"We need to put together again what we believe with how we live," said Gary Moore, counsel to Ethical and Spiritual Investors. "There is a need for us to reconnect the political economy, our personal finances and our stated beliefs."
Moore was one of the speakers at the Stewardship Summit, held Feb. 4-6 in Atlanta. More than 100 leaders came together from annual (regional) conferences, general agencies, fund-raising organizations and the denomination’s Council of Bishops. The United Methodist Church Foundation, affiliated with the church's finance agency, convened the event. The foundation is a not-for-profit organization that raises and manages endowment funds for official groups in the denomination.
The summit was an important step forward in meeting the challenges faced by a changing church, said Sandra Lackore, the denomination's treasurer and staff head of the General Council on Finance and Administration.
"Stewardship in the Wesleyan tradition includes not merely properly using what we have, but also what we choose not to have in order for others to have the necessities for living," said Bishop Kenneth L. Carder of Jackson, Miss.
Focusing on John Wesley's understanding of stewardship, Carder reminded the group of nine components of the Wesleyan stewardship tradition. They include acknowledging God as the source of all gifts, sharing in God's mission through living, expressing love for God and neighbor through stewardship, practicing economic justice, making personal and institutional responses to the needs of others, choosing vocation, living simply, modeling of stewardship by leaders and applying biblical critique to economic systems.
Lackore said the denomination's fiscal agency is listening to financial concerns across the church and is "energized by the renewed commitment to focus on personal giving as part of Christian discipleship as a core value of our denomination."
In her address to the group at Ben Hill United Methodist Church, she offered specific approaches for developing a shared vision of hope. They included focusing on the church's primary mission of making disciples, emphasizing channels of giving, working on process rather than program development, and increasing cross-agency cooperation. The denomination's general agencies are partners in ministry with the local churches and annual. conferences, she said
Bruce Birch, dean and professor of biblical theology at Wesley Theological Seminary, stressed that the essential responsibility of Christians is to be stewards of hope in a broken world.
A team from Africa University, the denomination's pan-African school in Zimbabwe, offered insights on the global manifestation of financial stewardship. Retired United Methodist missionary Dayton Edmonds provided stories from the Native American tradition to focus understanding of how stewardship is faithfully lived.
By Albert H. Lee