The Monthly Update

January 2003 Update


Bits and Pieces from across the United Methodist Church


Every human has an infinite capacity for self-rationalization and self-delusion.

                                                                                    - Chuck Colson

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The Good Stuff.

+ [An] elderly gentleman boarded a bus with a bouquet of flowers in his hand. As he sat down, he noticed an attractive young girl sitting across from him. Her eyes kept drifting to the flowers. It was obvious that she was taken by them. In a few minutes it was time for the man to get off the bus. Standing to his feet, he handed the flowers to the girl and said, "I noticed that you like the flowers. I would like for you to have these. I think my wife would like for you to have them, too. I'll tell her I gave them to you." With that, he stepped off the bus - and entered the gate of a small cemetery.                                                                                                - Dr. Tim Elmore, Mentoring, p. 72.


+ Every Post Office to Display 'In God We Trust'

A retired engineer in Texas is being credited with prompting the U.S. government to place copies of the national motto in every post office across the country. Earlier this year, Frank Williamson paid $80 to buy a few posters displaying the national motto, "In God We Trust," for his local post

offices in Montgomery County, about 60 miles north of Houston. Last month, postal officials ordered his donated posters be taken down from post offices in Montgomery, Willis, and Dobbin counties. The lone exception was in Cut and Shoot, Texas, where postmistress Ida Miera vowed the poster would only come down over her dead body.

     The posters' removal motivated Williamson to write a letter of protest to the Postmaster General. He recently received word of the U.S. Postal Service's decision to design its own poster with the motto and place the phrase in all 38,000 post offices across the country. The new poster for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is designed to look like a large stamp with a drawing of the Statue of Liberty in the middle and the motto printed above the crown. In a Houston Chronicle report, postal spokesman David Lewin said the USPS wanted to comply with the spirit of a resolution adopted two years ago that supported placing the motto in every public building possible.

     President Bush signed into law a bill reaffirming references to God in the national motto as well as the Pledge of Allegiance. Without comment, Bush signed the legislation supporting

the words "under God" in the pledge and "In God We Trust" as the national motto. Only five members of Congress voted against that legislation -- but enforcement of the ruling has been postponed pending court hearings.

                                                     - Allie Martin and Jody Brown; Agape Press; November 19, 2002.

Of Interest. 

+ Close Up: Religious groups unite against gambling

Gambling unites religious leaders like few other issues, and United Methodists have joined with a variety of opponents across the country in fighting the powerball games and slot machines that many state leaders hope could boost revenues. With a vast network of members who can organize easily with little funding, these religious groups stand to be a formidable force in what many view as a moral, not political, fight against something that only encourages addiction and crime. They believe their efforts are especially important now, since states are expected to continue to struggle with budget deficits next year, making the push for gambling even stronger. The Rev. Tom Grey, a United Methodist minister [is] spokesman for the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling. Besides Tennessee, voters in Arizona and Idaho [were] asked in November whether they wanted to expand their state's gambling activities or begin new ones. In Iowa, voters in 10 counties [were ] asked whether they want to keep riverboat gambling and racetrack casinos. In North Dakota, voters will be asked about joining a multistate lottery. Pennsylvania and Washington joined multistate lotteries earlier this year. New York joined a multistate lottery and

expanded other forms of gambling shortly after last year's Sept. 11 attacks.

     In its Book of Resolutions, the United Methodist Church condemns gambling as "a menace to society, deadly to the best interests of moral, social, economic, and spiritual life, and destructive of good government." [Note: Gambling has proven to be a social cancer that corrodes the character of otherwise responsible people and leads to numerous problems to include increased crime, divorce, personal bankruptcies, and suicide.]

- United Methodist News Service (UMNS); Amy Green;·Nashville, Tenn.; 10-21-71BP{439};

                        Oct. 1, 2002.


