Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Benefit of Being Conventional

UMCOR volunteers work together to load health kits for shipping to areas in need.

For several years now I have heard friends throughout the states belittle the value of denominations in our country. “We are in a post-denominational world” they say. “Denominational structures get in the way of ministry. Why do you continue on a a dying system?”

There are many days when I agree with them, many days when I am convinced that the bureaucratic morass that we have created is worthless and needs to be cast aside. There are times when I fully agree that denominations are dinosaurs, the legacy of times past, which are unable to be quick and nimble in the face of need.

And then, just when I am ready to give up, some disaster happens in the world and UMCOR, the disaster relief organization of my denomination, springs into action and restores my faith in the power of denominationalism to bring about good.

UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, has been a point of pride for me and a shining example of what can be done when multiple congregations join forces in a systemic way to address world needs. It is through our connection that we can keep in place one of the leading NGO’s which is able to respond at a moment’s notice. This connection allows us to cover the administrative costs of having a relief agency, which then means that when emergencies come and appeals are made for assistance, 100% of the dollars given are available to address those emergencies.

This is a unique gift to the world, for most other NGO’s are forced to direct some of their donated dollars toward administrative expenses. Our ability to direct 100% of donations to those in need has led to our receiving high ratings from all the leading non-profit watch dog agencies who help us know what agencies are faithful to their mission. Other agencies aren’t as efficient, and often have high administrative expenses.

There are many things we do wrong as denominations, but sometimes we need to remember than which is done right, and UMCOR is the way that we put love into action and reach out with the love of God. It’s something we can be proud of, for it demonstrates in tangible ways our commitment to love and justice.

From the very beginning of the tragedy in Haiti, UMCOR has been on the ground, in fact, the organization’s leaders were in Haiti during the earthquake resulting in at least two deaths. It is an organization that I can proudly claim as my own, and I have no reticence in telling all who might read this that it is a good place to give your money if you are looking to help out.

By Jay Voorhees, pastor of the Antioch United Methodist Church
View his weblog “Only Wonder Understands

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