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Near Half-Billion in Excess Reserves Becomes Stockmarket Windfall for Missions

United Methodist mission board commits $25 million for new work

Produced by United Methodist News Service

STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS) -- Reaping the benefits of the stock market boom, directors of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries are committing nearly $25 million for new mission work.

Board directors approved a concept paper called "Investment for Mission: New Program Initiatives" at their April 20-23 semi-annual meeting. The initiatives rely on funding from unrealized capital gains.

The paper noted that unprecedented gains in stock prices "have resulted in extraordinary increases in the Board 'reserves' regardless of the funds' classification as restricted, designated or unrestricted." Although the gains are not actually realized until cashed in, the Board of Global Ministries is pinpointing some of that money for new programs.

Last October, for example, it created the Millennium Fund, which provided nearly $30 million for pension and health benefits for missionaries. The fund also included $9 million to jump-start an initiative to rebuild church infrastructure in Africa, Europe and inner cities in the United States.

The approval for new programs at this meeting included the release, as soon as possible, of:

  • $4 million for the deployment of 800 "young adult missioners;"
  • $1 million for 100 new "missioners of hope" in Africa;
  • $930,000 for the board's World Wide Web page development and online magazine; and
  • $500,000 each for the establishment of regional board offices and support for the East Africa Annual Conference.

Several items from the paper were referred back to the board cabinet for development of implementation plans. Those initiatives included a partnership fund to support churches and projects in areas such as Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia, at a cost of $5 million; "innovative mission volunteers" to fill opportunities beyond traditional missionary work, $2.5 million; an inner city development program, $5 million; Central Conference pensions support, $2.5 million; and agricultural development programs, $2.5 million.

Directors also received a report from the Millennium Fund committee, which approved its first grants, totaling $3.49 million. The allocations will help bolster church infrastructure in Poland, Germany, Hungary, Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, Latvia and on the African continent.

"Partnerships with actual and potential supporting funds and in-kind services have been identified for many of these projects," the committee noted.

In other business, board directors:

  • Approved nearly $1 million in grants to assist the Methodist Church in Cuba.
  • Designated 1999, the International Year of Older Persons, as a time to focus on work with that population.
  • Approved a resolution on Nigeria, calling for the restoration of human rights and release of political prisoners there and the continuation of sanctions by the United States and other countries.
  • Listened to speakers report on mission work in Kazakstan; board-related trips to Cuba and North Korea; prison ministry in Russia; ministry plans for Korean-Americans and Native Americans; immigration reform in the United States; the use of the Internet for ministry; and Methodist work in Indonesia, Italy and Puerto Rico.

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