Sunday, May 4, 2014

Important changes at GBGM — Missionaries read this post on pay raise, pension changes, and other steps in a journey just begun

Changes in compensation and pensions are first steps in a journey

Over the past several months UMMA has experienced how painfully change comes to our sending agency, the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church.  Much of what has come to fruition in the past year can be traced back to conversations focussed on a Roundtable on Missionary Service at Drew University in 2010.  "Principles for future missionary service" and a series of parallel conversations came out of that meeting.  Even that 2010 Roundtable was preceded by years of appeals for policy review and change.  In the meantime ongoing structural adjustments and personnel changes on staff have both hindered and furthered the processes thus started.


Good News — a salary hike is in store for all missionaries!

At the Directors' Spring Meeting in April 2014 Global Ministries accepted a new compensation scale which, after January 1, 2015, will mean raises of varying amounts, ranging from 1-2% to around 20%, according to trial projections, for all missionaries. (More details follow in the "… as they now stand" section below.)

The salary increase follows major changes in missionary pension provisions last October (2013) which were agreed to by Global Ministries' Directors. UMMA representatives were not happy with the details of the changes. It seemed to be a matter of getting the cart before the horse. We had urged for years that salary, pension, health care and other benefits should always be considered as a unified package.  The pension changes anticipated other compensation changes which were not yet defined.

The  problem for missionaries was that the salary scale upon which the agency's new "defined contribution" was initially based has been experienced by almost all missionaries as inadequate, which would mean that retirement funding based on that salary would also be inadequate for living in the U.S., assuming that is the missionary's home country.  (A second problem was the initial false assumption by many missionaries that the pension contribution would be a deduction from or reduction of salary, much as an IRA would be, rather than an additional contribution by the Board over and above salary.) See paragraphs below for more on pensions.


Pension revisions  — Are you a missionary with less than 15 years of service?  Not thinking about retirement yet? Read on — these changes affect you!

In October 2013 fundamental changes in pension structures for all future and for a very few current missionaries were voted through by the Board's Directors to the general consternation of that part of the missionary community which had been paying close attention to such matters.  The fundamental change from a "Defined Benefit" (DB) plan held by the agency and paid out after retirement to a "Defined Contribution" (DC) plan which creates a retirement account for each missionary with the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits managed by that Board until retirement was not itself the greater issue.

It is widely assumed that the "DC" approach reduces risk for the employer and therefore shifts part of the risk to the missionary employee, especially for post-retirement management of an individual's funds.  For the agency, the need to carry on its books an ever larger entry for "unfunded liability" of missionary pensions was largely a cosmetic problem, but one which required repeated explanation to those unfamiliar with such issues; it left an interface for attack by those who may seek a reason to do so.  In part the issue of unfunded liability became more visible and more blatant due to changes, first, in accounting laws to better protect employee pensions in large corporations by declaring the extent of pension liability, and, second, by revised recommendations from the Board's auditors and actuaries about how best to anticipate future needs.  Under the new provisions unfunded liability will be expected to shrink, not grow, as new missionaries' pensions are funded by monies paid out into their retirement accounts each year, with no liability accruing to the agency.

Under the new salary scale the Defined Contribution takes on a much higher absolute value for the missionary and comes closer to fully replacing the previous Defined Benefit, especially for those missionaries who may have worked their full careers under missionary assignment and compensation without more lucrative sources for supplemental pensions or augmented social security benefits.

For the first time, Global Ministries ' budget projections include unfunded liability for an assumed increasing Defined Benefit rate on a regular schedule, although enabling decisions have not yet been made.


2014 a transitional year

Those missionaries who were not "grandfathered in" for Defined Benefit payments in the future and those who begin service in 2014 will find their pension contributions for this year to be based on the old and inadequate salary structures — unless the Board were to take corrective measures and base the 2014 "DC" on 2015 salary levels.


Compensation and pensions as they now stand — raises for all

Pending likely further adjustment at the October 2014 Directors' meeting, the following statements reflect current reality (assuming no errors in this reporting):
  • The service rate for years of missionary service for those on the Defined Benefit plan is currently $525 per year (roughly 0.84% of the Denominational Average Compensation at the time set) compared to $495 before the increase in October.
  • The rate at which contributions will be made on behalf of newer and younger missionaries into their Defined Contribution accounts is 12.8% of a calculated average salary for all missionaries.
  • Current salaries are based on a scale beginning with the base salary of $20,553.84 ($1,712.82 per month), which applies uniformly for persons with 1-15 years of related experience, and increases for additional years of service.
  • The new salary scale will begin at $28,355.74 ($2,366.31 monthly) for those with 1-15 years of experience.  (As has been the case for the past several years, base level will increase annually at the same rate that increases may be granted to New York staff.)


