Thursday, November 02, 2006

Do UMC Council of Bishops Meetings Waste Money?

Holy Pirate looked at the recent meeting of 70 members of the Council of Bishops in Mozambique and wondered if this was a proper use of church resources. He estimates that the cost was about $350,000.

I'm inclined to think that it's important that our church be a global church, but I understand his argument. What do you think?


Jason Woolever said...

i fear that across the board we could do a much better job of reducing spending.

Richard H said...

They certainly COST money. In my little church I try to do everything as cheaply as possible when it comes to internals. I do my podcast using all free resources.

I think it's normal and a good thing for Bishops to travel and be connected internationally. Why Africa, though? Maybe because the church is growing in Africa and they're going to see what they can learn. They wouldn't be the first.

david said...

The UM church in the United States is declining, steadily, consistantly, nearly everwhere, for a long time. I will now coin a new phrase "think globally act locally". What UM Bishops have failed to do for the last thirty years is act in the US as if the UM church is fading away. They have nearly abandoned the leadership role that could potentially turn that around. They have causes and agendas and focuses that are everything and everywhere other than in the USA. Maybe a better idea would have been to support really growing ministries with three years worth of salaries and benefits. Maybe a better idea would have been to take all that energy and used it to sit down with six thousand UM clergy to implement actual evangelism and church growth stategies. Thirty years from today will 70 UM Bishops be abe to AFFORD to go to Africa?

Robin Russell said...

Hi all,

I happen to be in Mozambique, covering this historic Council of Bishops meeting. A colleague shared the link to this discussion.

Sure, the money could have been spent in other ways. But if you ever get a chance to see first-hand both the joy AND the heartbreak that is Africa, you would not regret it (or begrudge clergy the chance). It's an eye-opening experience, even for media-savvy Americans.

This is hardly a tourist destination. It was a hard trip to make, hence the fact that most retired bishops did not come. Long hours on the plane, sweaty shuttle buses, long waits in airport terminals and bus stations, malaria/typhoid/and Hepatitis-A vaccines.

What was harder yet was seeing cinderblock "houses" with rusted, leaning tin fences framing a "yard." It was hard to imagine a family with children lived there. But then you see laundry hanging outside.

All in all, I'd rather be in Italy!

Yet the great enthusiasm of the African brothers and sisters at having fellow bishops from around the world come to them cannot be described.

Methodism has been around in Africa since the 1830s. And yet, its denominational leaders have never met here -- until now. So is Methodism an American phenomenon now? Should UM clergy never stray beyond U.S. borders?

The Africans I've talked to know they have little to contribute financially -- at the same time, relatively little has been invested in them. And still, Christianity is exploding here.

It all depends, of course, on how much value you put on being part of a global church.

And c'mon, no matter how much your congregation "struggles," we Americans -- even the poorest of our seminarians -- live SO MUCH BETTER than two-thirds of the world's population. I've yet to see a dirt floor in a United Methodist congregation in the U.S. What's a podcast, in light of that?

Sorry. This is the new-found zeal of someone who's experienced an investment in the least and the last. But certainly not the lost.

Best regards,

Robin Russell, editor
United Methodist Reporter

Anonymous said...


I do not begrudge anyone the chance to connect with the global church.

However, I have some questions about sending a large number of bishops halfway around the world, not for mission work but for a meeting, at the expense of senior citizens who have never left the United States.

Obviously you have the benefit of being present on location. So you can tell us how our brothers and sisters in MZ will benefit from this "investment." How many will be worshipping on concrete or wood floors instead of dirt come close of meeting November 6?

You know, the whole Jersualem leadership did not travel throughout Asia Minor. They sent some emissaries on their behalf. And it seemed to turn out okay.



Robin Russell said...

Holy Pirate,

So which bishops would you say should have stayed behind in the U.S. and not attend this historic meeting in Mozambique?

Frankly, it's the strength of numbers that has been the encouragement to African bishops and their churches.

And it's more than a "meeting." United Methodist bishops are engaging in the local churches -- including one that meets under a tree -- to participate, not to lead. So we will all be worshiping together on dirt floors this Sunday.

You wouldn't believe the incredible response spouses and family members of the bishops are receiving as they visit AIDS clinics and schools. Some African churches have sent women's groups to sing all day on the vans/buses as the entourage travels from site to site. And local governors are coming out to meet United Methodist visitors.

You'll be able to read and see more next week on



Michael said...


That is an incredible perspective; thank you for sharing it. I'm just sorry I'm so late seeing.

You stated that Christianity is "exploding" even in the midst of chaos. Perhaps from that alone we Americans might be able to learn something about the decline in the American church. Maybe we need to be a little more needy in order to better appreciate or even comprehend the presence of the Lord.

Blessings to you.

Anonymous said...


For the record, neither my original post on my blog, nor any comment I've made here, suggests money is being "wasted." I asked whether it is appropriate to wonder whether this is the best use of FINITE resources.

While I have no doubt the bishops feel good about what they are doing and the people they are visiting feel good about being visited, I do not think it is parochial or ignorant to consider whether a third of a million dollars is a reasonable price to pay for a nice gesture.

To put it to me to name the bishops who should have stayed home is a silly rebuttal, to which I might respond "Which hungry visitor to my church should I not give food because the money we would have used to buy it went to apportionments instead?" That sort of exchange leads down an argumentative rathole that my original question neither sought nor required. If the folks in the pews back home are not permitted to even WONDER whether their apportionment dollars are being spent wisely without being scolded for our lack of understanding, the Connection becomes a one-way street and resentment grows.

Now that the money has been spent, I pray that the visit will be fruitful and lead to substantive progress in the expansion of the Kingdom. I look forward to reading your reports.