Bishop's Perspective

Cover Stories
Playground Dedication
Response to Racism

Mud & Music

Camp Holston

District Roundup

Liberia Report

National & World News

Back to The Call Home Page

National & World News

July 23, 2003
Commission calls for Men’s Ministry Sunday
By J. Richard Peck*

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) – The United Methodist agency responsible for men’s programs has expanded its plans to help churches strengthen their ministry with men.

Meeting July 17-20, the Commission on United Methodist Men called for the creation of Men’s Ministry Sunday and an intensive study of men across the denomination.

The 39-member body also revised existing resources and drafted legislation for the 2004 General Conference, the church’s top legislative assembly.

Meeting for the last time in the 2001-2004 quadrennium, the group sought ways to address the fact that, in many congregations, only about one-third of the members are men.

"If we cannot get in the door from the front," said the Rev. Joseph L. Harris, top staff executive of the commission, "we will go in whatever door we find to help the church minister effectively to and through men."

The front door has traditionally included chartering local church units of United Methodist Men. The number of churches hosting local units increased during the past year to some 6,000. However, more than 29,000 churches remain without organizations.

While continuing to charter groups, the commission drafted General Conference legislation that sets as a goal the development of programs and policies to help all United Methodist churches strengthen their men’s ministry regardless of the presence or absence of chartered units.

The group will ask General Conference to establish a "Men’s Ministry Sunday" as a fourth "special Sunday without offering." That day, to be held at any time during the year, would celebrate men’s ministry within and beyond the local church. The general commission would provide resources.

The commission will also ask General Conference to create a committee to study men across the denomination. The $36,000 study would be led by the commission and the research arm of the United Methodist General Council on Ministries or equivalent organization. In calling for the study, the commission states that when a man is the first to come to Christ, the rest of the family follows him 97 percent of the time.

"Our future and the future of men’s ministries in the denomination may lie with a bold challenge to the entire church to wake up and pay attention to the spiritual needs of men," Harris said. "We have heard claimed that men are the sleeping giants in the church. Perhaps it is the church that is asleep to men’s spiritual needs and men are merely waiting for (it) to wake up and take those needs seriously."

One way of helping the church awaken to men’s spiritual needs will be the introduction of "Power Tools," a weekly electronic resource available by e-mail and on the Internet.

Produced by the Rev. Kwasi Kena, a commission staff executive, the online publication will provide tips to enrich ministry to men along with a Bible study and prayer suggestions. In order to save funds and time for this effort, Kena will combine a quarterly newsletter and a quarterly magazine into a single publication. He hopes this expanded magazine will also become available as an online resource.

In an effort to reach younger men, the commission agreed to support a mentoring program developed by the Rev. James W. Hollis Jr., a North Georgia Annual (regional) Conference evangelist. That program calls for a "man in the fourth quarter" (ages 60 to 80) to recruit a "man in the second (age 20 to 40) or third quarter (age 40 to 60) to mentor a male in the first quarter (under 20)." The program involves retreats, banquets and fellowship, and includes a ministry to single mothers. Such programs may be linked with United Methodist Children’s Homes.

While the commission recently developed "T-Quest," a spiritual-life resource for small groups, it also wants to partner with other organizations to provide additional materials. The group has agreed to enter into an affiliate relationship with the National Fatherhood Initiative, a secular organization that teaches new dads how to deal with infants and toddlers, helps incarcerated men become better fathers, and gives men deployed overseas access to their children through a Web site.

In other business, the commission:

Decided to ask General Conference to reduce the number of members on the commission from 39 to 22 in order to cut costs.

Engaged in a racism workshop led by the Rev. Chester R. Jones, top staff executive of the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race.

Joined other general agencies calling for 2006 annual conference celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women.

Learned that the first gathering of Methodist men from around the world is set for Seoul, South Korea, in 2006, with Harris as president of the world fellowship.

Learned that United Methodist Men raised $257,000 for "Meals for Millions," a hunger-relief program led by the Society of Saint Andrew.

