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Bishops distribute $2 million to Gulf Coast

Ruined choir robes hang at Brooks United Methodist Church in New Orleans nearly a year after Hurricane Katrina in this August 2006 file photograph. United Methodist bishops are distributing $2 million in February to assist Gulf Coast churches and pastors affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
Feb. 9, 2007

Bishop William Oden

United Methodist bishops are distributing $2 million in February to assist Gulf Coast churches and pastors affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The allocations include $1 million to the denomination's Louisiana Conference, $900,000 to the Mississippi Conference and $100,000 to the Alabama-West Florida Conference.

Approved by the executive committee of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, the distributions come from the council's Katrina Church Recovery Appeal.

The executive committee also voted unanimously to ask local churches to continue designating special offerings for the appeal over the next two years, according to Bishop William Oden of Dallas, who leads the appeal task force. The offerings occur on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in August.

The specific allocations "were the amounts requested by the distribution committee, which includes the three Gulf Coast bishops," Oden said. "We are still receiving funds from annual conferences and local churches and there will be another distribution when the funds merit it."

A wind-torn tarp flaps over the open roof at Felicity United Methodist Church in New Orleans in this March 2006 file photograph. The church was damaged by Hurricane Katrina. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

Established in 2005, the Katrina Church Recovery Appeal will help restore hurricane-damaged United Methodist facilities; pay salaries for clergy while their congregations cannot do so; establish new congregations or consolidate existing ones; renew church-based community ministries such as day-care centers; and provide needy churches with worship necessities such as Bibles and hymnals.

In addition, the denomination raised more than $60 million after Hurricane Katrina for general humanitarian relief through the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

Oden noted that more than 40 United Methodist church buildings along the Gulf Coast were destroyed or severely damaged. With the members of some congregations scattered around the country, it has been difficult to pay salaries to pastors who remained in the region.

"The bishops' appeal is continuing even in the midst of Katrina fatigue, which means that there are a lot of other concerns as we move on," the bishop said. "This disaster affected The United Methodist Church along the Gulf Coast so significantly that the bishops want the appeal to continue."

He added that the bishops have been pleased with the appeal response so far and hope to improve communications regarding the fund with congregations. "We're hoping that even more local churches will receive offerings next August," Oden said.

Donations to the Katrina Church Recovery Appeal, No. 818-001, can be made online at www.umc.org/churchrecovery or placed in offering plates in local churches.

*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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