Sixty Years Old and on Firm Foundation:
The Advance Moves Into the Future With Hope
Fort Worth, Texas, April 23, 2008 --
Six decades ago this year, Methodists in the United States, responding to the devastation of World War II, set up a "world-wide Advance" through which to "share in a ministry of relief and in carrying the Gospel of Christ to the people of the world."
That action of the 1948 policy-making General Conference of The Methodist Church is celebrated in Fort Worth at the 2008 United Methodist General Conference not as a moment in history but as a continuing commitment to mission and humanitarian relief.
More than $1.3 billion has been channeled through The Advance for Christ and His Church and it moves into its seventh decade as an energetic program of designated giving. One hallmark of The Advance is that 100 percent of each gift goes to the donor-selected ministry.
"The Advance represents Methodist compassion and generosity at its best," says Cashar W. Evans, a North Carolina layman who chair The Advance Committee, which operates within the General Board of Global Ministries, the international mission agency of the denomination that has some 13.5 million members around the world.
"It is through The Advance that we respond to disasters of all kinds, including the Gulf area hurricanes of 2005," Evans added. "Through The Advance we supplement our support for missionaries and enter into partnerships with ministry projects in scores of places."
The 60th anniversary coincides with a restructure of Advance operations to make them more responsive to contemporary patterns of giving. It is also an occasion to give The Advance a look and tone that appeal both to the "baby boomers" that have supported it so faithfully, and to the children and grandchildren of that generation.
"This anniversary is a time when we are expressing strong appreciation to all those who have, who do, and who will support mission through The Advance," Evans said. "This is a time of gratitude and hope."
The phrase "Advancing Hope in Christ's Name" has been added to the logo, which also features the emblematic United Methodist cross and flame. This new logo and tagline connects the visual identity of The Advance more clearly with the mission of the General Board of Global Ministries and that of The United Methodist Church.
In 1956, The Advance was made a permanent part of the structure of mission contributions of The Methodist Church, and was continued as such when in 1968 that denomination united with the Evangelical United Brethren Church to form the current United Methodist Church. The General Council of Finance and Administration serves as treasurer of The Advance.
"We call The Advance 'second mile' mission giving because in our United Methodist connectional system we travel the 'first mile' as we contribute to the apportioned World Service Fund at the 100 percent level," said Bishop Felton E. May, interim general secretary (chief executive) of Global Ministries. "World Service and The Advance are two ways of saying thank you to God for giving us opportunities to spread the Gospel and serve humankind.
Both Gospel proclamation and relief were strong in the minds of The Advance founders, as the church developed plans for facing the enormous problems confronting the world's nations in the late 1940s.
"It is sometimes hard for me to believe there was a time when The Advance did not exist," says Shawn Bakker, its director. "All of my life The Advance has both symbolized and exemplified cutting-edge mission, relief response, and church-led economic development. My generation is blessed to inherit such a successful channel of giving to God's work. We want to be true to its objectives and to represent it in ways that will guarantee the allegiance of young adults and teenagers who are forming the church of tomorrow."
Between $35 and $40 million is contributed to The Advance in a typical year; the amount in 2007 was $37.5 million, of which $17.8 was for the work of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). The total can be much higher in years of dramatic natural disasters, such as in 2005 when more than $100 million was spontaneously given to relief in the wake of the South Asia tsunami and the Gulf hurricanes.
The support of missionaries is another major category of Advance giving. These are gifts beyond the amount for missionaries in the World Service apportionments of each congregation. In 2007, almost $7 million was given for missionary support through The Advance.
Around the world, United Methodist-related ministries, which are sometimes also ecumenical, apply on a quadrennial basis to become "Advance Projects." If accepted, they are not promised any income, but have the advantage of presenting and promoting themselves with the time-honored Advance designation. United Methodist annual (regional) conferences also may select "Conference Advances," which are not handled through the general Advance.
Projects range across the spectrum of mission activities and humanitarian causes: church and school construction, water and sewage systems, Bible production, sustainable agriculture, care of street children, hunger alleviation, AIDS and malaria prevention and treatment, hospital reconstruction, scholarships, and micro-loan programs.
The Advance's 60th anniversary will be marked by the 2008 General Conference on Monday, April 28. A new video feature will highlight the history, but more importantly, will focus on contemporary ministries. Examples include projects in Sierra Leone and Bolivia.