Other related changes and open questions

Cost of Living Adjustment (aka CoLA)  — Never had this applied to your paycheck?  Read on —changes may affect many more missionaries.

Not all missionaries will experience these changes as a dramatic increase in their paychecks, however.  The Cost of Living Adjustment applied to part of each missionary's pay based on place of assignment has never been implemented for those countries of service where it is presumed that the cost of living is substantially lower than in the U.S.A.  In the future, a negative Cost of Living Adjustment will be made where the relative costs in a place of assignment are deemed to warrant it.  GBGM will subscribe to this information from Mercer, the predecessor firm to ORC, long the contractor for overseas cost-of-living data.  Provision has been made that no missionary should experience a reduction in compensation when this new approach is implemented in 2015.
In addition to implementation of a negative CoLA where appropriate, two further changes will occur. In the past the comparison "home city" for CoLA has been New York or — more recently — Washington, DC, although no one has claimed that current missionary salary is adequate for those cities.  The new "home city" will be defined as Columbus, Ohio.

A further change is that the "expatriate" model will no longer be used.  This model assumed the need to replicate a U.S. lifestyle in a foreign country at the same level you could live it "at home" with your U.S. salary.  (There are many reasons this was never a satisfactory model, not least of which was the relationship between our base salary and typical salaries in our "home" base of NYC or DC!)  Instead of the "expatriate" model the so-called "international model" will be applied.  It assumes that one goal of the missionary is to adjust to local living circumstances and to learn to drawn on local resources, to the degree available, instead of imported lifestyle.  (Global Ministries will continue to provide housing in addition to cash salary, exempting missionaries from that particular vagary of living in a foreign country.)

Service Grant — What is it and when is it disbursed?

A special feature of missionary compensation has been the so-called "Service Grant."  This is an end-of-service payment given each missionary who has served fifteen years or more and calculated per month of service.  From its appearance in missionary handbooks about 30 years ago the amount has never been increased from $15 per month of service.  As of May 1, 2014, the amount has been raised to $25, a 40% increase.  (It seems likely that the grant was originally intended to allow a retiring missionary to set up a household upon return to the missionary's home.  In today's market, the value of the grant might be sufficient to buy a used car or pay a security deposit on an apartment.)

Social Security for non-U.S. persons 

The question of social-security-equivalency payments into retirement accounts for missionaries of non-U.S. origin who are ineligible for the U.S. Social Security program is on the table and will likely be addressed by the October Directors' meeting.

Other issues regarding non-U.S. mission personnel — A work in progress

All of the above changes must in some way be seen as transitional and still US-centric at their heart, continuing the program previously administered under the former World Division of the General Board of Global Ministries.  In the light of the increasing internationalization of the programs of GBGM, both through UMCOR's field offices in many countries, through Global Health initiatives such as Image No More Malaria, and numerous examples of international cooperation, Global Ministries is seeking to develop an overall compensation plan which will treat fairly all the various international persons serving under one auspice or another worldwide and paid by Global Ministries.
The Board's treasurer Roland Fernandes has been assigned the difficult task of developing a plan over the next several months.  I suspect the process may take as much as two years to complete.

UMMA has long advocated for inclusion of the missionary community in conversations and in consultation before decisions are made.  The recent questions around pensions and compensation have shown us that even when that consultation is nominally occurring, it is often difficult for the missionary community to talk up issues and formulate a representative response within the timeframe offered.  In part this is due to the bureaucratic need to protect ongoing conversations until all the "kinks" have been worked out which then transitions to a need to act quickly while a consensus prevails.  Nevertheless, current staff persons in New York have repeatedly demonstrated their intention to include missionary input.  The persons with whom UMMA converses most directly and most frequently in this regard are Thomas Kemper, General Secretary, Roland Fernandes, General Treasurer, Judy Chung, Associate General Secretary for Missionary Services, and George Howard, Deputy General Secretary for Mission and Evangelism.  We have found in each of these persons a partner who has the best interests of the missionary and the agency at heart, even when we have disagreed about what those best interests on either side may be and how they relate.  Additionally, Scott Atnip, an elected director of GBGM and its corporate secretary as well as member of the GBGM finance committee and its investment and pension subcommittee, has proven himself to be an excellent partner as the director assigned to be a liaison to the Missionary Association.  Thanks are due to each and all, as well as to the many  in the background who work on our behalf and to further the mission of the church.

