On April 26, 1940, at a meeting of the General Conference of The Methodist Church, retired Bishop Herbert Welch, in view of the horrific violence of World War II, called for the formation of an agency to respond to the vast needs of human suffering worldwide, and to act as a "voice of conscience among Methodists". The result was the Methodist Committee for Overseas Relief (MCOR), which focused on studying the most urgent needs and pressing problems around the world, reporting these needs to the local churches, and administering the necessary funds to "the least of these" through partner agencies and ecumenical networks.
In its first decade of operation, committee members faced troubling questions concerning the allocation of funds, partnerships with non-Methodist organizations, the specific nature of their relief work, and continually generating interest in their cause. Their fears were eased when the people of the United States, eager to help after their country entered the war, pulled together to support African, Asian, and European countries devastated by the conflict.
The first ten years of UMCOR (it adopted United Methodist Committee for Overseas Relief as its official title in 1968) saw the organization of several services, endeavors, and initiatives, and saw over nine million dollars, from donations both large and small, make its way to refugees, the homeless, and hungry persons all over the world.
Started only as a temporary relief unit, the committee repeatedly received approval from the General Conference to continue its important work, and eventually, in 1972, became an institutionalized unit of the church and part of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church.
An evolution of focus came about in the following decades, allowing the United Methodist Committee on Relief to reach more people. For instance, whether the problem was earthquakes in Nicaragua, hurricanes in Haiti, famine in Africa, or domestic tornadoes and floods, survivors were significantly helped by the Annual Conference Disaster Response System, where coordinators were trained to organize recovery programs and work with government agencies to provide relief. As countries such as Liberia, Rwanda, and Bosnia underwent civil strife, UMCOR was there to rehabilitate and rebuild affected villages and communities. While focusing on disaster relief and refugee resettlements, emphasis was also placed on eradicating the roots of hunger and poverty, with several programs establishing training schools and giving individuals the skills to become educationally and economically self-reliant.
UMCOR's method of operation is as follows: eighteen directors representing United Methodists around the world make policy decisions, and staff members keep the flow of various grants and approvals regulated and orderly. Money is received through the One Great Hour of Sharing offering and the Advance for Christ and His Church, the designated giving program of The United Methodist Church. With these and other supplemental gifts (UMCOR does not receive World Service support), UMCOR is able to support hundreds of projects, within and outside of the United States.