+ Cultural Gap Between Churches in the Two Hemispheres Increasing

The most significant transformation of Christianity in the world today is not from the liberal Reformation in the Northern Hemisphere, but it is from the Counter-Reformation coming from the global South. That's the opinion of Philip Jenkins, professor at Pennsylvania State University and

author of The Next Christendom. He says that the division between the two regions of Christianity will be so great that within a decade or two neither component "will recognize its counterpart as fully or authentically Christian."

     Growth in the global South will result in a shift to a more traditional African cultural view of theology and moral teaching. Where American reformers imagine a church "freed from hierarchy, superstition, and dogma, Southerners look back to one filled with spiritual power and able to exorcise the demonic forces that cause sickness and poverty." To underscore the difference,

Jenkins reports, "As recently as last year, at least 1,000 alleged witches were hacked to death in a single 'purge' in the Democratic Republic of the Congo." He says African churches "stand or fall by their success in healing, and elaborate rituals have formed around healing practices."

     Membership in churches in the global North is shrinking while numbers in the south are growing. Jenkins says the centers of the Christian world have moved to Africa, Latin America, and Asia. "The balance will never shift back," he declares. "By 2025, 50% of the Christian population [of 2.6 billion] will be in Africa and Latin America, and another 17% will be in Asia."

[Note: This is a trend of which we have been aware for twelve years; the "third world" countries of the southern hemisphere see a tremendous growth in the Christian faith.]

                                                                                    - The Atlantic Monthly, as quoted in Newscope.


+ Commission to arrange United Methodist-Muslim dialogue

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (UMNS) - A national four-year dialogue between United Methodists and the Muslim community is set to begin next year, headed by the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns during its meeting in Daytona Beach. Following the format of current dialogues with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Roman Catholic Church, eight-member dialogue teams of United Methodists and Muslims would meet twice a year for four years, beginning in 2003. Goals and issues to be discussed would be set at the first meeting. The idea grew from a visit that commission members made last October to the Islamic Center of Southern California in an effort to show solidarity in the face of anti-Muslim sentiment following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The Muslim Public Affairs Council would be involved in arranging the dialogue with the United Methodists. Approval of the dialogue affirms a top priority adopted by commission members to "recognize our common humanity with Muslim people while exploring a deeper understanding of Islam." [Note: This is an example of questionable use of apportionment dollars. One can be certain the the "dialogue" from the UM perspective will be as with one legitimate faith with another; from the Muslim side, it will be as one trying to win converts from an "infidel" religion. This makes about as much sense as if the Methodist Church had reached out to native Japanese in a dialogue about Shintoism after December 7, 1941.]          - UMNS; Linda Bloom; New York; 10-21-71B{438}; Sept. 30, 2002.






(UM) General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM).

UMMA News Release on Mission Downsizing (from Oct. 2002 GBGM Board Meeting):

Members of the United Methodist Missionary Association (UMMA), at their annual meeting were shocked to learn that the Mission Personnel Unit of the GBGM has been told to absorb three-quarters of a projected $10 million reduction in GBGM programs next year.  Deputy General Secretary Edith Gleaves announced the reductions in her report to the directors of the Mission Personnel Unit at the October meeting of GBGM directors in Stamford.  To make this reduction, Gleaves stated that 25 percent of the GBGM's commissioned mission personnel will be terminated when their current term ends in 2003.  Gleaves explained that of the 293 mission personnel

due for extension of their term of service in the year 2003, 244 will not have their contracts renewed.  Of the 293, 144 are standard support missionaries serving in dozens of countries around the world who would have expected to have their services continue as commissioned missionaries of The United Methodist Church. When several directors appeared surprised and raised questions about the drastic cuts, Gleaves and other staff replied they were simply

following policy.  Yet no one could explain when the policy was made or who made it. UMMA was also shocked to learn that these drastic cutbacks were recommended without consulting the annual conferences which support the mission programs of the church. No effort has been made to alert the church of this severe financial crisis, nor has the GBGM leadership appealed for increased support that would allow the mission programs of the church to continue unabated.