This post is part of UMMA's accompaniment of the process of Board-Missionary relations since 1995 and is our summary interpretation of the current situation.  Your membership in UMMA helps us to do our best to partner and negotiate with GBGM staff in keeping the best interests of the missionary community and the agency at heart and in furthering the future mission of the Church.

Check out our webpages and consider joining the Association at <umma-global.org>.



Saturday, September 7, 2013

Message from the Synod if the Protestant Church in Iran to world leaders.on Syria

Hugh Johnson, retired United Methodist missionary and former Superintendent of the United Protestant Church in Algeria, has passed on the following message from the church in Iran which has been  delivered to President Hollande of France in a French translation of the English original text:


Greetings in the name of our Lord.

Now after more than two years destructive and terrible war in Syria, the great western powers, and especially United State of America is going to expand the war through a direct intervention! Though your officials are trying to convince public opinion and justify their probable intervention through reasoning - claiming protecting human dignity in Syria, and preventing danger of chemical warfare, the issue created some serious doubts, suspicion and concerns among the people of the region including different communities of Christians.

So by this letter as part of the Presbyterian community of the region we ask you please to express our views and concerns regarding the issue to your big communities:

1.       We remember the suspicious and shameful silence of the western powers including United States of America during the 8th years war of Saddam Hussein and his regime against Iran, and complete neglecting of an almost constant chemical warfare that he imposed to Iranian people (at least in some stages of the war); and the issue creates some serious doubts regarding the current reasoning of the United States of America and other western powers including France, and also regarding frankness of their high level officials!

2.       We remember almost the same reasoning that was developed against Saddam Hussein after his destructive war against Iran, and we remember again the famous slogan of American officials of that time, “the World will be safer place without Saddam Hussein!”  However after such long and costly war not only the level of security in world and especially in the region is not improved, but Iraq has turned to be an almost safe hiding place for the terrorist groups including al-Qaida, and as result the big community of Iraqi Christians which was more than two million before the first Gulf War decreased more than five times, big numbers of church buildings were destroyed, strong waves of immigration have been created, the hostility among different tribes and religious sects of the country increased, and civil war continues! We are watching the terrible news of Iraq everyday, which tell us a big number of innocent people are slaughtering there everyday, and the situation as whole shows us that Iraq (at least considerable parts) in fact after the western powers military intervention has turned to be a hell!

Of the issue we have many things to say however this should be concluded by letting you know that we expect you earnestly to do your best to prevent your political leaders from entering a new war that without doubt will impose heavy expenses to your own societies, and it will also increase the pain, destruction, lack of security, poverty and post-war bitter consequences in the region; and we ask you also to make your political leaders to support United Nation earnestly in order to find a peaceful political solution for Syrian hard crisis instead of war. 

Jesus Christ declared, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God.”


Yours Sincerely,

Rev. Sargez Benyamin

The Executive Secretary

[Protestant Synod of Iran]


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Methodist Liaison Comments on Peace Prospects

Recently I was asked by a Methodist church for my thoughts on the new round of “peace talks.” My reply follows. Interestingly, I have received negative comments from folks in the US while my Palestinian colleagues have written in support of the article. Sometimes the truth is hard to swallow. I call it as I see it. It may not be the “popular” response, but it is a truthful one. We must be brave enough to speak the truth no matter how unpopular that truth may be or how unpleasant the realities. Knowing the truth, the realities, is the only way change can take place. As it says in John 8:32, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

Thoughts in response to the peace process...

Aug 5, 2013

Having lived in Israel and Palestine for almost twenty years, having seen “peace talks” and “peace negotiations” and even “peace agreements” fall apart and make little or no difference on the ground, I tend to look at this next round of talks as “Much Ado About Nothing.” We’ve seen it all before. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has appointed Martin Indyk to return to the region as chief negotiator.

Will it work this time?

Can he achieve what he could not the last time he was here?

Can Indyk, an American Jew, be an unbiased negotiator for talks between Israel and Palestine? <See footnote 1.>

Can Palestine realistically give up any more concessions and still hope to be “viable?”