*Peck is the communications coordinator for the Commission on United Methodist Men.


July 14, 2003
Church agency draws corporate world into dialogue on issues
By United Methodist News Service

As a major investor, the United Methodist Church has been able to nudge some well-known companies into taking steps that address corporate governance and social concerns this year.

Financial giants such as Citigroup and Morgan Stanley have agreed to enter into dialogue about keeping financial analysts independent from other areas of their businesses – a step that would help avoid the types of conflict-of-interest scandals that have hit Wall Street in recent years. Pharmaceutical giants Merck and Pfizer are entering into dialogue about providing affordable medicine to fight HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, which are devastating parts of the developing world. And Gillette and Reebok are in discussions with the board about factory emissions that affect the global climate.

Those are a few of the reasons why Vidette Bullock Mixon, director of corporate relations and social concerns for the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits, is pleased with this year’s series of annual shareholder meetings.

"We feel that it was a successful year," she says from her office in Evanston, Ill.

Each year, from March through June, many if not most publicly traded companies in the United States hold meetings where stockholders vote on policies and conduct other business. As an institutional investor, the Board of Pension and Health Benefits uses the meetings to advocate for the church’s official positions on a range of concerns.

With more than $10 billion in assets, the board manages the largest pension fund of any Protestant denomination. Using the church’s Social Principles and other policies as a guide in its investing, the board screens out companies that draw income from tobacco, alcohol, pornography, gambling or weapons-related businesses. Church policies also inform the board’s advocacy work with companies in which it invests.

This year, the board filed resolutions for consideration at 32 shareholder meetings – an increase from 25 last year. Most of those resolutions were withdrawn ahead of time. "Of the 32 resolutions that were filed, a total of 20 shareholder resolutions were withdrawn due to constructive dialogue" and a willingness by the companies to address the concerns raised, Mixon says.

The fact that so many companies are willing to engage the board in conversation, particularly about corporate governance, is significant, she says. After so many issues around corporate misconduct came to light in 2002, companies this year seem more interested in showing investors that they’re trying to be open and transparent, she says.

Investors also have been more vocal in expressing concerns and offering recommendations to their companies, she says.

Shareholder groups filed 862 proposals for corporate reform – an increase from 802 last year, according to the board, citing figures from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and the Investor Responsibility Research Center. The Interfaith Center teams up with the board and other partners in filing resolutions and attending meetings.

The board and its interfaith partners were able to get many companies to commit this year to greater disclosure about practices and policies. Those concerns include ensuring proper governance in companies where the same person is both chairperson and chief executive, and promoting global standards for how corporations treat their workers and the environment.

"An issue that continues to be a priority with the general board is the environment and climate change and global warming," Mixon says.

After Gillette and Reebok agreed to disclose efforts to address carbon dioxide emissions, Mixon attended their annual meetings to commend them. Providing that positive reinforcement is part of building a rapport with companies, a process that takes years and involves trying to raise issues in a non-confrontational way.

"The general board’s preference is to be in dialogue with corporations in which we invest, especially over the long term," Mixon says. The board finds that it gets more accomplished when it spends several hours talking with a company about policies instead of a few minutes at a shareholders’ meeting stating a position on a resolution, she says. It is in ongoing conversations with about 60 companies, such as Abbott Laboratories, Coca-Cola, Disney, Nike and McDonald’s.

This year, the board will begin a second round of conversations with six to eight major institutions, including Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, about ensuring financial analysts’ independence, says Laurie Michalowski, the board’s coordinator for socially responsible investing. The board plans similar conversations with international companies, such as Credit Suisse.

As a long-term investor, the pension agency wants the companies to do well and generate good financial returns for United Methodist constituents, Mixon adds.

Along with the successes, Mixon says there were "several disappointments" this year. Companies have the right to challenge shareholder resolutions at the Securities and Exchange Commission, and it seemed the SEC’s opinions varied from the past, she says. For example, the SEC allowed Johnson & Johnson to omit a resolution on glass-ceiling concerns, and Conoco Phillips was allowed to drop a resolution on climate change.

