By Elliott Wright
October 18, 2022 | ATLANTA

Roland Fernandes sees his main job as that of keeping the work of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries focused on God’s mission in a time of multiple organizational and social uncertainties. His report as Global Ministries’ general secretary – the agency’s chief executive – to the fall 2022 semiannual meeting of Global Ministries’ board of directors continued a two-year exploration of faithful service to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a “new mission age” – a time of health pandemic, climate challenge, persistent racism and internal denominational conflict.

A new mission age may bring new challenges but what is sure, Fernandes said, is the constancy of God. He framed his report and the exploration of mission today with the promise of Revelation 21:3-4:

See, the home of God is among mortals.

He will dwell with them as their God;

they will be his peoples,

and God himself will be with them.

“That fact brings us together, gives us meaning, makes us a community and gives a message of love and compassion to share with the world,” Fernandes said. “God dwells with us in Jesus Christ and gives us our mission. We depend on the constancy of God.”

Fernandes laid out a plan “to evaluate our context and our resources for fulfilling God’s purposes in such a time as ours.” The process, as he described it, has involved working with directors and staff to set priorities, monitor and evaluate programs in keeping with those priorities, and align both grant-making operations and use of resources and personnel across four mission priorities: missionaries, evangelization and church revitalization, global health, and humanitarian relief and recovery.

The October 18-21 virtual meeting and Fernandes’ report, given on the first day of the meeting, focused on short- and long-term strategic plans for the work of a Christian mission organization that traces its origins to 1819. The need for short- and long-term plans going forward arises from the delay in General Conference.

Fernandes told directors that a short-term strategic plan was ready for their consideration, the result of extensive strategic conversations with board members and staff. Conversations will continue as the agency looks to build a long-term strategic plan to guide its work following General Conference in 2024.

“This is not the first time Global Ministries has encountered a new mission age filled with uncertainties,” Fernandes said, recalling his recent discovery in files of a 1968 report by the Rev. Dr. Tracey K. Jones, who served as the last general secretary of the Methodist Board of Missions and first executive of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, formed by merger with the Evangelical United Brethren Church. “The report dealt with challenges of the ‘present times’ arising in ‘new areas’ of work,” Fernandes said. Those issues included civil and human rights of women and racial minorities and the Vietnam war.

Fernandes’ report included updates on emergency or emerging/reemerging programs, such as:

  • Relief and recovery efforts in Ukraine, with more than $23 million contributed to UMCOR and more than $17 million allocated for that humanitarian work. UMCOR staff members, Katherine Hills Uzoka and the Rev. Jack Amick, presented first-hand accounts of aid efforts inside Ukraine and with refugees in adjoining countries.
  • Broad ecumenical consensus around the need to address the challenge of climate change at the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Karlsruhe, Germany, held in September 2022.
  • Reintroduction of global mission consultations between The United Methodist Church and The Korean Methodist Church, the world’s two largest Methodist denominations.
  • Support for Philander Smith College and the Kendall Scholars Program.
  • Expansion of the Yambasu Agriculture Initiative among the annual conferences of Africa, and the launch of extensive training for conference staff and volunteers involved in this effort to provide both food security and church revenue through agribusiness.
  • Fernandes’ and board president Bishop Hee-Soo Jung’s recent trip to Jerusalem to mark the 10th anniversary of the Methodist Liaison Office, a partnership that offers a Methodist presence within the Holy Land and seeks to bring awareness to issues facing Israel and Palestine.
  • Strengthening of United Methodist health networks in Africa.

Fernandes’ also noted the increase of new missionaries, with 54 commissioned between April and July of 2022, and another 35 new Global Mission Fellows and 12 long-term missionaries being added this year. Four persons were commissioned for service in the United States during the October board meeting; nine more will be commissioned in person in December. Twenty-five fellows for international service will be commissioned at the April 2023 board meeting in Maputo, Mozambique.

The full text of Fernandes’ report is available here.

Elliott Wright in an information consultant for Global Ministries and UMCOR.