Will Israel stop creating “facts on the ground” while it negotiates?

No.

Just today Israel announced that it has approved the payment of subsidies to and, more importantly, recognition of additional Jewish settlements that it had previously considered “illegal.” (Jewish-only settlements built on land inside the West Bank are considered illegal by the 4th Geneva Conventions, the United Nations, and even the US State Department, although no US administration has been brave enough to say that out loud since the days of Jimmy Carter.) By recognizing these settlements, some of which are already large cities, Israel has in a matter of seconds created more “facts on the ground” with which it will try to manipulate its way into the next round of peace talks. In addition to recognizing these formerly “illegal” settlements the Israeli government is also approving the construction of tens of thousands of more housing units in areas that have formerly been small “outposts” or trailer parks, marking the location of a future permanent Jewish settlement, as in the case of Givat Hamatos in the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa.

I have lived here long enough to know that the results of negotiations will only mean more benefits for Israelis and even fewer human rights for Palestinians. I agree with Finian Cunningham in his recent article: “Unfortunately, we can say with near certainty that the end result will be stillborn. History tells us so.” <See footnote 2, below>

There is another history that we must consider, however —one that continues to give us hope despite the pessimism, despite the grinding away of dignity and human rights, despite the daily deaths and abuse. History has shown us that this is the land of miracles. Consequently we continue to pray that God will send another one that will bring not just peace, but truth, justice, reconciliation and healing to this ravaged land.

The author, Janet Lahr Lewis, is Methodist Liaison in Palestine and Israel


<Footnote 1> – As an aside: I was invited to attend a party at Indyk's house in Hertzeliya when he was U.S. Ambassador here. The walls were lined with 3-foot-high portraits of Zionist leaders such as Ben Gurion, Golda Meir, and Menachem Begin, all of whom adopted violent policies to be used against the Palestinians. I didn’t even stay long enough to hear the U.S. Marine Band play “Stars and Stripes Forever.” I was too disgusted.

<Footnote 2> <http://www.intifada-palestine.com/2013/08/israel-palestinian-talks-washington-acts-like-matchmaker-between-rapist-and-victim/>.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Tactic for Skeptics as another Round on the US-Made Peace Wagon Begins: Intensify "B-D-S" efforts to bring Worldwide Opinion to Bear

Like most of my neighbors, I am a Palestinian who hungers for peace. United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, has recently proposed a new Israeli/Palestinian peace initiative and I want his efforts to succeed. But do I think they will? Unfortunately, like most Palestinians, I have very little hope that real peace will be a welcome passenger on a US-made peace wagon. All it takes is a look back at the last 25 years of US-led Israeli/Palestinian peace negotiations to see why I’m skeptical. In the last 25 years Palestinians have watched as one peace wagon after the other started with fanfare and ended in disappointment and disaster. Not one of the peace wagons has managed to deliver its promised goods. However in each round of negotiations, the wagon picked up a load of Palestinian concessions and delivered them to the Israelis. Again and again Palestinians and the millions who desire peace all over the world have been cheated in their efforts at peace by those who successfully and deviously derail each new initiative and who consider it a triumph to thwart possible attempts to resolve the conflict. A recent case in point: after Kerry announced the launching of his initiative, the government of Prime Minister Netanyahu announced the construction of new settlements in the West Bank. This action, so typical of measures carried out in previous peace initiatives, is like the raising of a sledge hammer to cripple the peace wagon before it starts the journey.

Despite these latest negative actions taken by the Israeli government, my hunger for peace leads me to encourage Kerry’s efforts. I work to check my cynicism and pessimism, not wanting them to count among the reasons why this round of peace negotiations may fail. I’ll play the fool for the sake of encouraging the peace process rather than the savvy prophet who predicts the doom of the negotiations. Yes, I could draw from both ancient and modern history to make a list of all the reasons why this round of negotiations is bound to fail. Instead, I am determined that even if there is less than 1% chance that the negotiations will succeed, I will stand in support of them. I’m not so naive as to assume there will not be another disappointment — and yet I hang on to the thin hope for possible success. I do this,simply, because my people and I want peace.

