Higher Ed Board Approves Plan, Cost Cuts, Scholarship Fund

March 26, 2009

By Vicki Brown*

March 25, 2009 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)

A revised strategic plan, budget cuts and a new scholarship fund were approved by the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry's directors, in a meeting focused in part on what it means to lead the church in developing principled Christian leaders.

Also during the board's spring meeting, held March 19-21, a panel discussion examined the agency's role in the churchwide Four Areas of Focus affirmed by the 2008 General Conference.

"The way we were able to engage in conversation about what it means to be the lead agency for developing principled leaders for the church and the world was important," said Bishop Marcus Matthews, board president. "We are totally committed to giving all our energy to finding ways to be collaborative with other agencies."


Budget cuts of 10 percent proposed by the staff and approved by the directors are an indication that "we understand that we are all in this financial belt-tightening together," Matthews said.

In addition to the approved cuts, directors agreed the board's executive committee should consider actual income from World Service Fund payments through May and determine if further cuts are needed at that time.


The Rev. Jerome King Del Pino, the board's top staff executive, called the cuts "a prudent response to an uncertain future economically."

"We still intend to pursue robustly our mission of developing principled Christian leaders for the church and the world with the resources we have," Del Pino said. "We have confidence that God will provide for that mission."

Del Pino said the Board of Higher Education and Ministry must be clear about what it brings to the table as the lead agency in leadership development. He said the agency primarily relates to institutions and annual conference boards, and it is through these networks that it develops leaders who have the expertise to find the systems and solutions to complete the mission set out in the Four Areas of Focus.

He pointed to the agency partnership with United Methodist Communications to develop distance-education systems across Africa, using satellite and radio, as an example of the kinds of collaboration and technology that will be needed to accomplish that mission.

Panel on leadership

Henk Pieterse, the board's director of scholarly research and book editor, introduced the panelists.

Trudie Kibbe Reed, president of Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla., one of the 11 historically black colleges and universities supported by the Black College Fund, said educators need to look at problem posing, not problem solving. "Problem solving locks us into traditional ways of thinking, whereas problem posing allows the Holy Spirit to enter in."


The Rev. Ken Carter, chair of the Division of Ordained Ministry and senior pastor of Providence United Methodist Church in Charlotte, N.C., spoke from the perspective of the local church. He talked about how his work at the board has changed the way he does ministry, leading him to spend much more time with the youth and young adults of his church.

Lewis Parks, professor of Theology, Ministry, and Congregational Development at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, spoke about teaching future leaders the practice of hospitality. "The young people who show up in seminary have a global conscience. That's not the issue. The issue is what you do with that."

Parks also said that most elders will be serving in small- or medium-sized churches and that theological education needs to answer that need.

The Rev. Ted Hill, a medical doctor and deacon who runs a clinic in Gallatin, Tenn., said leadership development must include learning how to empower the laity to do the work of the church.

Seven priorities

The board's revised strategic plan sets seven strategic priorities:

  • Expand the agency's support of global higher education, leadership development, and theological education.
  • Strengthen the viability, quality and identity of United Methodist-related schools, colleges, universities and United Methodist theological schools.
  • Strengthen campus ministry and enhance The United Methodist Church's commitment to campus ministry.
  • Support young people in identifying and forming their vocations as ordained Christian leaders.
  • Lead The United Methodist Church in clarifying and building consensus around the denomination's ordering of ministry.
  • Enhance the effectiveness of theological education and training for ordained and licensed leadership in The United Methodist Church.
  • Provide an efficient and effective support infrastructure for the delivery of agency programs.

Staff are now in the process of developing detailed work plans for carrying out the priorities.

New scholarship fund

Board members approved a $20,000 Methodist Global Education for Leadership Development scholarship fund named for Akiyo Ueda, a retired professor and dean of the College of Early Childhood Education at Seiwa College in Nishinomiya, Japan, and Ken Yamada (at right with Bishop Matthews), the board's special assistant to the general secretary for global education and new initiatives. Ueda donated $10,000 for the fund, and Yamada matched that donation. The fund will be used for scholarships for children in Africa.

Board members also approved policy changes for United Methodist loans and scholarships that were required by General Conference 2008. In keeping with General Conference action, U.S. citizenship or permanent residence status is not required to apply for a scholarship, but international students from one of the denomination's central conferences – regions in Africa, Europe and Asia – must be members of The United Methodist Church for a minimum of three years and be attending a United Methodist-related school in the United States.

International students from an autonomous Methodist church must be a member of The United Methodist Church in the United States for at least three years and be attending a United Methodist-related school in the United States.

For loans, international students must adhere to all loan policies previously approved by the board's elected members and be a member of a central conference United Methodist church for at least three years. If the borrower is a member of an autonomous Methodist church, she or he must be a member of The United Methodist Church in the United States for at least three years to qualify.

More information on the board's scholarships and loans and other programs is available at www.gbhem.org.

*Brown is associate editor and writer in the Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.