The following is a letter sent by many of the United Methodist Foundation Directors in our jurisdiction to our General Conference delegates concerning two areas of potential legislation:
On behalf of the undersigned leaders of the United Methodist Foundations across the North Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church, we are writing first and foremost to offer our prayers for you, in particular, for all of the conference delegations, and for the entire General Conference. Each of us has a deep passion for the denomination and envisions a host of opportunities ahead for the Church. Several of us will be involved alongside you in the deliberations and actions of General Conference in Portland, Oregon in the next several weeks.
We do want to bring to your attention two important issues that we, as Foundation executives, believe are of particular importance and significant consequence:
First, we anticipate potential General Conference legislation related to investments held at all levels of the Church, including general agencies, annual conferences, and local congregations. Specifically, delegates will be asked to consider a number of legislative actions on divestment. The complex divestment issues are related to two primary areas: 1) the Israel-Palestine conflict and the role of Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, and a few other companies in the conflict, and 2) fossil fuels and environmental concerns around fracking. While we share concerns in both of these areas, we do not support the current divestment legislation. If you have not already done so, we encourage you to watch the online video of Barbara Boigegrain, top executive of the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of The United Methodist Church (GBPHB), speaking about these important issues. You might also be interested to read firsthand the human rights and climate change investment guidelines of the GBPHB, and its Wespath investment management division.
Second, we encourage you to support legislation that would encourage financial education for pastors and candidates for ministry. The United Methodist Foundations are uniquely positioned to offer this education and to provide resources for annual conferences. Research continues to show that candidates for ministry are graduating seminary with high levels of student loan debt. The previous General Conference asked the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry to address this issue with the creation of the Seminary Indebtedness Task Force. This task force has identified United Methodist Foundations as a resource for financial education for candidates and clergy. Support for this concern has only grown in the past few years. The Lilly Endowment, Inc. has partnered with seminaries and denominations to address this issue directly. Our foundations are now at the forefront of this discussion and have partnered nationally with GBPHB to develop a plan for addressing these deep personal financial concerns which have and will continue to have a significant impact throughout our connection.
We are delighted to be in ministry partnership with each of our respective annual conferences. If you would like to discuss either of these legislative concerns, please contact your local United Methodist Foundation executive. We pray for God’s guidance as you seek to serve God and the Church. May God’s promise of hope and abiding presence be with you as you travel to Portland for General Conference 2016.
Dakotas United Methodist Foundation
Brian D. Sheetz
East Ohio United Methodist Foundation
D. Manet Shettle
United Methodist Foundation of Indiana
David S. Bell
President & Executive Director
United Methodist Foundation of Michigan
Val L. Walker
Minnesota United Methodist Foundation
John D. Peterson
United Methodist Foundation of the Northern Illinois Conference, Inc.
George D. Cooper
Council on Development West Ohio Conference
Eric P. Churan
Wisconsin United Methodist Foundation