     The following is a quotation from the UMMA report at the General Board of Global Ministries October 2002 Meeting, 10/19/02: At the end of 2003, 293 mission personnel will be coming to the end of their current letter of agreement or understanding of their mission term. These 293 mission personnel includes all categories of mission personnel. In this number it is projected that 244 will not be extended including approximately 70 missionaries in the category of 10-10-10.  In this number of 293, there are 144 missionaries formerly related to the World Division, now called GBGM missionaries, who are also at the end of their current term.


     David and Lori Persons, together with others of the missionary community, both active and retired, have deep concerns about these Board actions and they sent the following e-mail to be forwarded to their supporting churches:

     We are now asking for you to become informed on the local and conference levels and find out who are the Directors. Be in much prayer for all involved. Missionaries we are in contact with across the world feel that they have been dealt a blow to their morale, and it is a question of their calling and life ministry. Our Congolese colleagues are also concerned and do not understand why decisions are being made without their involvement as to missionary personnel with whom they are working in projects that pertain to their church....

     The following is from Jeff Hoover, Lubumbashi, Congo (a steering committee member representing Africa):

            The decision pushed through the Board of Directors meeting to terminate  86% of the commissioned mission personnel coming up to the end of contract in 2003 is beginning to make news in the U.S., and it  is important that our association be able to speak for as wide a selection of the various types of persons in mission possible. Please follow the UMMA web-site ( for updates.

            It is clear that there IS a serious financial crisis in New York, and adjustments are already a year or two overdue. UMMA is not pretending that the problems are not real. It's main points are that 1) there needs to be true discussion with the host churches and the GBGM mission personnel on the field of their views of priorities (not just "informing" of a decision already made in New York) and that a serious effort has to be made to INCREASE the financial resources by appealing

to the churches in the U.S. as well as in Europe and elsewhere, rather than simply cutting budgets.




            You will see a lot of obfuscation about the numbers of missionaries and the percentages to be cut. There are 344 "traditional missionaries" (I believe that includes not only Americans but nationals and third-country nationals who are commissioned for regular 3-year missionary terms and paid directly by the GBGM). When one includes Missioners of Hope, Korean Missionary Pastors working in the U.S., Church and Community workers in the U.S., mission interns, US-2 (short-term missioners similar to Missioners of Hope but inside the U.S. on two-year terms), and all such "limited-term" personnel who have been commissioned as missionaries, the figures come

up to nine hundred and something. Many of these positions will be left empty next year by simply not recruiting new candidates. The other 1200 or so are people who are either not commissioned as missionaries (such as staff employees of the secular relief arm of the United Methodist Committee on Relief--UMCOR-NGO--which works with governments and international agencies more than with churches), people who are not hired by the GBGM (such as rural chaplains in

the U.S. or persons in mission paid by their local churches or local institutions with some financial support from GBGM). Don't be confused; the cuts are not a mere 11% of several thousand but drastic cuts among those who are actually out working at the grass roots in the churches.  That is why UMMA needs to be able to count you as a member as it discusses with GBGM and other United Methodist agencies to resolve the crisis with the least damage to the overseas and U.S. mission partners possible.

[Note: A great deal of coverage is given to this issue because it highlights an important function of our church, and at the same time, misguided actions and obfuscation by the GBGM.]

                                                                                                                                    - Received by e-mail.


(UM) General Board of Pension and Health Benefits (GBPHB).

Benefits agency maps out pension plan changes

United Methodist Church employees could be getting more flexibility and greater protection in their pension plans in the next few years, through a proposal being developed by the denomination's benefits agency. "For the participant, (the defined benefit piece) provides a level of protection that they can count on at retirement and that they know they'll have for the rest of their life," said Woody Bedell, chief strategic officer for the GBPHB in Evanston, Ill. The participant will receive a guaranteed monthly payment at retirement. "The defined contribution (piece) provides a contribution equal to 3 percent of a person's compensation," he said. The contribution would be based on an individual's level of compensation, he said. At retirement, constituents could do as they pleased with their account balances, which would no longer have to be annuitized. The new pension plan would provide similar benefits to the current one, while creating less liability for the annual conferences and reducing overall costs, Bedell said.

