the only chance to be with men who have the same ideals,” he said.

The theme, “Hearts Afire for God,” reflects a spirit of dedication and the understanding that men are disciples of God, said Willie Johnson, Baton Rogue, La. Attending his first gathering, Johnson added, “If God’s words is going to be spread throughout the world, we have to do it. We have to show by the light that shines within us and in our good works that God is in us and in everything that we do.”

Clayton Nedd, a fourth-time gathering attendee from Ecorse, Mich., said he keeps returning to the gatherings because “it is refreshing and spiritual and gives me a chance to know men.”  The gatherings are important because “we need to bring men to God. This is what we are in it for, to bring men to serve God,” he said.

As a first-time participant, the Rev. Rufus Campbell, Springfield, Minn., said he does not believe God is finished with United Methodist Men. “God still has a role for UMM, he said. “We are called to remember how God has enflamed us, has given us a vision for ministry and that passion for ministry needs to be rekindled from time to time.”

Campbell echoed a goodbye message from Harris to the United Methodist Men’s organization. Harris told the gathering that “I know that in many ways, the real work of United Methodist Men has just begun.”  He has been appointed assistant to the bishop and director of Oklahoma Conference communications, effective Aug. 1.

United Methodist Men’s ministry is beginning because “men continue to be an unreached field in our communities,” Harris said. “The future of the church is getting men involved in the life of the church.”

The work for United Methodist Men is also just beginning, Harris noted, because there are women who “are spiritual widows with men whose sole religion is baseball, football, basketball or some other sport.”                                                                                              

Continuing in that sphere, the Rev. Tyrone Gordon, pastor of St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church, Dallas, admonished the men to “Lighten Up on the Brothers.” He challenged the gathering to remember that all men are not the same. “There are some good godly men in this world. When we are broken, only Jesus can put us all back together again.”  

Men, he said, have been programmed to hide their emotions because showing emotion makes a man seem lesser.  “There are men whose masculinity is not threatened because they praise the Lord,” Gordon said.  The world gets uncomfortable when the church is brought into its presence because the world knows there is power in Jesus’ name. But, “real men love the Lord and are not afraid to show emotions.”

He challenged the men to never be afraid to say, “We love you Jesus because you loved us first.”

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A UMNS photo by Linda Green

The Rev. James Moore tells men never to give up on their commitment to Christ.

In a keynote address, the Rev. James Moore, author and pastor of the 7,500-member St. Luke United Methodist Church, Houston, encouraged the men to never give up on their commitment to Christ.  He asked if any had “ever been tempted to throw in the towel and quit on life.” He reminded the men that when they get discouraged, to be like the Apostle Paul and fight the good fight, finish the course and keep the faith.

The men had a visual example of one who did not quit in Clay Dyer, 27, a national fishing champion, who is 40 inches tall, weighs 86 pounds, was born without legs and a partial 16-inch long arm. The national tournament bass fisherman told the men that by adopting the attitude that he can do the best he can with what he has, he learned not to give up.

In an interview with the Daily News, the newspaper of the 9th National Gathering of United Methodist Men, Dyer said that God made things he wanted to do easier.  “He has given me willpower, strength and courage to try things that I wouldn’t ordinarily try. He has taught me to not give up.”

The men also: 

  • Recognized Harris, the top executive for the last eight years, for his service to the Commission on United Methodist Men.
  • Presented Eddie Crossman, a Syracuse, N.Y., Boy Scout with learning disabilities, and Courtney Ware, an Indianapolis Girl Scout, with the Good Samaritan Award.
  • Presented John Wesley Fellow awards to Rudy Ruettiger, Curtis Brisbon, Ted Johndrow and August Martin Hanke.
  • Paid tribute to James Snead, 1935-2002, a leader in the United Methodist Men, and to all other United Methodist men who died since the 2001 gathering.
  • Recognized Evan Hunsberger, the Boy Scout who began the effort to reprint Strength for Service to God and Country, a World War II book of daily devotions and they applauded his effort to get one of the devotionals into the hands of military personnel.
  • Contributed more than 5,000 pounds of canned foods through the Society of St. Andrew to feed the hungry in Indiana.
  • Heard storyteller Dayton Edmonds describe how to find the city of your dreams.

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or

Audio Interviews

Carl Pierce:
"...just being with the men...

Bishop William Morris:
"It will definitely be a new beginning."

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