Cape Tells New Board of Directors Focus is on Mission
The Rev. Dr. Kim Cape told the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry's new, smaller Board of Directors that her intent is to focus on mission.
"I believe the board structure, while not perfect, is the best way to organize a connectional church for mission. If the board structure were abolished, you would not be at these tables where important decisions affecting the future of the whole church shall be made. I think you are here for a reason," Cape told the new 23-member Board of Directors. The Board met October 10-12 in Nashville, Tenn.
"Who do we need to be as GBHEM, and what do we need to do now to ensure the future vitality of The United Methodist Church? What do we need to learn? I hope together we can model for the church that this is the best way forward," Cape said.
"I believe that while, as Gil Rendle says, we may be in the wilderness, we are also led by the cloud and fire of the Holy Spirit through the wilderness to God’s Promised Land. God, through the Psalmist, says, I will not leave your soul in the pit," Cape said.
She outlined changes made to restructure and streamline GBHEM, including the legislation brought to General Conference to reduce the size of the Board of Directors from 60-plus to 23. She said the emphasis from General Conference was clear: The church expects GBHEM to cultivate a new generation of young UM clergy.
"We are called to reform the clergy system by making the recruitment of gifted young people to full-time ministry a priority and devote resources to helping them complete their theological education," Cape said. She noted that in 2005, GBHEM had already created a Special Seminarian Scholarship Fund of $2.25 million from reserve funds.
The General Conference created a fund of $7 million to support this Young Clergy Initiative and $5 million to create the Central Conference Theological Education Fund. This re-allocation, which was carved from the budgets of general agencies that receive World Service funds, resulted in a 10 percent budget reduction for GBHEM.
She assured the group that the general secretaries of UM boards and agencies heard the direction from the General Conference to eliminate silos and address redundancies.
"We are already working together to partner where it makes missional sense. We have already begun a complete inventory of our work and are addressing the redundancies together," she said.
The Board of Directors elected Bishop James Dorff, resident bishop of Southwest Texas and Rio Grande Annual Conferences, as its new president. Ted Brown, president of Martin Methodist College, was elected vice president for the Division of Higher Education, and the Rev. Ianther Mills was elected vice president for the Division of Ordained Ministry. Rachel Wright is the board's recording secretary.
The board opened the meeting with worship. The Rev. DJ del Rosario told the group that "God’s faithfulness is three-dimensional. God was faithful in the past; God is faithful now; God will be faithful tomorrow."
Del Rosario said that can be hard to believe when we are planning to take the next step. "But serving God means that we HAVE to take the next step – just like the Israelites, we cannot set up camp on the banks of a river and refuse to move forward."
"We know that God is not done with the UMC. Despite all the doom and gloom we may read or hear about church attendance and numbers . . . we are gathered here because we believe in a God who still believes in us. God still believes in us. Will our work as a board, will our time together reflect God's faithfulness? Where do we begin?" Del Rosario said.
Del Rosario said that when he considers all the naysayers who say the church is dying, he believes this is a critical moment in Christian history. "It's critical because it's time for us to remember who we are. It's time for us to worry less about tradition, it's time to lay our pride aside and get serious about our mission field," he said.
*Brown is associate editor and writer, Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.