Budget woes stall new United Methodist missionaries
11/3/2003 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
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NEW YORK--Lower than expected budget projections
for 2004 by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries will mean a
continued hold on new full-time missionaries.
reality, the Rev. R. Randy Day, the board's chief executive, has
announced his "firm commitment" to training and assigning new
missionaries in the future.
"I expect that in 2005 we will
achieve a sustainable level of mission personnel," he said, during an
address at the board's annual meeting in October. "I hope that we can
commission some deaconesses and short-term young adult (missionaries)
Norma Kehrberg, chairperson of the United Methodist
Missionary Association, told United Methodist News Service that while
she appreciated Day's words of affirmation, the organization was
concerned about the two-year gap in the appointment of long-term
In response, UMMA is urging the board to launch a
renewed fundraising campaign to support missionaries, including the use
of an appeal for funds through the denomination's Council of Bishops.
2003, the mission agency did not renew the expiring contracts of 18
full-time missionaries because of financial shortfalls. Fifteen
missionaries retired in 2003 and another 18 asked not to be reassigned,
leaving 93 in the category of standard support missionaries. A freeze on
recruitment of mission personnel in any category also has been in
effect through 2003.
Statistics released during the October
meeting showed a total of 711 commissioned personnel in all categories.
That figure compared to 949 in 2002. The overall total, including other
types of non-commissioned mission personnel and partner church mission
personnel, was 1,050, a decrease of 1,001 from 2002.
One of the
reasons for the drop in numbers, Day said, was that "several
time-limited mission service categories," including the 10-10-10
missionaries and Korean missionary pastors in the United States and
missionaries of hope in Africa, are being phased out. "These programs
were never intended to be permanent and they cannot be continued beyond
their mandates," he told board directors.
"We also will see a
decline in the number of persons in mission and international persons in
mission funded through block grants to partner churches," he added.
"The reason is this: our grants for those purposes are smaller."
new statistics also reflected the deletion of the category of rural
chaplain, because there are no grants at present, and the fact that
employees of the nongovernmental organization formed as an offshoot of
the United Methodist Committee on Relief are no longer being categorized
as mission personnel.
Day said he "cannot imagine" the United
Methodist Church would ever phase out career missionaries, but added he
does perceive a need for standard support missionaries to be "mobile in
terms of geography and in the employment of their cultural expertise and
In a recent report to the missionary
association, Kehrberg pointed out that support of long-term missionaries
has weakened under the Board of Global Ministries' present structure.
"This comes at a time when our church and its communities need more
face-to-face mission emphasis and interchange with other cultures and
religions to lessen misunderstanding," she said
noted that the association remains hopeful that the board will "reclaim
the role of the longer-term, cross-cultural missionaries as one avenue
of mission service."
As an example of action taken by another
denomination, Kehrberg's report pointed out that the Presbyterian Church
USA, under similar financial constraints, has launched a $40 million
campaign for mission of which $21.5 million "is designated to recruit,
train, equip, send and support 54 longer term, cross-cultural mission
personnel, including those with expertise in the various regions of the
During the October board meeting, UMMA presented Day
with several recommendations regarding missionary support and
communications between missionaries and board staff and directors.
utilizing a bishops' appeal, the association suggested using "all
relevant persons," including former missionaries to assist in
interpretation and fundraising in local areas and providing resource
people with pertinent materials, including accurate data regarding the
costs of mission personnel.
# # # * Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.