United Methodist Committee on Relief

UMCOR Reaches ‘Historic Crossroads’

By Linda Unger *

March 21, 2012—With just about a month to go before United Methodists celebrate their quadrennial General Conference, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is “perfectly poised for what is yet ahead,” said the leader of the organization, the Rev. Cynthia Fierro Harvey.

“No one can deny that the work of UMCOR is unique, efficient, effective, and strengthens and transforms people and communities around the world,” she said, echoing the organization’s vision statement in remarks to its board of directors at their semiannual meeting today.

The gathering was held at Christ United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas, within the larger context of the board of directors meeting of the General Board of Global Ministries, of which UMCOR is a part. It was convened by Texas Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, president of UMCOR’s board.

In the five months since the last board meeting, UMCOR has advanced its strategic plan and has arrived now, Harvey said, at “a historic crossroads.”

She explained that the organization brings to that crossroads a process of alignment and prioritization of its work and the further development of its existing partnerships for improved stewardship, all of which will “sustain, strengthen, and position UMCOR for the future.”  

She reported on UMCOR’s collaboration with the United Methodist General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits to improve the Parish Nurse program and on the separate incorporation earlier this year of UMCOR’s immigration ministry, Justice for Our Neighbors.

In addition, Harvey, said, an agreement has been reached with Church World Service (CWS) to continue UMCOR’s Refugee Ministry, shifting implementation of UMCOR’s role in refugee resettlement to CWS. The process will be seamless, she said. “I promise you that our United Methodist churches [which have welcomed refugees and supported the ministry] will be well taken care of.”

Over the last several months, UMCOR has filled in some personnel gaps with staff positions that will be critical to moving the organization through the crossroads. To that end, Harvey indicated, a Grants manager and a Church and Donor Relations manager have come on board, and the long-vacant International Disaster Response manager position was filled.

The most complex, and perhaps most foundational, piece of the alignment efforts involves UMCOR’s nongovernmental operations, UMCOR NGO. When it was first created, UMCOR NGO was meant to help UMCOR raise funds, and to do so, it developed strong program implementation via field offices in various counties. In recent years, though, some of its programs have run parallel to other UMCOR programs, creating a need for greater integration.

The process of integration, which began after the October 2011 board meeting, has obliged UMCOR to consider questions about its overall orientation as a grant-making or an implementing organization and about its role in relief and/or development. UMCOR is midway through a yearlong study of these questions.

In addition to Harvey’s report, program officers for US Disaster Response, International Disaster Response, UMCOR NGO, Global Health, and Marketing and Communications provided specifics in their areas of expertise that underscored Harvey’s confidence in the direction of the organization.

Global Ministries Treasurer Roland Fernandes reported that increases in gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing and UMCOR’s undesignated fund were “a very good sign.”

“I am convinced,” said Harvey, “that at this point in time, our vision and mission will lead UMCOR well into its future regardless of anything, including any General Conference action, because we are nurturing the seeds of hope, and friends, they are growing wildly.”

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*Linda Unger is UMCOR’s staff editor and senior writer.

: UMCOR head, the Rev. Cynthia Fierro Harvey, addresses UMCOR
UMCOR head, the Rev. Cynthia Fierro Harvey, addresses UMCOR's board of directors in Plano, Texas, as Board President, Bishop Janice Riggle Huie (left), looks on.
Linda Unger/UMCOR