Other resolutions simply went to a vote. A statement calling on Delphi Corp. to adopt global standards for labor practices and human rights at its facilities drew a 27.5 percent vote. Another resolution urging Exxon Mobil to address climate-change concerns drew a 22 percent vote. Shareholders with about 20 percent of Bed, Bath & Beyond’s stock supported a resolution on glass-ceiling concerns. And the board got a 9 percent vote supporting its call for PG&E Energy Corp. to report on gas emissions at two Massachusetts power stations – emissions cited by the Environmental Protection Agency as harmful.

The percentages are significant, though they may seem small. Michalowski explains that a 3 percent vote is enough to bring a resolution back to the shareholders’ meeting the following year, and that can be an incentive for a company to go ahead and address a concern through dialogue. A vote in the 20 percent range sends a clear message to management that "there are significant institutional investors" who are concerned about a particular issue, she says.

For the Board of Pension and other socially responsible investors, change is often a gradual process, not a sudden outcome.

"In many cases," Michalowski says, "it will take several years before we see the result that is expected or hoped for. It is a sustained effort."


July 14, 2003
Judicial Council docket includes appeal in Dammann case
By United Methodist News Service

An appeal from the United Methodist bishop in Seattle regarding a lesbian pastor is one of 14 items on a varied fall docket for the denomination’s top court.

The nine-member Judicial Council will also consider a request for a declaratory decision on equitable compensation for women pastors and several matters of due process when it meets Oct. 22-25 in San Diego. The compensation item is from the Kansas West Annual Conference.

The appeal from Seattle Bishop Elias Galvan relates to the case of the Rev. Karen Dammann, who informed the bishop by letter in 2001 that she was living in a "partnered, covenanted, homosexual relationship."

The denomination’s Book of Discipline, which includes the rules and procedures by which the church governs itself, affirms gay people as persons of sacred worth, but it forbids the ordination and appointment of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals. Galvan did not appoint her to a church that year, and she appealed to the Judicial Council.

The council ruled that only the clergy session of an annual conference had the power to alter a clergy member’s status with the conference, so a complaint must be filed against her with subsequent due process guaranteed in the church’s Book of Discipline, or she must be returned to active status and given an appointment. Bishop Galvan subsequently filed a complaint.

Last summer, the conference’s committee on investigation determined that reasonable grounds did not exist for moving the matter to a clergy trial. Galvan appealed to the Western Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals, which upheld the dismissal in a January decision. Both committees’ votes were split. Galvan’s appeal was deferred from the Judicial Council’s spring session at Dammann’s request.

The California-Pacific Conference submitted several requests for declaratory decisions. One asks about the processes of administrative complaints against a clergy member and involuntary leaves of absence. Another asks if a local pastor has the right to a trial when the pastor is notified that he or she is not being appointed to a church for allegedly committing a chargeable offense.

In addition, California-Pacific is asking about the right of someone who is the subject of an administrative complaint to be accompanied by another person to any hearings. The conference also is seeking a decision regarding the guarantee that a person under administrative complaint shall have access to pertinent records in order to prepare a response.

The East Ohio Annual Conference has requested a declaratory decision on whether the entire requirements for election to probationary membership and commissioning are set forth in Paragraph 315.6 of the 2002 Book of Discipline.

Also on the docket is a review of East Ohio’s sexual ethics policy, as required by an earlier decision of the council.

The council will review six decisions of law made by bishops during annual conference sessions this year. The decisions were given in response to questions that annual conference participants asked about church rules. All such decisions are submitted to the council for review.

From the South Carolina Conference comes a question about open-meetings rules and the conference’s annual clergy session.

In Illinois Great Rivers, the bishop was asked about the constitutionality of the conference’s housing policy, which was adopted at the June session.

West Michigan is asking the council to review a decision related to a suspended clergy person being continued as a member of the conference board of ordained ministry.