Who stands with me? And how can we, who are devoted to peace and yet aware of all the obstacles, support Kerry’s initiative? Allow me to offer a suggestion. The best way to shore up the peace wagon is by supporting the world-wide BDS campaign (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions). Let us unite in sending a message to the Israeli authorities that negotiations with the Palestinians will not put an end to BDS efforts, but rather that BDS efforts will intensify as long as Israel uses the negotiations to buy time while resuming the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. As the BDS campaign continues and gains momentum while negotiations are going on, surely it will influence the Israelis to resume negotiating with greater sincerity and flexibility. Moreover, as the BDS campaign gains momentum during the negotiations, the Israeli government will recognize that it will face greater sanctions, boycotts and isolation if Israeli leaders cause the negotiations to fail. In the future, sanctions may not target only the settlements in the West Bank, but may extend to all Israeli economic and cultural interests.

Let us not suffocate Kerry’s initiative with righteous skepticism and rational cynicism. Instead, let’s, exert pressure and influence where we can to give Kerry’s initiative, along with mounting sanctions, the momentum he needs to lead the path, finally and truly, to a negotiated peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians.

The author, Alex Awad, is Dean of Students at Bethlehem Bible College serving with the United Methodist Church in Jerusalem and in Bethlehem.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Message from South America for U.S. Americans on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and in the light of the Syrian conflict

Dear brothers and sisters:

You, your people and your government leaders are in our prayers just as Syria's people and also their leaders are. The sounds of the celebration and remembrance of Martin Luther King and the 50th anniversary of historical March to Washington are still fresh in our ears and hearts and we praise the Lord for all the witnesses that worked and are working for peace in your country and around the world. King's words resound loud and strong:


If you have weapons, take them home; if you do not have them, please do not seek to get them. We cannot solve this problem through retaliatory violence. We must meet violence with nonviolence. Remember the words of Jesus: "He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword." We must love our white brothers, no matter what they do to us. We must make them know that we love them. Jesus still cries out in words that echo across the centuries: "Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you." This is what we must live by. We must meet hate with love...  [ King's words after a bomb was thrown into his house in Alabama, on 30 January 1956, in Stride Toward Freedom (1958)]


The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. ... Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. [ 'Where Do We Go From Here?" as published in Where Do We Go from Here : Chaos or Community? (1967), p. 62]


We pray asking God's forgiveness and for true peace for you, your people, the Syrian people and for all the world:

“ TRUE PEACE IS NOT MERELY THE ABSENCE OF TENSION: IT IS THE PRESENCE OF JUSTICE". (ML King, 1955)

Kyrie Eleison!

May God's love be with you while you witness and announce the Good News of Jesus the Christ the only one that gives TRUE PEACE.  

We send you our love,

Eunice Arias & Luis Aramayo

Retired missionaries

http://www.enmediodelavida.com.ar

"Nacimos para manifestar la gloria de Dios que está en nosotros y nosotras. No está solamente en algunas personas escogidas, está en cada persona y, a medida que permitimos que brille nuestra propia luz, sin saberlo, permitimos que las otras personas hagan los mismo". 

Nelson Mandela, 1994. 

Discurso de instalación como presidente de África del Sur.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

UMMA Statement on Restructure

As commissioned missionaries of the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) from around the world and elected representatives of the United Methodist Missionary Association we have read and listened to the arguments for the restructuring of The United Methodist Church already presented for General Conference action as well as some promising proposals not yet properly before the body.  
— We trust that General Conference delegates, as they make decisions on the structure, will do so with prayer, discernment and humility. We pray fervently that they be granted wisdom equal to their task. 
— We agree with Thomas Kemper, General Secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, who recently addressed the directors of the GBGM with these words: „The reform of the church is part of our tradition as Protestants and as Methodists. My prayer is that our reforming effort in this century [will] retain and respect the creative tension between the global and the local, the ‘everywhere’ and each specific place.”
— We are convinced that this goal as articulated by Global Ministries’ General Secretary can best be accomplished by maintaining a separate agency with the requisite specialized cross-cultural, international and linguistic skills, with its own professional and missional competencies and clearly assigned missional responsibilities across the globe. Under the oversight of lay and clergy directors from across the church and around the world, the agency can continue to hone the understanding and appreciation of the whole church for the global and international aspects of God’s mission for the whole world.
— We applaud these directors for their recommendation to General Conference to reduce the size of their own board. We believe this reduction will both reduce costs and improve effective participation. At the same time, we ask for extreme care in assuring that the selection of board directors, staff and missionaries come from a breadth of ethnic and cross-cultural groups to enable GBGM to fulfill its responsibility to serve with all our neighbors.
— We recognize the importance of constant creative interaction, avoidance of duplication, and coordination among all agencies and other bodies (such as the Council of Bishops) for effective, affordable and appropriate common ministry and mission.
As Thomas Kemper also concluded, citing the Apostle Paul from Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 4: „Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ…All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus.”

