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United Methodists to cut 18 missionaries in 2003

1/28/2003 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York

NEW YORK (UMNS) - Eighteen full-time missionaries whose contracts expire in 2003 will not be renewed because of financial shortfalls at the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

The affected missionaries, along with board directors, were notified Jan. 24 about the reduction, which had been expected since the agency's annual meeting in October. Edith Gleaves, the executive in charge of the board's mission personnel unit, told United Methodist News Service the cuts are not as severe as originally projected.

Of the 144 standard support missionaries whose contracts expire this year, 93 will be reappointed. The remaining 51 missionaries include the 18 whose contracts will not be renewed, as well as 15 who are retiring and 18 who have asked not to be reassigned. Fourteen of those leaving are clergy.

In addition, all 2003 contracts will expire July 1, which means shortened terms for 19 of the 51 missionaries leaving service. Those 19 had contracts that would have expired between July 1 and Dec. 31. That number includes eight of the retirees, three of the people leaving voluntarily and eight of the missionaries not being renewed.

"The shortening of terms will not affect immediate or eventual post-retirement benefits," stated the Jan. 24 letter to board directors from Bishop Joel Martinez, president, and the Rev. R. Randy Day, chief executive. "This action enables the reassignment of some missionaries whose contracts we would not have been able to renew otherwise."

Each region of the world was considered as the cuts were made, according to Gleaves, and consultations were made with mission partners, partner churches and other areas of the Board of Global Ministries.

In the meantime, a freeze on recruitment of mission personnel in any category is in effect through 2003. "Our relative good news does not alter the alarming fact that we cannot at present replace the retiring personnel, persons leaving on their own or some 140 other mission assignees whose nonrenewable contracts will be up this year," the letter to directors said.

While missionary applications are being accepted for 2004, "a lot will be determined by where we are financially," Gleaves pointed out. "We certainly need more financial support (from church members)."

The denomination's mission agency has been plagued by budget woes for the past few years because of declining income, resulting in the reduction of both program funds and personnel. Since December 2001, 94 staff positions have been eliminated.

In 2002, the Board of Global Ministries had 2,151 people serving in various mission categories within 74 countries, and its mission personnel unit had a budget of $27.2 million, the largest of any of the agency's program areas. For 2003, that budget will drop by $7.5 million, with most of the cuts coming from missionary salaries.

"Mission personnel costs exceed $1 million per month," stated an agency document called "Mission Personnel Policy for the Year 2003." "Much of the salary saving will be realized by appointing no new short-term missionaries for 2003; however, the greater salary costs accompany standard support missionaries."

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