Archives: New Mission Society for UMs Opens for Business in Atlanta

March/April 1984

Good News

A new missions agency designed to give United Methodists a way to support more evangelical missionary activity opened for business on February 1, in Atlanta.

The Mission Society for United Methodists has been organized by a coalition of UM evangelicals who believe the program of the official General Board of Global Ministries has concentrated mostly on social and political change.

Dr. L.D. Thomas, pastor of Tulsa’s First UM Church and chairman of the new society, explained, “We are not trying to take over what the Board of Global Ministries does in sending missionaries, but we would supplement it by sending more evangelical and traditional Methodist missionaries.”

Organizers of the new agency come from diverse backgrounds. They include Paul Morell, chairman of the Good News-affiliated Evangelical Missions Council; Gerald Anderson, director of the Overseas Ministries Study Center; and Leighton Farrell, pastor of the denomination’s second largest church, Highland Park UM Church in Dallas.

The Mission Society named Rev. H.T. Maclin as its executive director. Maclin served for 31 years as a missionary with the Board of Global Ministries, most recently as area representative for the Southeastern Jurisdiction.

The Rev. Virgil Maybray, executive secretary of the Evangelical Missions Council, also accepted an executive position with the new agency beginning in July. At its January board meeting, the Good News board of directors voted to fold the EMC in favor of the Mission Society and commended Maybray for his effective eight-year tenure with Good News. The EMC will be replaced with a missions and evangelism task force.

The creation of the Mission Society instantly stirred up debate over the mission program of the denomination. Upset church officials supportive  of GBGM characterized the new agency as dangerous and asked for a series of inquiries into the new society.

Michigan Bishop Edsel Ammons sent a “strong personal protest” to the church’s Judicial Council: “It is my judgment that this action not only is misleading and untimely, but illegal.” Ammons said that General Conference should deal with the new agency.

Equally distressed was GBGM president Bishop Jesse DeWitt, who stated the Mission Society will “further erode the established patterns of giving” within the denomination. In an effort that partly backfired, DeWitt asked his fellow bishops in all five jurisdictions to suggest ways to deal with the new agency.

When the five colleges of bishops drafted their responses, the results looked as much like a slap at GBGM as a blow to the Mission Society.

The Southeastern Jurisdiction bishops stated that the new agency reflected the “deep and longstanding concern of many United Methodist people about parts of the philosophy, policy and program, and some of the personnel of the Board of Global Ministries, some of which concern we ourselves share.” The bishops added that they “opposed” the Mission Society, but “deplored” the circumstances that caused the alienation.

The South Central Jurisdiction bishops were equally forceful. “We call attention to prolonged efforts by various United Methodists to  secure serious consideration of a more representative mission program.” The South Central bishops did not condemn the new agency.

Meanwhile, the Mission Society is operating on $150,000 seed money raised by  sympathetic churches. The staff and board are finalizing goals and policies. Its first missionaries may be sent this summer.




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