By Elliott Wright
November 12, 2020 | ATLANTA
The new chief United Methodist mission officer is confident that the church rooted in Christ and secure in faith has the capacity to creatively engage in God’s mission even for such a time as this – a time of coronavirus pandemic in the world at large and of organizational uncertainty for the denomination. These realities adversely affect resources and energy for mission.
Roland Fernandes, general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, adapted a line – “for such a time as this” – from the biblical book of Esther for the theme of this first report to directors of the agency, which includes the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), and has personnel, projects and program partners in 115 countries. Fernandes came to the top executive post on September 1 following 25 years in key financial and administrative roles with Global Ministries and UMCOR.
“Today, fear caused by the coronavirus pandemic envelopes much of the human family,” he began. “Uncertainty about our church’s future grips many United Methodists. Global political and economic systems are shaky.” But that is only the partial external situation.
Christians, he indicated, have the assurance of God’s strength and presence (Psalm 46:1) and the promise that nothing can separate them from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35).
With the help of prerecorded videos by staff members, Fernandes highlighted innovative ministries for such a time as this in four missional priority areas: missionaries and their support, evangelism and congregational revitalization, global health, and disaster relief and sustainable development.
Fernandes put a spotlight on the surpassing in September of the goal of reaching more than a million children with life-giving interventions in a four-year period. The number stood at 1,075,731 the end of that month. He also focused on response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The four priorities, as determined earlier by directors, remain, he said, despite serious budget reductions resulting from the pandemic and internal denominational issues.
“Let me put finance in the picture here briefly because it is a major reality,” he said. “The 2021 Global Ministries budget is $33.4 million, a $15.5 million reduction from the 2020 approved budget. This is a 40% reduction over three years.” Still, he added, the picture in November is brighter than it was six months ago.
With reference to internal denomination issues (which center on the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons) that could affect denominational general agencies, Fernandes said:
“We are trying not to live in the ‘what if’ territory. We shall take our bearings from Scripture, our theology of mission, and our 200 years of history. We are about God’s mission, and that mission will continue regardless of the number and form of church agencies. We are called for such a time as this to be the best possible facilitators and partners in mission that we can be.”
The full text of the oral reports delivered by Fernandes as well as individual staff members to the board of directors can be viewed here.
Elliott Wright is an information consultant for Global Ministries.