Worshippers raise their hands in prayer at the United Church of Rogers Park in Chicago in this June 2005 file photograph. \"In all the gospels the disciples only asked Jesus to teach them one thing, and that was how to pray,\" says the Rev. Tom Albin, dean of the Upper Room Chapel in Nashville, Tenn. A UMNS file Photo by Ronny Perry Photo number 09-0996. Accompanies UMNS story #469. 12/01/09.

Roland Fernandes challenged Global Ministries’ directors to hold fast to God’s grace in a report delivered at their semiannual meeting, May 11-12.

By Elliott Wright
May 11, 2022 | ATLANTA

Directors of the General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church’s worldwide mission agency, were challenged at their semiannual meeting, held virtually May 11-12, to hold fast to God’s powerful grace and presence as they forge new strategies in a time of “pressing uncertainties.”

Roland Fernandes, general secretary of Global Ministries, centered his spring report on the need to determine how best to organize mission work “as people beloved by God and sent to embody and share God’s grace and love.”

“We have no alternative but reliance on grace as we encounter contemporary uncertainties,” he declared in his comments, entitled “Accepting and Reflecting God’s Grace.”

Fernandes cited four areas of uncertainty he has addressed in earlier reports since his election two and a half years ago to lead Global Ministries, which includes the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Those are “uncertainties about health on a global level (the COVID pandemic), concerns about the future of The United Methodist Church, racism and its consequences, and threats arising from climate change.”

As Fernandes reflected on God’s grace, “so necessary in these times,” he said, “I am reminded that the first generation of the followers of Jesus lived with pressing uncertainties. Initially concentrated in Judea, the movement’s geographical spread raised questions about its relation to Jewish law and custom as well as to the Greco-Roman culture it encountered. What ethical rules applied in what was emerging as an ethnically mixed church? How was leadership determined?

“The force of uncertainties about polity and practice in the early Jesus communities was more than counterbalanced by a reliance on the grace of God, that is, the love and unwarranted favor of God in Jesus Christ. The Acts of the Apostles and the New Testament letters comprise a library of grace.”

Further, grace was at the center of John Wesley‘s and the early Methodists’ theology. “For Wesley, God’s grace through the Holy Spirit precedes, welcomes, schools and completes the life of faith and the experience of faith’s work in the community of witness, the church,” Fernandes said.

He asked whether contemporary United Methodist experience of uncertainty would be “more than counterbalanced by reliance on the grace of God, that is, on the love and unwarranted favor of God in Jesus Christ?”   

The remainder of the general secretary’s report focused on process for achieving clear vision and effective strategies for the future and on current program and operational matters. Program items included:

  • A summary of UMCOR’s response to the humanitarian crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 of this year.
  • Commissioning of new missionaries: 54 people in events between April and July of this year, mostly in regional services.
  • Proposed new funding allocations totaling $9 million to the Yambasu Agriculture Initiative in Africa, global health programming, the Africa Central Conferences Sustainability Fund and international gathering of missionaries, Nationals in Mission and partners.

Fernandes concluded his report with a verse from the Book of Hebrews: “Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 NKJV)

The full text of Fernandes’ report can be found here.