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On being uber Methodist


I'm currently halfway through my time as a representative of Saranam at the New Mexico Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (we UMs are awesome at extremely long names... ie I am a US-2 missionary of the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church).

Anyhow, I'm learning a lot about another conference and can't help to fall more in love with my own conference. I went to a couple of business sessions and some worships, but so far have been trying to man my booth. I've also made friends with some youth who think I'm cool. Once again I am reminded of my love for youth ministry, I wonder if God is trying to steer me back in that direction.

Did I mention this is #1 of 2 annual conferences for me? For those unaware, I am quite possibly the nerdiest UM ever. I like annual conference a lot, and I'm attending 2 for the heck of it, not being a delgate. I wish I would have tried to be a delegate at home, but I just didn't plan that far ahead to see if I could find a spot. In any case, for my non UM readers, AC is the yearly meeting of the conference. Conferences are geographical areas that make up part of our connectional system. The connection is why I love the UM church. See, all UMCs are linked together, first usually through clusters (churches in the same town), then districts (usually a larger city and the surrounding areas), then conferences (such as NM conference, or my home Illinois Great Rivers conference which is basically all of Illinois south of I-80 with a few exceptions), then jurisdictions (i'm in the south central currently but North central represent!) then general conference which includes the US and reps from all over the world. As you start to get involved in the UM church, you make connections. I have a great supportive community of pastors in IGRC that are an inspiration to me, because that is what the UM system does.

So what makes us unique as the body of the UMC? Well one thing I think that stands out is the system of apportionments. (All of my UM readers can feel free to cringe) See, each UMC pays a part of their budget to their conference, and the conference then pays general apportionments. This money does fund administrative things such as our Bishops and other staff, as well as the different boards and agencies of the church, all the way down to my insurance and US-2 trainings and expenses. So how cool is that? like 1/1000 of a cent of every apportionment goes to help fund the US-2 program! Of course I didn't figure out an actual number, but you get the point.

Today at the business meeting I went to, the NM conference by way of the Conference Council on Finance and Administration decided to no longer refer to this money as apportionments but rather that we are funding shared ministries. I honestly say I like this change. Instead of giving money to fund this big word that is difficult to describe and understand, we're funding things like UMCOR (the United Methodist Commitee on Relief) so that all money donated to disaster victims can go straight to the source. We are funding things like campus ministries that shape the future (ahem... current) leaders of the church. We are funding things like the General Board of Church and Society that really is active with social justice issues and can deal with societal problems on a large scale. We are sending missionaries all over the world to do work that will impact lives for years to come.

Everyone who has ever been a part of leadership in the UMC knows that apportionments can be a difficult thing to swallow. Some churches choose to not pay their apportionments because they need to fund other things within the church. If that is the mentality of the church as a whole, the denomination should not exist. This is who we are, this is what we do. We are connectional not just because our pastors change churches within the conference every 5-7 years or so, we are connectional because we share ministries together. We lighten the load of churches doing relief work in Louisiana and Mississippi through UMCOR, we have missionaries who can rely on funding from our conferences. We are able to support schools like Africa University, and countless others that are making a difference in people's lives throughout the world.

I'll be the first to admit that maybe I am a little too excited to be United Methodist. I've had plenty of opportunity to be cynical about the system, but time and time again I realize how much it means to me to be part of something that is larger than just my home church, that is larger than my district or my conference. I am proud to be sharing ministries and smile whenever I see that cross and flame plastered on a building.
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2 Comments:

Lara,

As an uber u meth, you might want to check out the urban ministry of broadway umc in indy - what one urban ch is doing in our mid-western area. (broadwayumc.org)

Steven james is the author of "story" - the more I read the more i am collected and held.

Craig

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:56 AM  

Congratulations, you've finally admitted to the world what we already knew - UM nerds do exist, even amoung young IGRC people. See you at IGRAC!

By Blogger Nick Draper, at 9:41 AM  

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