Another decision of law, this one from East Ohio, relates to whether the conference had the authority to reallocate certain funds for its health care benefit plan.

The New England bishop’s decision of law deals with whether the conference may properly provide funds "for a ministry directed specifically towards gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals, such as the Cambridge Welcoming Ministries."

Western New York Annual Conference has a case related to a motion made in 2002 and the reasons for the motion not being ruled out of order.


July 15, 2003
Budget still a work in progress for United Methodist agencies

DETROIT (UMNS) –The group charged with recommending the operational program and missions budget for the United Methodist Church applauded the progress denominationwide agencies have made so far to streamline their budgets and suggest ways to work together more efficiently in the coming 2005-08 quadrennium.

Still, finance officers and program agency executives left a July 11 Program and Budget Consultation without a final meeting of the minds on how critical ministries of the church could be done within the budget constraints posed by a tight world economy and a slump in giving by United Methodist congregations.

At issue during the consultation was the proposed distribution of World Service Funds to the denomination’s eight program agencies for 2005-08. (World Service Funds, which come from offerings taken in local United Methodist congregations, fund the bulk of the denomination’s national and international missions.) Challenged by a sluggish economy, the agencies were asked two months ago to look for ways to trim their budgets, reduce duplication of efforts, consolidate similar tasks and staff responsibilities and still accomplish the church’s worldwide missions.

The consultation included staff executives and financial officers of the program agencies, members of the General Council on Ministries, which coordinates churchwide programs, and the General Council on Finance and Administration (GFCA), which must recommend the entire denominational budget to the United Methodist legislative assembly, the 2004 General Conference, next spring.

In the daylong meeting, Sue Sherbrooke of Seattle, a GCFA voting member, affirmed the agencies’ work toward meeting the goal laid out in May. "You took seriously our request," she said. "There is a lot to like and a lot to build on" in what was submitted.

Questions about specific agency plans for the next four years and beyond were directed to the top executives after GCFA members first reviewed agency reports and recommendations.

Many of their queries had to do with how the agency proposals relate to better serving United Methodist congregations. The Rev. Karen Greenwaldt, top executive of the churchwide Board of Discipleship, said hers is the only church agency focused exclusively on equipping local churches.

Others, however, urged the group to think of service to congregations in broad terms, not just on the nuts and bolts of operating a single church. "We are not a congregational church; we are a connectional church," observed the Rev. Bruce Robbins, staff head of the agency charged with relating to other denominations and faiths. He reminded the group that the United Methodist Council of Bishops had lamented "creeping congregationalism" among some groups in the denomination and urged caution in thinking about what it means to serve a local church or annual conference.

GCFA member Don House of Bryan, Texas, urged the group to consider the needs of the church beyond mere dollars and cents, especially in an era when membership is declining in a growing population, giving among United Methodists is below the average for Protestants, 43 percent of United Methodist congregations took in no new members on profession of faith in 2001 and when the Sunday schools are deteriorating.

"We’re all in this together," said the Rev. Don Avery, a GCFA member from Baton Rouge, La. "I have confidence in the agencies. I have confidence in the people around the table (at this meeting)." But he went on to say he wanted more information from the agencies before making a final budget recommendation.

Collectively, GCFA members participating in the July 11 consultation were not satisfied with all the agency reports. The agencies were asked again to address the concerns about fulfilling the church’s mission objectives, to reduce administrative costs and to develop a four-year plan as part of a longer-range strategy to address program priorities. These were the criteria laid out by GCFA for determining whether the recommended program portion of the World Service budget would total $222 million for the next four-year period or drop back to $186 million

At the end of the day, the task was not complete. The work will be taken up again when the two councils meet simultaneously in September. After the members of the Program and Budget Consultation complete their review of that that part of the budget, the GCFA voting members will consider the entire financial proposal for 2005-08. They will then recommend a denominationwide budget to the 2004 General Conference, April 27-May 7, in Pittsburgh.

GCFA participants at the July meeting said they need the new material in their hands by Aug. 15 in order to study it adequately. Translation and printing deadlines for General Conference are looming this fall, putting time pressure on the church’s boards and agencies.