Steering Committee, United Methodist Missionary Association


consulting via Skype and email in March 2012


Contact: <jamesdwyer@mac.com>


Participating in the drafting: Eunice Arias (vice chair) Alex and Brenda Awad, Kristen Brown, Rukang Chikomb, James Dwyer (chair), Zachary Ferguson, Belinda Forbes, James Gulley (past chair), Norma Kehrberg (past chair), Billie LaBumbard, Nan McCurdy (secretary), Katherine Parker, Lyda Pierce (coordinator), Marilia Schüller, Adam Shaw, Dick Vreeland (treasurer), DarEll Weist, and Cathy Whitlatch (Missionary in Residence).


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Statement on the Kairos Response endeavor in the United Methodist Church

From: DarEll Weist
To: all my friends who are a part of the United Methodist Missionary Association

As an Ordained Elder in the California and Pacific Annual Conference, having served 45 years in active ministry and now retired, I am concerned about the Portfolio of the United Methodist General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits.

I have been to Israel and Palestine off and on for the last 30 years and yearly since 2006. In my visits, I have experienced the Occupation first hand.  Each visit introduced me to new despair.  I have seen Negotiations fail, settlements continue to expand and hope for change diminishing.

One of the things I’ve learned from my many  trips is that companies around the world are making huge profits by building settlements,  segregated roads that lead to them and by providing electronic and surveillance equipment for the checkpoints, settlements and the wall that annexes Palestinian land to Israel.  Another thing I’ve learned is that Palestinian Christians are suffering from the occupation like all Palestinians.  They have urgently asked churches and Christians around the world to help end the Occupation.

This is why I joined KAIROS RESPONSE with other concerned United Methodists from Annual Conferences across the US to write a resolution which will be presented to the 2012 General Conference.  It calls for divestment by the United Methodist Church and especially by the General Board of Pensions from three companies that have been asked for years by church members and agencies to stop profiting from the occupation and have not.  The resolution also asks that United Methodist boards and agencies engage with other companies sustaining the occupation and divest within two years if those companies do not change their practices.  Divestment is a step recommended by our Book of Discipline when corporate engagement has failed.

* The Kairos Response group is responding to a call from Palestinian Christians to act along with many other groups in taking economic action to oppose the occupation.   This is consistent with our Social Principles, our Book of Discipline and past resolutions approved by General Conference.

* We know that divestment has worked in the past, and it can work again. South Africa is a good example when General Board Pensions divested $77 million from companies doing business in South Africa.   Once again, we have the opportunity for our investment decisions to help bring an end to human rights abuses.

* This is not a change in policy.  It is an attempt to align our investments with existing United Methodist policy, which clearly opposes the occupation and discourages investments in companies that “directly or indirectly support the violation of human rights.”

* This is not a call for divestment from Israel.  It is a request to be sure we are not investing in companies from any country that keep the occupation going.

* This action will not harm the economy of Israel.  Taking specific international companies out of our portfolios will not harm the economy of Israel, but it will send a strong message in support of justice and peace in the region.

* This action will not harm investors.  It will not violate the fiduciary responsibilities of UM investment managers to their beneficiaries.  The investment funds will simply be switched to other companies.

Selective divestment is consistent with the United Methodist commitment to a just and sustainable peace for all the people of the Middle East.
If you would like more information I would suggest that you go to the Kairos Response website for articles, etc. www.kairosresponse.org

I know that you would support investment decisions that reinforce our commitment to a just and sustainable peace for all the people of the Middle East.

Therefore I would urge you to sign the Resolution so that we can say to the United Methodist General Conference that a community of people of faith is behind the divestment of companies from the United Methodist Pension Fund if they profit from the oppression of Palestinians.
If you would send me an email when you have signed the resolution and the petition I would be grateful.  You can do this easily do this by just hitting the reply button.  Thanks for reading this email and responding.

