One of the fascinating things about Ministry With* the Poor is the collaborative effort bringing it to life. You may recall I was a bit overwhelmed by all the boards that make up this task force. I’m happy to say Rev. Dr. Jim Galbreath, Lead Pastor at our church, writes to offer some clarification and education about all those boards!
Pastor Jim Writes
OK, so you read Pastor Dave’s excellent column dated June 3, and you were impressed with the “Ministry with the Poor” initiative and the great video clip. (If not, click here right away—it’s less than 3 minutes.) BUT you were a bit overwhelmed by that list of United Methodist groups, wondering “what are they all for?” (Enough of a Methodist structure to give a good Baptist like Dave a bit of a migraine!)
Well, you’ve asked a good question, and I’ll try to break it down a little. (As to the question of lines of communication and flow charts, I’ll touch on that in a moment.) The word “General” in each of these names refers to the fact that these bodies serve and are responsible to the whole United Methodist Church, not some smaller section of the church’s geographical divisions.
• General Board of Church and Society This group is responsible for helping the church become aware of issues of social justice and designing ways for the church to respond faithfully to areas of need for empowerment and witness. Often confronts controversial issues and speaks up for the voiceless.
• General Board of Discipleship This group provides liturgical and devotional resources for worship and spiritual growth.
• General Board of Global Ministries This group trains and sends missionaries around the world and supports ministries of healthcare, agriculture, and mission schools. Often works in areas of extreme need.
• General Board of Higher Education and Ministry This group examines and certifies relationships with colleges which claim connection with the United Methodist Church, and it manages the overall standards and materials for working with those seeking to enter the ordained ministry. It also supports Africa University.
• General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits This group handles clergy pension benefits for tens of thousands of United Methodist clergy, as well as managing the health benefits for them. Because it has a massive investment pool of several billion dollars (There are a lot of UM clergy!)and operates under strict guidelines for socially responsible investing, it has been able to invest over $775 million for the creation and preservation of affordable housing and other community development facilities.
• General Commission on Archives and History This group conserves an amazing archive of United Methodist heritage writings and artifacts, reminding the church of its origins and consistent work with and among the poor.
• General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns This group provides a vital link to the wider Christian community and facilitates and encourages interfaith dialogue.
• General Commission on Communications (UMCOM) This group tells the church’s story, both through internal resources (websites, videos, brochures, etc.) and through resources aimed at the world beyond the church (press releases, web resources, advertising programs, etc.) It also arranges for churches and church-related programs to obtain software and computer hardware at substantial discounts.
• General Commission on Religion and Race This group has the responsibility to monitor racial and ethnic inclusiveness in the operations of the church structure and to provide resources for raising awareness of such issues in the life of the church.
• General Commission on Status and Role of Women This group works to monitor and advocate for full inclusion of women within the structure and life of the United Methodist Church and lifts up women’s issues.
• General Commission on United Methodist Men This group works to revitalize the church’s work with men, and to encourage men to find ways to express faith through Christian outreach and service.
• General Council on Finance and Administration This group is the budgeting arm of the whole church and handles the details of administrative order and financial planning and accounting.
• United Methodist Publishing House This unit of the church handles printing and distribution of resources and items used in the life of congregations in education, worship, music, signage, church furniture, etc.
As to the significance of this list of agencies and commissions working together on the initiative of Ministry with the Poor, a graphic might be helpful. This represents the way many groups tended too often to see their relations to each other:
This Ministry with the Poor initiative is changing that vision to more closely resemble the image below:
Hallelujah! Looks like the church is heading in the direction Jesus would expect!