Board approves budget, prepares for General Conference 2016


By Nicole Burdakin

NASHVILLE, Tn: A report on the Young Clergy Initiative, a discussion about the state of theological education and necessary preparations for General Conference 2016 were included in the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s Board of Directors meeting, Aug. 6-8 in Nashville.

The Board also approved a $42.55 million budget for 2015 (up by 4% from 2014), heard a report from General Secretary Kim Cape, and worshiped together.

Cape described her experience attending the GBHEM-sponsored National Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities of The United Methodist Church (NASCUMC) meeting earlier that month and shared with the board some insights learned from Ron Heifetz, an authority on adaptive leadership and professor at the Kennedy School of Management at Harvard.

“In the rhythm of the quadrennium, now is the time to lay the groundwork for the 2016 General Conference. It is important that you have as clear a map for the territory as possible, are clear about the matters that will be our responsibility, and also understand how we will work together as a board and staff,” Cape said. She acknowledged that the smaller (fewer members) Board of Directors size presents both a challenge and an opportunity as they consider the next general conference.

“In nature,” Cape said, referencing Heifetz’s lecture at NASCUMC, “the evolutionary question is: What is essential and what is expendable? What innovation needs to happen to take the best of ourselves forward? Nature is highly conservative. God didn’t do zero based budgeting. God tinkered with what is accumulating new capacity over time. Highly transformative change is also very conservative.

“Our community, The United Methodist Church, is a natural ecosystem facing many challenges.   Variations create greater ability to adapt to suit other environments. How can we allow local adaptation, yet general diversity? I think this is the adaptive challenge in The United Methodist Church. This is what we are after as we develop a Global Discipline. We must anchor innovation in what is essential.”

Identifying essentials, reaffirming purposes, and the need for innovation—as well as the space for innovation—rang as themes throughout three day meeting.

Young Clergy Initiative Updates

Recipients of second round Young Clergy Initiative grants were notified on Friday, Aug. 8. There were 164 grant applications over the two rounds, and 75 awards were made totaling about $5.5 million. Grants ranged in size from $100,000 to $5,000. The Rev. Trip Lowery, GBHEM’s director of Young Adult Ministry Discernment and Enlistment, and Ianther Mills, Vice President of GBHEM and chair of the Division of Ordained Ministry, delivered the YCI report.

Kim Ingram, a member of the YCI Selection Committee, said of the diversity among applicants, “We got grant requests from a number of different kinds of sources—local churches, districts, campus ministries, conferences, non-profits, seminaries, United Methodist [related] colleges, foundations, and camps.”

“There were also some exciting partnerships that were going to happen as a result [of the YCI grants awarded,] through campus ministries and United Methodist [related] colleges, between churches and campus ministries, between seminaries and conferences, [and] between a seminary and a college,” Ingram said. “We’re excited about people working together.”

She also said that as a result of reading through applications, the board is working to partner people from different parts of the country who are trying to do similar things so that they’ll be in conversation with one another.

Read more about the second round YCI grant awards here.

Worshiping Together

The Rev. Dr. Tim Bias, general secretary of the General Board of Discipleship, led the opening worship, attended by GBHEM and GBOD staff in The Upper Room chapel.

During the service of word and table on the final morning of the board meeting, Cape gave a sermon on what the general board and the church could learn from Deborah as she led troops into battle to defeat Sisera.

“God did not tell Deborah, ‘wait until you get 100 percent consensus before you go,’” Cape said. “Deborah took authority to order the life of the community, leading them into struggle. What does that mean for us? Different answers for different contexts. We’ve been considering these questions so that ordering the life of the church will empower the work of the Holy Spirit. That means taking the authority to lead.”

Cape reminded the board members and staff that they were not called as lay and clergy leaders to be liked or to please people, but rather to please God –a much bigger job. “The issue is what we need to learn in order to make the changes needed for the community to thrive and how to determine who needs to learn what. This takes courage.”

Preparations for General Conference 2016

The board approved seven criteria presented by Amy Gearhart of the Legislative Committee for developing, vetting, and approving GBHEM-endorsed legislation to the 2016 General Conference. These criteria encourage collaboration across the connection, intentionality in “opening” a paragraph through a petition, particular attention to language and active—rather than passive, or technical—legislative change. The seven criteria will be used as guideposts as General Conference approaches.

Representatives from the Legislative Committee further explained that they will ask if there is another avenue besides legislation brought to General Conference to solve a particular problem. If so, it will be in the best interest of the board to pursue that other avenue.

Bishop Grant Hagiya of the Greater Northwest Area led a discussion and group activity on identifying GBHEM’s core purposes. The board and staff alike reaffirmed GBHEM’s core commitments to leadership, education, and young people. These three key ideas will guide GBHEM in legislation and action to the 2016 General Conference.

In other action, the Board:

  • Approved a director for a Course of Study school and gave approval for revisions in the administrative policies handbook. The board also approved a merger, dissolution, and satellite establishment of various Course of Study schools. The Course of Study is the educational path for licensed local pastors in the UMC.
  • Approved The Saint Paul School of Theology Course of Study Long Range Plan and requested that an update on the progress of the Course of Study school be submitted prior to the February 2016 GBHEM Board of Directors Meeting.
  • Took action to raise the Chaplain’s Supplemental Pension Grant Fund from 1 percent to 1.25 percent of the Denominational Average Compensation for 2015. This fund provides pensions for clergypersons whose service, as chaplains or pastoral counselors, does not qualify for pension or other denominational benefits.
  • Heard a report from the Racial and Ethnic Concerns Committee. The committee said the new Ethnic-In-Service Training Grant application is now online and will remain open until Sept. 30 for applications. Robin Starr Minthorn, committee chair, asked members of the Board of Directors to reach out to individuals who would be interested in applying.
  • Received a report from Jim Salley, associate vice chancellor for Institutional Advancement for Africa University, that lauded the capabilities of the Health Services Department at AU and confirmed the safety of those in and visitors to the AU community in light of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Salley also outlined the priorities of the new vice chancellor, Dr. Munashe Furusa, who assumed his role July 1, and reported on the AU Campaign for Endowment, a plan to double the university’s endowment from $50 million to $100 million that began last year.


Burdakin is editorial and production assistant, Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

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You gentlemen seem skeptical……………


Other thoughts: where does laity figure in? what about a study on how the umc has diminished since the hierarchy began its move away for laity participation (other than the apportionment tax!) perhaps 60 years ago? Feels like most all “people of the cloth” in the umc STILL want laity to sit with closed mouths, folded hands, and, of course open wallets/purses. Where do YOU two gentlemen stand?


Hmmm. Seems like the church you pastor, Russ, might be a good one to belong to. Thanks for your response…………..

Wes Andrews
Wes Andrews

I’m with Russ. I want and have vocal, energetic disciples who buy in and have ownership. They are NOT inspired by our Bishops, General Agencies, Universities and Seminaries, and their lack of accountability.

Wes Andrews
Wes Andrews

Hummmm, I wonder if the grants for clergy require the clergy candidates to uphold the doctrine and discipline of the UMC. I expect not….

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