The Rev. Dr. DarEll T. Weist
Dtw4940@gmail.com
213-700-1458

The link for the Resolution is <https://www.kairosresponse.org/The_Resolution.html>

Monday, September 19, 2011

Why Christians Need to Support Palestinian Drive towards Statehood

By Alex Awad

In the coming days, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will be at the United Nations to request an official recognition of Palestine as an independent state with full statehood status at the UN. The majority of Christians and church leaders in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip support the Palestinian bid to seek full statehood at the United Nations. This position is not driven by anti Israeli or anti American sentiments but rather because most Arab Christians believe that without a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict they have no future in the Middle East and without Palestinian statehood, there will be no end to the conflict. The political turmoil in Palestine and the neighboring countries has prompted many Christians to abandon their homeland and seek refuge in Western countries. This trend will continue until the political chaos that springs up from the Arab-Israeli conflict ends.

Consequently, Western Christians who are concerned for the future of the Church in the Palestinian territories and the rest of the Middle East need to support the Palestinian drive for statehood. Palestinians, like most nations, are seeking a free, independent and peaceful state on 22% of historic Palestine and have already recognized Israel’s sovereignty on 78% of the land. Palestinians have shown willingness to swap land with the State of Israel in order to make accommodations for what Israelis call ‘new facts on the ground’. In addition, Palestinians are willing to consider the Israeli demand that a future Palestinian state would be demilitarized and allow for measures that create secure borders for the State of Israel. Furthermore, as the Middle East and North Africa experience tremendous political awakenings, peace with the Palestinians is the top guarantee to peace and security for the State of Israel. A genuine peace treaty will bring as much peace to the Israelis as to the Palestinians and to many countries of the world including the United States. Those who pray for “the peace of Jerusalem” need, at the same time, to support the immediate creation of a Palestinian state.

Christians tarnish their testimony in the world when they continue to endorse or be passive about the lingering injustice in Palestine. The Israeli government refused to halt the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank in order for negotiations to resume. Even when the American administration requested a two months’ freeze on settlement construction to allow for negotiations, the Israeli government wouldn’t cooperate. Now, Israelis are accusing Palestinians of refusing to return to negotiations. How can one negotiate with a friend on dividing a cake when, all the while, the friend is eating the cake? It is not that Palestinians are against negotiations, but rather, they are exhausted by two decades of fruitless and painful wrangling with Israeli leaders. It is our Christian duty to become aware of what is going on in political circles and on the ground and then to take a stand with the truth. Christians are not called to be morally passive and politically indifferent but rather to be active in promoting solutions that will bring about reconciliation and an end to the suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Some Christians hesitate supporting the Palestinian bid for statehood for fear that it may result in creating a militant Islamic state. Fortunately, the current move for statehood is driven by the most secular, progressive and non-violent branch of the PLO. For this reason, Hamas, the Islamist movement in Palestine is not in agreement with the move. The danger is this, if the Palestinian Authority fails to deliver to Palestinians an independent Palestinian state due to US and Israeli political maneuverings, in the near future, the secular Palestinian government will surely fall and only Hamas will be left to lead the Palestinian struggle for independence. This does not bid well for Israelis, Palestinians, future peace talks or for the Christian communities in the Middle East. The Church has loses its influence in the world if it abandons its mission to be “the salt of the earth and “a light to the nations”. May the light of Christ in us help guide the Palestinian people in their perilous path towards statehood.

Bethlehem, September 18, 2011

Annual UMMA "Gathering" in New York,October 9

The UMMA Gathering will take place at Manhattan's United Methodist Church of the Village on October 9, 2011, from 12 noon to 7 p.m.  Please register your intention to be present via email at <gathering@umma-global.org> or ask for details there.
Our agenda for the meeting will be posted here at a later date.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Reunion for India 2011

India Missionary Reunion — October 7-9. 2011, St. Louis, MO.

Reunion for Brazil 2011

Brazil Missionary Reunion — October 11-14, 2011, Lake Junaluska, NC.— Contact Warren Danskin <warrendanskin@sbcglobal.net> by September 1

Reunion for Sierra Leone 2012

Servants of Sierra Leone biennial reunion — summer 2012, Sioux Falls, SD.

Reunion for Southeast Asia 2012

Southeast Asia Missionary Reunion — June 29 - July 1, 2012, Lake Junaluska, NC, contact David or Shirley Wu <dcwu2002@yahoo.com> or <Shirleyawu@yahoo.com> for details or download information here <add URL>.