‘It feels like The UMC abandoned us’

Bob Walters posted the following in a conversation on Facebook about the way we fund and oversee the church’s work in Africa. I learned a lot while reading it. I thought you might find it interesting as well.

Our mission programs in central conferences have historically been missionary driven and funded by supporting congregations. (The most important exception being Africa University.) A school like I mentioned in the blog succeeds because an effective missionary can both develop the project and sell it to an American market. When missionaries were pulled because of the war, despite the best efforts of local leadership, funding from American churches dried up.

On the receiving end, however, it looks to be the strategy of The UMC, not so much the efforts of an individual missionary (or couple) funded by individual congregations. It’s difficult to explain to a community like Monono that no one is giving to their Advance project, because no one is going church-to-church pitching it. …

[W]e are structurally somewhere between becoming a global church and still an American church with a mission field in places like Africa. (Some will argue that we’re headed in the other direction.) In the transition, we dropped the ball on this one, big time. The local community in places like Monono see a United Methodist school as belonging to The United Methodist Church, not an option presented to a congregation in Indiana for their second-mile giving.

We have a polity perception problem. When a school in a war zone doesn’t get picked for the next year, it doesn’t feel like we lost a donor. It feels like The UMC abandoned us.

Still, someone at the general church level or on the Council of Bishops should have at least been curious about what happened to the pastors, churches, schools, in this war and gone to look.