The faces behind the numbers

The human faces behind July’s unemployment statistics can be found at the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

Or could have. Among the 247,000 positions cut by U.S. employers last month, as estimated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, were 45 positions at the mission agency. Some of those employees had opted to take a buyout, but 26 involuntarily lost their jobs.

I’m afraid they’ll take no comfort in the fact that July’s 9.4 percent unemployment rate was slightly better than June’s, an uptick that has been hailed by some as a sign that the U.S. economy is beginning to recover from the financial crisis.

Other denominational agencies also have trimmed staff. Most recently, United Methodist Communications cut seven staff positions in early August.

The average person in the pew probably doesn’t know the names of these former church employees, some of whom had devoted years of service to The United Methodist Church. As someone who has interacted with denominational staff for years, I can verify that many of them are drawn to that work as much from a sense of calling as for a paycheck.

So, it was not a surprise that a veil of sadness has hung over the New York offices of the Board of Global Ministries this summer. More than one staff member used the word “despair” when describing the mood to me during this period as the agency restructures itself.

There’s no doubt the work of the church will continue. But the loss of experienced, dedicated employees cannot be discounted.

Latest News

General Church
Lonnie D. Brooks Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

Commentary: Evaluating the GC2019 organizational plan

A reserve lay delegate praises some of the organizational plan for the special General Conference 2019, but raises concerns about other points, including selection of committee officers.
General Church
The Rev. Lovett H. Weems Jr. Photo courtesy of Wesley Theological Seminary.

Commentary: Should be hard to leave denomination

A church leadership scholar argues making it too easy for churches leaving the denomination removes the impetus to stay with the struggle and undermines the historical goal of unity among Christians.
General Church
The Rev. Thomas E. Bowsher.

Commentary: Officially or unofficially, church will separate

No matter how much we value our shared heritage, the Rev. Thomas E. Bowsher believes The United Methodist Church is already divided and cannot be reconciled.

Sign up for our newsletter!

SUBSCRIBE