July 18, 2003
Communications commission celebrates Igniting Ministry success

SAN DIEGO (UMNS) -- Celebrating the successes of the denomination’s national television advertising and welcoming campaign, the United Methodist Commission on Communication is asking the 2004 General Conference to expand significantly the church’s Igniting Ministry initiative in 2005-2008.

Commission members unanimously proposed two expansions of the Igniting Ministry initiative: One increases the church’s presence on highly viewed national cable news programming by 18 weeks each year; and the other creates a youth expression designed to help congregations reached unchurched young people.

The commission, the governing body for United Methodist Communications, is proposing that the denomination budget $33.5 million for the television advertising campaign during the 2005-2008 quadrennium, up from the $20 million approved for the current four-year period ending in 2004. The separate youth expression is proposed at $5.4 million over the four-year period.

"Four years ago we talked about a dream called Igniting Ministry," commission member Fred Loy of Baton Rouge, La. said. "Igniting Ministry follows people from their homes into their offices and, yes, even into the barroom. We have a very wonderful success story to tell."

United Methodist Communications launched the effort, "Igniting Ministry," in 2001 to raise awareness of the denomination through a series of national cable television commercials.

The Rev. Larry Hollon, UMCom’s chief staff executive, said the United Methodist Church "has delivered messages of hope at critical moments in recent history and has extended an invitation to Christian community… through Igniting Ministry."

Hollon listed a number of Igniting Ministry’s tangible achievements since the television commercials began airing in 2001:

  • 92 million people in the U.S. "have seen a message of hope from the church" through the commercials on cable and network television.

  • $1 million a year in matching grants for local media advertising is distributed to local churches, conferences and clusters of churches.

  • More than 25,000 local church leaders have been trained in welcoming and hospitality skills.

  • More than 13,000 planning kits have been distributed to local churches.

  • 100 regional training specialists have been trained; and, in turn, have trained and equipped more than 12,000 congregations.

The Rev. Steve Horswill-Johnston, the UMCom staff person responsible for the program, said the initiative has already exceeded goals, such as increasing awareness of the United Methodist Church to 21 percent in test markets in the first two years of the ministry and exceeding the four-year goal of 20 percent. Research also showed 46 percent of non-members surveyed expressed a willingness to attend a United Methodist Church, well above the goal of a 10 percent increase.

The proposed expansion will continue the three major periods of national television commercials during Lent, back-to-school and Advent to encourage new visitors to United Methodist churches. It will expand awareness of the church by purchasing an additional 18 weeks of advertising on networks such as CNN, MSNBC and Fox Cable News.

"Our goal is for the church to be there when there is a spiritual need, not just a spiritual season," Horswill-Johnston told the commission.

The expansion proposal will also:

  • Provide grants for advertising and marketing programs for new church starts in cooperation with the United Methodist Board of Discipleship;

  • Continue to train and equip conferences, districts and local churches; and

  • Continue to lead the United Methodist Open House Month each September.

The proposal for a youth expression of Igniting Ministry is designed to increase the awareness and recognition of the United Methodist Church’s basic beliefs among young people ages 14-18.

This new expression is not based on a national television advertising campaign, Horswill-Johnston said, but by locally designed and operated efforts involving:

  • Production of practical, how-to-oriented local church tools for youth, focusing on helping local church youth ministries conduct community-wide efforts to invite young people;

  • Local-church advertising resources focused on youth;

  • Grants to assist local church ministries and sustain strategic local marketing/advertising efforts;

  • Youth leaders’ web site and an invitational web site for youth seeking spiritual answers; and

    __Local youth training in collaboration with the United Methodist Board of Discipleship.

The youth initiative has set objectives of:

  • Increasing the awareness of the United Methodist Church by youth by 15 percent during 2005-2008.

  • Increasing by 10 percent the number of youth willing to attend a United Methodist Church and actually attending a United Methodist Church in areas where campaigns are conducted.

