I just got back from the Connectional Table meeting in Nashville. We heard a great report from the Call to Action Committee and tweaked its implementation. After that we met jointly with the General Council on Finance & Administration to begin budgeting for General Conference 2012 and the next quadrennium. One of the things that jumped out at me was a proposal to eliminate the 6 churchwide special Sundays that have offerings: Human Relations Day, One Great Hour of Sharing, World Communion Sunday, United Methodist Student Day, Peace with Justice Sunday, and Native American Ministries Sunday.
It was reported that these Sundays would continue to be observed but that their budgets would be rolled into an unified budget for the denomination. It was suggested that these causes could possibly receive more money this way. I am not convinced, but I am open-minded. Of particular concern to me are 3 of the offerings: Native American Ministries Sunday, Peace with Justice Sunday, and United Methodist Student Day. The first two are extremely important because they are the only 2 of the 6 that 50% of the monies received go back to the Annual Conference. If the Call to Action Report is all about strengthening local churches and empowering Annual Conferences in their helping local churches to do ministry then it seems logical to me to retain these two Special Sundays. I have been on our Annual Conference Committee on Native American Ministries for years and I know that we need the 50% money to operate and provide ministry to American Indians in South Carolina. I’m sure the same is true for Peace with Justice ministries.
Putting a face on offerings usually means a larger offering. I especially feel that is true when I and others of our Native American Committee are invited to speak in churches. The other offering that I want to lift up is United Methodist Student Day. Every church that I have served has had persons who have received United Methodist scholarships or a loan from the United Methodist Student Loan Fund. These monies make a difference with our young adults – one of the very groups that the Call to Action Committee has identified as vital to the United Methodist Church. IF we expect one of our 4 Focus areas to be fulfilled: “Developing New Leaders,” then United Methodist Student Day should not only survive but thrive.
We are the only denomination in all of Christianity that was founded on a college campus, Lincoln College at Oxford University. We need to support United Methodist Students and, of course, our campus ministries! My daughter is the Wesley Foundation Director at Winthrop University. Four of her former students are in seminary right now! She is developing new leaders for the church and on a shoe-string budget. Our Annual Conference has cut program money (about $850 a month) for all campus ministries for 2011. I pray that we can make up the shortfall. In a time when everyone is concerned about keeping their church doors open and being lean with ministry, this is a critical area that doesn’t need to be cut short. These are the students and ministries that have some of the least discretionary monies available.
I hope we will remember that this coming Sunday is not only the first Sunday in Advent, but is also United Methodist Student Day! If I think of the word “Advent” as a “Commencement” of sorts, then I cannot forget United Methodist Students!