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United Methodist Men look beyond St. Louis

UM Men president Gil Hanke

The Commission on United Methodist Men is looking ahead to ways to expand ministries to men, Scouting and other youth-serving agencies.

RICH PECK
United Methodist Men

NASHVILLE, Tenn.––The General Commission on United Methodist Men, meeting August 2-4 at their office on Music Row, set no plans for the special General Conference session next February in St. Louis.

Instead, the 20-member commission established ways to expand their ministries to men, scouting and other youth-serving agencies.

Introducing the elephant

In a morning devotion, Amanda Vogt, former president of the National Venturing BSA program, said, “When you see an elephant in the room, introduce it.” She introduced the elephant as the 2019 special session to be held in St. Louis, near her Ballwin, Mo., home. “We are going to make it past February,” she said. “My challenge to you is: reach out, take new paths, build new relationships and take new pathways to peace.”

Addressing the three options to be considered by General Conference delegates, Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr., president of the commission, said, “I really don’t care who wins, I care more about being faithful to the man who loved me enough to die on the cross. Love the Lord and it will be fine.

“Every piece of me loves the UMC,” said the bishop.” It picked me up and allowed me to live out my calling.”

The Commission on United Methodist Men
Members of the Commission on UM Men joined the World Council of Churches’ “Thursdays in Black Campaign”, an international effort to oppose rape, gender injustice, abuse, and gender-based violence. The commission also supports an 8-week study designed to reduce incidents of domestic violence. ~ ummen photo

Gil Hanke, top staff executive of the commission and a delegate to the St. Louis meeting, said the commission will not advocate for any particular position. “We only want men and youth to have an ‘on-growing’ relationship with Jesus Christ, and we want to accomplish this in practical ways.

“We’ve seen this church at its best,” said Hanke. “We’ve seen healing and wholeness. Don’t lose heart. We’re going to get through this and bring men and youth to Jesus Christ.”

New opportunities in scouting ministries

Lee Shaw, director of National Alliances for Boy Scouts of America (BSA), told the Scouting Ministries Committee there are 234,386 youth involved in 9,344 scouting units in United Methodist churches. At the moment, that number  is second to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, but that church has established a new international program and will drop BSA at the end of 2019. Steven Scheid, director of the commission’s Center for Scouting Ministries, just concluded a trip in the Mountain Sky Conference encouraging UM churches to welcome LDS Scouts when their church departs the program.

The Scouting Ministries Committee heard reports on a record 46 participants in a July 15-21 UM Scouters Conference in Philmont, a “Jesus and Me” study for kindergarten through first grade from Programs of Religious  Activities with Youth (PRAY), and several Bishop’s Dinners for Scouting.

Expanding men’s ministries

An estimated 400 men are now engaged in “Amending through Faith,” an eight-week study designed to help men combat a male culture that treats women as sexual objects, an orientation that an orientation that permits and promotes violence against women. With the encouragement of local church presidents of United Methodist Men, the curriculum could reach 4,000 men by June 2019,” said the Rev. Dr. Rick Vance, director of the Center for Men’s Ministries.

With the support of 34 certified men’s ministry specialists and national and regional leaders of UM Men, the Center for Men’s Ministries is working to expand people’s understanding of men’s ministry as more than the small group that meets for meals and Bible study. The ministry includes men from various geographical areas gathering electronically in “Class Meetings,” and men building hand-crank carts for Mobility Worldwide. The ministry also includes men engaged in building handicap ramps, packing produce for hungry people through the Society of St. Andrew, operating Upper Room Prayer lines, leading Scout troops, working out at the gym, and playing softball.

Reports from individuals and affiliate agencies

  • Central Congo Bishop Kasap Owan reported that four of the 52 district superintendents in his episcopal area of five annual conferences now have motorcycles to travel to their churches, but he needs an additional 48 ($1,200 each).
  • Cary Loesing, a leader of UM Men in the Southeast Jurisdiction and now director of operations for Mobility Worldwide, reported via video chat that 28 shops in the U.S. and Zambia constructed 6,307 hand-crank carts in 2017. Seventy thousand carts have been delivered to 104 countries since the ministry was organized as PET (Personal Energy Transport) International in 1994.
  • Larry Coppock, director of the Strength for Service Inc., told the commission that so far in 2018, the ministry has sent its daily devotional books to first responders following school shootings and disasters in Texas, Florida, Maryland, Tennessee, and Kentucky. In addition, cases of the historic military book have been sent to 27 military installations, 2 FBI offices, and 13 VA Hospitals.
  • Wade Mays, a staff member of the Society of St. Andrew, thanked the men for their support of Meals for Millions, a ministry that provided 42.5 million serving of food. While hunger remains a critical problem in the United States, Mays said the percentage of hungry people dropped in 2018 from 14 percent to 12.7 percent.
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