  • Increasing by 10 percent the retention rate of youth currently attending a United Methodist Church.

*Information for this article was provided Stephen Drachler, director of UMCom’s Office of Public Information.


July 14, 2003
United Methodist contributions dip in first half of year
By United Methodist News Service

United Methodist giving to the denomination’s apportioned funds, which support the bulk of churchwide programs, dropped 3.3 percent in the first six months of this year, the church’s finance agency reports.

At $37.1 million, receipts for the apportioned funds was about $1.3 million less than what church members had given by June 30 last year, according to the General Council on Finance and Administration in Evanston, Ill. The seven funds are allocated to the church’s regional bodies and – through them – to the congregations.

Giving to all churchwide ministries, including outreach and relief funds, totaled $53.1 million at the end of June. Comparable figures are not available from year to year, since that grand total varies widely with needs.

Sandra Kelley Lackore, GCFA staff head and treasurer of the denomination, noted that the apportionment giving reflected stronger receipts than previous months this year. Apportionments for 2003 increased by only 1.4 percent over 2002 apportionments, she said. The increase for the largest apportioned fund – World Service – was smaller, only 0.4 percent.

"While World Service dollars are close to $1 million below last year, the June report showed significant improvement over earlier months this year," Lackore said. She expressed concern about the World Service Fund and the ability of the program agencies that depend on it to carry on their work.

World Service has received almost $19.7 million this year, compared to $20.6 million during the first half of 2002. This reflects a decrease in giving to the fund of 4.7 percent.

"The drop in receipts is of particular concern to the agencies as they wrestle – along with the annual (regional) conferences – with increasing costs of benefits and decreasing returns on investments while trying to address the missional needs of the denomination," she observed.

At the request of the presidents of some of the program agencies – mostly bishops who thought their colleagues would find the information helpful – GCFA has put together data on the payment of apportionments by the jurisdictions and annual conferences during the first half of the previous three years. The data is being forwarded to the College of Bishops of each jurisdiction.

During the next 18 months, the churchwide Board of Discipleship will work with each jurisdiction to put together stewardship resource packets tailored to the needs of each annual conference, Lakore added.

Of the seven apportioned funds, only two showed increases over last year’s income. The General Administration Fund, which sustains administrative work – including the cost of the church’s legislative assembly held every four years – is up 5.6 percent. The Interdenominational Cooperation Fund, which supports ecumenical organizations and dialogue with other denominations and faiths, has increased 2.3 percent, or slightly more than $14,000.

Giving was down 3.8 percent for the Africa University Fund; 3.4 percent for the Black College Fund; 3.2 percent for the Episcopal Fund; and 1.6 percent for the Ministerial Education Fund.

In all, giving to the seven funds halfway through 2003 accounts for only 28.6 percent of the year’s total apportionment of $129.6 million. Last year, 30 percent of the apportioned amount had been received by June 30.

The special Sunday offerings, which were also compared with last year, were 6.8 percent lower than in the first half of 2002. Only Human Relations Day, which occurred in January, showed an increase over last year. That offering stands at $493,463 this year, an increase of 3.5 percent over the first half of 2002.

The other five funds have dropped from 3 percent for United Methodist Student Day to 44.2 percent for Peace with Justice Sunday.

Giving to the special Sunday offerings and the apportioned funds totaled almost $40.3 million, or 3.6 percent less than the nearly $41.7 million received by June 30 last year.

More than $12.6 million has been given to Advance special gifts, including the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Other outreach funds total $188,542.

Back to the Top

9915 Kingston Pike, Suite C | Knoxville, TN 37922
PO Box 32939 | Knoxville, TN 37930 | Phone (865) 690-4080 | Fax (865) 690-3162

210 Maple St. | Johnson City, TN 37604
PO Box 2506 | Johnson City, TN 37605 | Phone (423) 928-2156 | Fax (423) 928-880

Usage of this website is restricted to our Terms of Service.
Privacy Statement
© 2003 Holston Conference