     The governing directors of the  GBPHB approved the proposal, recommended by their Benefits 2004 Task Force, during a Nov. 15-16 meeting in Tampa, Fla.

- UMNS; Tim Tanton;·Nashville, Tenn.; 10-71BP{532}; Nov. 19, 2002.


(UM) Men.     Churches reminded to form United Methodist Men units

Nashville, Tenn. (UMNS) - The General Commission on United Methodist Men (UMM) has mailed information to all local churches reminding them of their responsibility to form an organized unite of United Methodist Men as mandated by the denomination's Book of Discipline. "The critical need to increase the participation of men at the local church level is well documented," said Joseph Harris, the UMM's top executive. "Regardless of their demographics, churches must learn to disciple men if they are going to have even a possibility for lasting growth." For information on the United Methodist Men, see the website

                                             - UMNS; Kathy Gilbert; Nashville, Tenn.; 10-71BP{399}; Sept. 09, 2002.





The World Methodist Council.

+  World Methodist Council emphasizes prayer

OSLO, Norway (UMNS) - The 2002 World Methodist Council's executive committee meeting was

"bathed in prayer" around the clock - and around the world - by global prayer partners. The Rev. George H. Freeman, top executive for the World Methodist Council, emphasized the critical need for prayer as world leaders gathered for the meeting. Methodist bishops, clergy and laity from around the world gathered in the Beautiful Centralkirken (Central UMC) in Oslo each day to "do the work for God and his people," said His Eminence Sunday Mbang, chairperson of the council and leader of the Methodist Church in Nigeria. "God in his infinite mercy has given us this golden opportunity to serve him. Let our discussions, our contributions and our decisions be under his fear," Mbang said.

     Using John Wesley's example of setting aside Thursdays for prayer and fasting, the world evangelism committee is calling for Methodists around the world to follow this example. "Prayer means no one can ever say 'there is nothing I can do,'" said the Rev. Maxie Dunnam of Asbury Theological Seminary. The Rev. Eddie Fox, world director of world evangelism, said during the past year there has been an "amazing advance in ministry" in four key areas: multiplying the witness, connecting congregations, training indigenous leaders and developing resources. "Undergirding these areas of ministry is the commitment to the Wesleyan pattern of prayer and fasting," he said.           - UMNS; Kathy L. Gilbert; Nashville, Tenn.; 10-71BP{446}; Oct. 2, 2002.


+ Youth committee wants to change church, world

OSLO, Norway (UMNS) - The World Methodist Council's youth committee has a mission and a purpose: to change the world by changing the church. Its statement of purpose sparked a lively discussion after Fabiola Grandón, chairperson of the committee, presented a report on her group's work. The committee said it wants "to empower young people to change the world by changing the church through witnessing, worshipping, connecting, and strengthening belief in God the Creator, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit." "Do you really mean you want to change the church?" asked an executive committee member. The answer from youth committee members was a resounding "yes," and many others at the meeting supported the idea.

     "I don't see anything wrong with the youth wanting to change the church. Let them have at it," said His Eminence Sunday Mbang, chairperson of the council.

                                       - UMNS; Kathy Gilbert; Nashville, Tenn.; 10-31-35-71BP{449}; Oct. 3, 2002.


+  Young Methodist leader dedicated to working for church

In a strong, clear voice, Fabiola Grandón delivered her report to the World Methodist Council's executive committee. She received a standing ovation from a roomful of Methodist leaders. You would never guess she is uneasy about serving in leadership roles. "Every time God opens a door for me, I think I am not the right person for the job," she says.

