The 2019 special General Conference was hardly over before a number of leading moderate and progressive pastors and organizations either announced suspension of financial support for ministry initiatives in the central conferences of The United Methodist Church or expressed reservations about continuing with such support.
In a March 1 article, Adam Hamilton, pastor of the Church of the Resurrection, the UM Church with the largest weekly worship attendance, declared, “I’m hearing people who have never withheld their apportionments talking about whether they can, in good conscience, continue in mission partnerships with churches, annual conferences and others who lent support to the Traditional Plan. They are asking, Why would we support partners that have voted to push us out of the church?”
Dr. Bruce Birch, Dean Emeritus and Professor Emeritus of Biblical Theology of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D. C., in an open letter to Non-US delegates who voted for the Traditional Plan, wrote, “I, personally, must withdraw at this time from further partnership in ministry with your conferences.”
Bishop Grant Hagiya in a letter posted on the California-Pacific Annual Conference website acknowledged “one of the ways many individuals and congregations have indicated they want to demonstrate their rejection of what happened at General Conference is through withholding or redirecting their apportionment contributions.” Because of this approach, Hagiya advised congregations the conference’s council on finance and administration was creating an alternate World Service Fund apportionment. It would allow local churches to steer funds away from ministries and areas of the church not supportive of the LGBTQ agenda.
Such actions are a further indication of the deep division within the UM Church and an effort to hamper and harm ministries pursued by United Methodists in areas outside the United States because of disagreement over decisions of the General Conference.
Unlike some UM leaders, the Wesleyan Covenant Association has refrained from calling on local churches to withhold apportionments and gifts as a political weapon. We do acknowledge that payment of apportionments presents an ethical dilemma for faithful United Methodists where our church’s teachings are flagrantly disregarded and remain unenforced. We have urged our members to be wise and discerning about the giving of their tithes and offerings, understanding that we each have many options available to support the Lord’s work.
God has blessed those of us who live in the United States and in some other parts of the world financially. What we have received is not ours but we hold it as stewards for God. The Wesleyan Covenant Association Council is pleased to announce it has established the WCA Central Conference Ministry Fund as a means for those who are committed to supporting international ministries adversely impacted by the kinds of decisions and statements referenced above.
In establishing the Central Conference Ministry Fund, the WCA Council has designated $100,000 as a matching grant for the first $200,000 given to the fund, matching one dollar for every two dollars given. All of the money given to the Central Conference Ministry Fund will be distributed to projects funded. None of the monies given will be used to satisfy administrative or other expenses before reaching the ministries to be funded. By giving to the Central Conference Ministry Fund, donors can be assured that the work of churches and annual and central conferences outside of the United States are not adversely impacted by the conflict in the UM Church.
Entities desiring to receive grants will be required to complete an application which describes the ministry or project to be funded, and the budget for the ministry or project (including other sources of funding). Ministries or projects funded will be required to account for the expenditure of grants for the intended purpose.
Priority will be given to ministries or projects which provide for theological education and training of pastors, church planting, church development, evangelism, discipleship, and community development.
Contributions can be made to the Central Conference Ministry Fund by making checks payable to the Wesleyan Covenant Association, designating them for the Central Conference Ministry Fund, and mailing them to P. O. Box 667, Reynoldsburg, OH. 43068, or by donating online and designating the gift for the Central Conference Ministry Fund by checking the box for that ministry fund.
We are excited to provide this means for individuals and churches to make a meaningful difference in the advance of significant ministries located outside the United States.
By Keith Boyette
May 17, 2019