Partnerships with UM-related Higher Education Could Enhance Ministry

February 13, 2013

By Vicki Brown*


Partnerships between United Methodist-related higher education and general boards and agencies of the church could further the denomination's mission work, educators and general agency staff agreed during discussions at a NASCUMC meeting in Washington, D.C.


"We want to look at how we can enhance each other’s ministry," said Thomas Kemper, general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries. Kemper spoke at the Feb. 3-4 meeting of the National Association of Schools and Colleges of The United Methodist Church (NASCUMC).


Kemper said that with fewer resources, GBGM has reinvented itself to "do what is essential." That has meant moving to an "everywhere to everywhere" style of mission work.


"Ministry is no longer about northern countries sending people out to do mission work. It is about mission from the margins. We are being evangelized in the center with the insight from the margins," Kemper told presidents and deans of schools, colleges, universities, and theological schools. "We hope to be the connection brokers of mission."


To that end, the group broke up into small groups to discuss GBGM's work in Africa, disaster relief in Haiti, young adults in mission, and global health.


The Rev. Kim Cape, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry's general secretary, said the two general agencies have already been working together in many areas, and she hopes more partnerships will come from the discussions at NASCUMC.


"Education and mission are natural partners, especially in the Wesleyan tradition," she said.


Each group proposed a number of areas that individual education institutions or groups of institutions could explore, including help with training and curriculum development.


The Rev. Mande Muyombo, GBGM's executive secretary for Africa in the Mission and Evangelism unit, urged college and university presidents to consider partnerships with universities in Africa.


"You could have immersion programs for your students. And schools in Africa need qualified professors, so exchange programs for both students and faculty could help," Muyombo said. He added that many schools need books and that most colleges and businesses in Africa require students to study English as a second language, so books in English are fine.


Several of the groups discussed the possibility of conducting a survey of the UM-related institutions to find out what they are doing already and what expertise their faculty might offer. For instance, several colleges already have faculty who are working on water quality, sustainability, and agriculture issues and might be able to partner with GBGM in those areas.


David Seyle, president of Andrew College in Cuthbert, Ga., said the group that discussed young adults in mission thought colleges and GBHEM could partner with GBGM to recruit volunteers in ministry, as well as provide sites for training.


The Rev. Wendy Deichman, president of United Theological Seminary, said her group also wanted to explore the use of distance education in pairing U.S. institutions and Africa.


Jake Schrum, president of Southwestern University in Georgetown, Tex., said that in the more than 20 years he had been a college president, he never remembered a discussion like this.


Melanie Overton, GBHEM's assistant general secretary for Schools, Colleges, and Universities, said she is looking forward to the projects that result from the discussion.


"NASCUMC CEOs sincerely want to walk alongside our general agencies as they pursue essential mission in an era of declining resources. The discussion amongst the leaders of GBHEM, GBGM, and NASCUMC was an initial step. Now, it is NASCUMC's job to help translate this sincerity into action," Overton said.


Cape and Kemper both said they hope the discussion can continue in order to explore new ways of forming partnerships for the work of the church.


"This has been wonderful," Cape said. "We must continue to search for ways we can maximize the resources we have."


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