     Grandón is the chairperson of the World Methodist Council Youth Committee. In 2003, she will be the coordinator of the Methodist Youth in Latin American and the Caribbean for "Youth in Mission" from Chile. A 24- year-old accounting graduate, she has dedicated herself to working for

and with the church. "I was brought up in a Methodist family," she explains. Her father, Bishop Pedro Grandón of Chile, has been a big influence on her life. She is passionate about working for the church and for her country. She thinks the church has been growing but still has a long way to go. "We have to have the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other," she says. "In Latin America, some churches are growing a lot, especially in evangelism. Here (at the World Methodist Council), they don't know what is happening there." [Note: In the United Methodist Church as a whole, the same applies; people, as a rule, do not know what is happening in Latin America.]                     - UMNS; Kathy Gilbert; Nashville, Tenn.; 10-32-71BP{450}; Oct. 3, 2002.

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Gratitude is the mother of all virtues.

                                                                                    - G. K. Chesterton



Global Outlook


Heaven is full of answers for which no one has ever bothered to ask.

                                                                                                                        - Cameron Thompson

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Congo.  "The rains have come in right on schedule, and we have traded dust for mud.  Banks of jacaranda trees are blooming adding their haze of blue flowers to the horizon.   When the thunder clouds roll back the sky is piercing blue and the grass golden green, especially in the late afternoon light.   The next 6 weeks will bring Kenya to the height of its natural beauty, just in

time for Christmas... and the national elections.  

     On that front, all is remarkably peaceful. Politicians are jumping from one party to the other trying to make sure they end up on the winning team.  Party loyalties are far more pragmatic than ideological, and no one seems cynical about the hopping. Being on the losing team is often more costly than just having to try again next time. Everyone seems to respect that. Two of the president's sons are running for parliament, on opposing tickets. Like Jacob and Esau, one is the favorite of the president's estranged wife and the other the favorite of the old man himself.  Family dynamics are adding to the drama, and a bit of dirty laundry is coming out in the

campaign rhetoric. .... the outcome is serious for Kenya's future. Kenya is struggling not only to survive economically, but also to remain a religiously plural state.

     The Muslims are very active politically and would love to see changes in their favor at the governmental level.This is the month of Ramadan-- a sacred fasting period for Muslims, in which they neither eat nor drink from sunrise to sunset. Today we heard that during this time many Muslims are "troubled" by visions and dreams of Jesus. I never knew this, but the source was quite reliable. Perhaps this is a unique time of spiritual receptivity. I don't know, but we were urged to pray especially for Muslims during this month. It made me  wonder what would happen if Christians embraced the month of Ramadan to fast as well. We have plenty to pray about...." I queried another good friend, who is very familiar with the Muslim world, to find out whether or not he had ever heard of this. His reply:  "Yes, we need to be praying quite intensely for Muslims during their month of Ramadan. It is supposed to be a month for Muslims of increased spiritual activity, seeking after God, reading Holy Books, etc. God does speak to many Muslims during this time.

- E-mail message from Kenya. More information on:


Ireland.  Methodist pastor steps into paramilitary feud between Protestants

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (UMNS) - One man is dead. Another has been shot in the face. Both belong to opposing Protestant paramilitary groups that are fighting with each other [and] come from families who are part of the Rev. Gary Mason's Methodist church in East Belfast. It is easy to make the mistake of believing that the problems in Northern Ireland lay exclusively in the conflict between Catholics and Protestants. In fact, a recent editorial of a Belfast-based publication, the News Letter, pointed to the prevalence of "mafia-style shootings, beatings, racketeering and drug dealing" as part of the "Loyalist gang" agenda that has left Northern Ireland on the "precipice of serious civil unrest."- UMNS); By Kathleen LaCamera;·New York; 10-21-71BP{444}; Oct. 2, 2002.

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If you are never born again, you will wish you had never  been born at all.

                                                                        - The Navigators' Daily Walk, October 26, 1994.