Five missional agencies issue statement-appeal for Memphis Conference to ‘multiply talents together’
Representatives of the five missional agencies of the Memphis Conference of The United Methodist Church came together this spring and summer in what they call “a spirit of unity” to “prayerfully work together” to meet the financial and other needs of their individual and collective ministries.
Together they are asking churches and individuals of the Memphis Conference not just for ongoing financial support, but also for prayers and committed volunteers for their many ministries across west Tennessee and western Kentucky.
The five missional agencies of the Memphis Conference are Hannah’s Hope, Lakeshore Camp and Retreat Center, Reelfoot Rural Ministries, United Methodist Neighborhood Centers of Memphis and Western Kentucky United Methodist Family Services.
WHAT HAS CHANGED?
Delegates to the 2017 Memphis Annual Conference in June approved for 2018 a new income-based, tithe (10 percent) for churches to replace the Memphis Conference's current apportionment formula system for funding conference connectional ministries and districts.
Dr. Mark Matheny, a representative of United Methodist Neighborhood Centers, wrote in a statement on behalf of the five agencies (listed two paragraphs above) that they “strongly support” the new tithe of local church income (to the conference) beginning in 2018.
“We believe not only that it is fairer, but that it will help each congregation and the conference to fulfill God’s mission,” the statement says.
The group’s statement also calls the tithe of local church income “bold” amidst “an extraordinary situation in missional Memphis Conference stewardship.”
Sandra Burnett, chair of the Memphis Conference Outreach Advocacy Team, commented on the agency appeal: “The missional agencies of the conference are supporting the conference funding plan.”
“These agencies," she added, "are receiving between 23 and 40 percent less in the 2018 budget, compared to the 2017 conference budget. Therefore, it is important for individuals and congregations to pray for their important work.
“Congregations can help by working to see that their 2018 tithe to the conference is paid in full. Including agencies in the budget, having fundraisers for agencies, and special offerings are other ways to be financially supportive of the outreach done in the (name of) Christ by our missional agencies.”
Dr. Joe Geary, Memphis Conference director of Connectional Ministries, said about the new funding model, “(The conference is) stepping out in faith” by asking churches to pay ten percent of their income, rather than telling them what to pay.
Delegates to the 2017 Memphis Annual Conference approved a budget of $6,058,671 for mission and ministry in 2018. This is a $2,075,585 decrease from 2017.
“Conference leaders reduced the budget by more than $2 million to help live into this tithing model,” explained Geary. “We trust that recent reported income from churches has been honest to help build an honest 2018 budget. This is an act of faith and great trust.”
Calling the move away from the apportionment model to the tithing model “Biblical,” Larry Davis, Memphis Conference treasurer, said the new conference budget funding model “builds trust, clarity and transparency.”
The agencies’ collective appeal is for Memphis Conference United Methodist churches and individuals to “reaffirm our wholehearted commitment to serve ‘the least of these’ and at the same time redouble our efforts not just to adjust, recoup, or recover, but to multiply the resources available to meet (agency) needs.”
Uneasy that adequate funds might not be received by the conference from an income-based model (in place of the apportionment model), Matheny and his mission agency colleagues are calling on churches to be “steadfast” in their views and support of the five missional agencies.
Specifically, churches are being asked by the five missional agencies to:
- Pray for the success of the new tithing system, all congregations, and Memphis Conference Connectional Ministries.
- Volunteer as individuals or groups to provide extra hands and feet to help the agencies and their ministries thrive.
- Give by paying tithe in full, taking up special collections, donating through mission and outreach budget, making individual gifts, and donating needed in-kind supplies.
Mindful of “the value” The United Methodist Church places on connection, Matheny wrote that the five missional agencies believe Memphis Conference churches will come together to solve the Memphis Conference’s current financial challenges.
We are reminded, he wrote, of Ephesians 4:16, “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
The five missional agencies “build a community across the Memphis Conference” to help fulfill the Memphis Conference mission, Matheny wrote.
The Memphis Conference mission, adopted by delegates in 2014, is to “discover, equip, connect and send lay and clergy leaders who shape congregations that offer Jesus Christ to a hurting world, one neighborhood at a time."
Below are brief testimonies from individuals served by each of the five missional agencies of the Memphis Conference:
- Hannah’s Hope- "I've never been more happy about a decision in my life. I thank God daily for you, Hannah's Hope, and the parents. Thank you so much for turning a difficult situation into a blessing. Levi has just what I wanted him to have…and that's Love." - Mom who made an adoption plan
- Lakeshore Camp & Retreat Center- “It was important because I learned so much... I think now everyone should come to this camp because the counselors would love you like a mom you never had.” - A Hope Series camper
- Reelfoot Rural Ministries- “Reelfoot Rural Ministries (RRM) really came through for me. I deeply appreciate RRM and all the volunteers that took time away from their families to help me get my home back.” - A Reelfoot Lake area resident
- United Methodist Neighborhood Centers- “As a working mom, the Miriam Center helps me know that my daughter has a bright future. UMNC’s work is the Lord’s work.” – Mother of Miriam Center child
- Western Kentucky United Methodist Family Services- “They go above and beyond to show the love of Christ… They even purchased a violin for my foster child. She was so happy.” - Foster parent
Churches and individuals may give directly to the agencies (contact info listed below) or send financial gifts via the Memphis Conference Treasurer’s Office: 24 Corporate Blvd., Jackson TN 38305, 731/664-5540, firstname.lastname@example.org.
5676 Stage Rd
Memphis, TN 38134
Lakeshore Camp and Retreat Center
1458 Pilot Knob Rd.
Eva, TN 38333
Reelfoot Rural Ministries
6923 Minnick Elbridge Rd
Obion, TN 38240
United Methodist Neighborhood Centers of Memphis
3000 Walnut Grove Rd
Memphis, TN 38111
Western Kentucky United Methodist Family Services
P.O. Box 3204
Paducah, KY 42002
~Compiled by Lane Gardner Camp, Memphis Conference director of communications