News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
The top staff executives of the United Methodist Church's 14 general agencies have pledged to work together in new ways and to avoid a "fight over the dollars" at the 2004 General Conference.
The executives, or general secretaries, of the denomination's boards and agencies made the pledge as they met Jan. 14-16 in Orlando, Fla., to begin working on the budget for the 2005-2008 quadrennium. The United Methodist Church organizes its work in four-year periods, with funding requests for each period going to the General Conference for approval. The denomination's top legislative assembly will meet in Pittsburgh in 2004.
The budget process is often viewed as a time of intense competition for funds among the agencies.
"We are saying we do not want to fight over the dollars," said the Rev. Randolph Nugent, top staff executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries in New York. "We want to help educate about the mission and ministry of the whole church."
The general secretaries also discussed the need for a concerted effort to educate people about the church's connectional system. As a first step, each agency's board of directors will set aside time on its agenda for learning more about the general ministries of the church and for viewing the video, "Changing Lives in the Name of Christ." The video interprets the denomination's World Service Fund, which underwrites a major portion of the agencies' ministries.
"We are appealing to our boards to reach across the church to support all the funds that enable ministry," said Neil Alexander, president of the United Methodist Publishing House in Nashville, Tenn. Alexander's agency receives no general church funds.
The general secretaries drew guidance for their work by using historic Wesleyan covenant liturgies and reflecting on Jesus' words: "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never thirst." The agency leaders pledged to work together in new ways to meet the challenges of carrying out that ministry today.
The staff executives also committed to revising the budget process so that the needs of the whole denomination are addressed, and to develop a way to conduct coordinated planning for the future.
"This is not business as usual," said Sandra Kelley Lackore, top staff executive of the General Council on Finance and Administration in Evanston, Ill. "We are looking to the future, and our intention is to build support for all the funds of the church in order to support the total mission."
One area of need will involve addressing the denomination's changing demographics. Representatives of the church's Shared Mission Focus on Young People reported to the staff executives on plans to ask General Conference to increase ministry with youth and young adults.
The Rev. Mary Council-Austin, co-chair of the Communications Team of the Shared Mission Focus on Youth and a clergy member of the Wisconsin Annual Conference, said the plan involves "turning up the volume" about the need for a more focused and intentional effort to engage youth and young adults in ministry.