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UM-related educators uniquely hopeful in challenging times

Marcie Smeck
February 6, 2015

The Rev. Dr. Tim Bias NASCUMC
The Rev. Dr. Tim Bias of Discipleship Ministries at the NASCUMC winter meeting. Photo credit: Donovan Marks.

Partnerships between United Methodist related schools, colleges, universities and theological schools will further the denomination’s mission work, educators and general agency staff agreed during discussions at a meeting of the National Association of Schools and Colleges of The United Methodist Church (NASCUMC)  in Washington, D.C. This is the third year of a series, to help leaders of UM-related institutions learn about and engage with general agencies of The United Methodist Church. 

“Making disciples for the transformation of the world happens in churches but also in classrooms,” said the Rev. Dr. Tim Bias, general secretary of Discipleship Ministries. Bias spoke at the Feb. 1-2  NASCUMC meeting about how United Methodist-related institutions offer students hospitality, opportunities for faith development, nurture in the discernment of a meaningful career path and opportunities for engagement in the issues facing their local and global communities.

Bias said, “Discipleship Ministries (formerly the General Board of Discipleship) is shifting from an internal focus to an external focus, coming alongside people and shifting from program development to people development.” He suggested that Discipleship Ministries and UM-related schools, colleges and universities can resource each other for the transformation of the world. 

NASCUMC
NASCUMC members discuss topics in higher education. Photo credit: Donovan Marks.

After Bias spoke, the group broke into four small groups led by Discipleship Ministries staff, to share information and models for working together: Fostering Spiritual Formation, led by Sarah Wilke, Upper Room Ministries; The Church in your Back Yard, led by the Rev. MaryJane Pierce Norton, Leadership Ministries; Involving Young People in Purposeful Service, led by the Rev. Dr. Mike Ratliff, Young People’s Ministries; and New Places, New People, led by the Rev. Dr. Candace Lewis, New Church Starts. 

Each small group discussed a number of areas that individual educational institutions might explore. Dr. Larry L. Earvin, president of Huston-Tillotson University, urged members of NASCUMC to offer opportunities for students to become what God intended them to be as they engage in service and social justice. Dr. Lallene J. Rector, president of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, emphasized colleges and universities’ interest in collaboration, including the use of shared space and chapels for equipping and training. 

David McAllister-Wilson, president of Wesley Theological Seminary, noted rising student debt as a critical issue. He suggested encouraging UM youth, who feel called to ministry, “to find a path to ministry through affordable UM colleges and universities.”

NASCUMC, L to R: Gerald Lord (GBHEM), Dick Giese (Mt. Union), Billy Greer (Virginia Wesleyan), Larry Earvin (Huston-Tillotson), Bill Johnston (Wesley), Haywood Strickland (Wiley).
L to R: Gerald Lord (GBHEM), Dick Giese (Mt. Union), Billy Greer (Virginia Wesleyan), Larry Earvin (Huston-Tillotson), Bill Johnston (Wesley), Haywood Strickland (Wiley). Photo credit: Donovan Marks.

Dr. Haywood L. Strickland, the president of NASCUMC and Wiley College said he believes the meetings with NASCUMC members and other general agencies of the UMC are helpful. “I think we can all benefit from learning more about what the agencies offer.”

The Rev. Dr. Gerald Lord, GBHEM’s associate general secretary of the Division of Higher Education, said the three years of winter meetings with general agencies have helped NASCUMC members see that the church does in fact have legs. “When I listen to staff of other agencies,” Lord said, “I realize that there are so many opportunities to collaborate. Joe and Edna in the local church expect us to make the most of their tithe—we do that by collaborating.  The church is doing fantastic things through colleges and universities; we need to claim our unique role in society.”

At the meeting, NASCUMC members recognized four retiring presidents: Dr. Larry Earvin, president of Huston-Tillotson University; Dr. Richard Giese, president of University of Mount Union; Dr. William Greer, president of Virginia Wesleyan College; and  Dr. William Johnston, president of Wesley College. They also welcomed four new members who have assumed presidencies in the past year: Dr. MaryAnn Baenninger; president of Drew University; Barton Darrell, JD, president of Kentucky Wesleyan College; Dr. Lallene Rector, president of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary; and Dr. Roderick Smothers, president of Philander Smith College.

Smeck is interim director, Office of Communications, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.