By Rev. Thomas Lambrecht The study guide produced by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, entitled Unity of the Church and Human Sexuality: Toward a Faithful United Methodist Witness, is designed to help congregations discuss the divisive and sensitive controversy over the church’s teachings on marriage and sexuality. It is drawn from an […]
Last Friday I went for an early morning run at Centennial Park in Nashville. I was attending a three-day meeting sponsored by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry to brainstorm ideas around the implementation of the new eight-year … Continue reading →
By Thomas Lambrecht The Bishops’ Commission on a Way Forward for the Church is now in its fifth month of work. We have had three face-to-face meetings and are preparing for a fourth in July. Over these months, I have continued to hear criticisms of the Commission that stem from misunderstandings or myths about what […]
Despite strong resistance to the idea at the 2016 General Conference, United Methodist leaders say that some kind of U.S. structure will be needed to implement the expected global Book of Discipline in 2020.
Shortly after the 2016 General Conference of The United Methodist Church, I wrote a post called General Conference: Four Reflections. Recently that post popped up in my Facebook feed as a memory that I might like to share. Reviewing the post, I was reminded of the difficulties we had in moving the ball forward on…
While deploring cultural accommodation, the WCA caucus group has exhibited some of the worst aspects of American culture. This week: hypocrisy.
Nashville, May 4 Forty-seven United Methodists from the five jurisdictions in the United States and 21 annual conferences gathered in Nashville this week to identify ways to encourage a strong centering voice for United Methodists to bear witness to a graceful and mutually respectful way of living in the Wesleyan tradition. More than half of the ethnically diverse […]
Bishop Oliveto and Queer Clergy are retained but the future is murky.
Council of Bishops The United Methodist Church FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 24, 2017 Washington, D.C.: The Council of Bishops (COB) has called a Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church (UMC) to be held February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. In announcing the call, COB President Bishop […]
The Sierra Leone Annual Conference held its annual meeting a month ago. At the meeting, Bishop John Yambasu declared he wants churches in Sierra Leone to pay their apportionments so that the annual conference is less dependent on American (and German) money. You can read three slightly different versions of this story, all from Phileas Jusu, from the West African Writers blog, from UMNS, and from the Annual Conference report.
Annual conferences which are part of the Central Conferences, like Sierra Leone, are being asked to contribute to global apportionments for the first time this quadrennium. Bishop Yambasu mentioned this new factor in the church’s finances, but the majority of apportionment dollars will stay in the Sierra Leone Annual Conference and support its work. Yambasu stressed the importance of this money for the annual conference as well as its global obligations.
This story is significant for several reasons:
1. Yambasu explicitly tied his instructions to a possible split in the UMC.
As the first line of the UMNS story reads, “The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone needs to reduce its reliance on overseas support in case the global denomination splits over the issue of homosexuality, Bishop John K. Yambasu told members of the conference at their annual meeting.”
First, it’s significant to see a bishop being this blunt about the possible future of the denomination in an annual conference meeting.
Second, while it’s easy to read the debate over homosexuality as a US-centric issue and identify the ways in which Americans are strategizing for a possible post-split future, it is important to remember that Americans are not the only ones doing so. Planning by those outside the US means that Americans will not control all of the outcomes, should a split occur.
2. Yambasu means business about collecting apportionments.
Current annual conference policy stipulates “only pastors who pay their apportionments in full shall receive salaries at the end of the month. Further, only congregations who pay their apportionments in full will have their pastors and members considered for election as delegates to Central, General and other international conferences … Bishop’s cabinet has also agreed that district superintendents who fail to pay full apportionments for the year will be moved and replaced” (from the West African Writers piece). Yambasu intends to start enforcing this policy and has already withheld salaries from November and December of last year for pastors who did not collect and turn over apportionments.
While not paying pastors and firing district superintendents might seem severe penalties to United Methodists used to their regular incomes, these consequences are clear signs that Yambasu is very serious about collecting apportionments and will use whatever leverage he has to do so. This shift is not about beginning to think about starting to collect apportionments. This shift is about producing immediate results.
3. Sierra Leone isn’t the only annual conference outside the US moving away from dependency.
As this blog has previously noted, the Liberia Annual Conference is also taking steps to achieve financial independence, and that was before General Conference 2016. The savvy leaders of the UMC in West Africa know that greater financial self-sufficiency increases their leverage in negotiations regarding the future of the UMC. Furthermore, whatever comes with regard to the future of the UMC, it will increase their self-determination and further their ministry.