A Snowy Day
Finances, membership, and immigration were among several tough issues addressed by the Women's Division board of directors this March 30-April 3, 2006, in Stamford, Conn.
The Women's Division represents United Methodist Women, an organization of nearly one-million members with mission programs and projects that spread around the world.
Finance and re-structuring of the organization were key issues on the directors' minds. Chief executive, Jan Love, addressed the directors in several sessions, often stating, "The Women's Division is a healthy organization, but our passion for mission has outstripped our annual income for a few years."
She attributed financial pressures as coming from this passion and to a "system of fund management slow to catch up with the complex realities of how we receive and spend money."
"This is a time of re-building funds and re-envisioning the work we do. Together, staff and directors have been looking at the mission and ministry of United Methodist Women, how we work together, ways to streamline and improve our work, and priorities for mission with women and children. We are committed to fiscal responsibility, balancing the Division budget annually, and finding new ways to raise funds and increase giving," Dr. Love said.
"We continue to have substantial wealth. We plan on continuing mission for another 137 years and beyond."
Directors voted on fund-raising initiatives and updates of financial structures in order to increase mission funding. Plans include presenting all sources of income in one comprehensive document; improving financial interpretation with treasurers; budgeting on three-year rolling averages; devising plans for fundraising and communications; and staffing changes and re-organization to work with constituents and mission programs more effectively.
Throughout the meeting, Dr. Love stressed repeatedly that the Division is committed to resourcing and supporting United Methodist Women for mission and to maintaining international and national mission funding.
More than 1600 Prayers and Works of Mission Arrive in New York
Commitment to mission was evident as the meeting room was adorned in a sampling of the 1,600 prayer shawl, handmade by United Methodist Women around the country, which they have sent to the New York offices.
Each custom-made piece, containing a prayer from its creator, will be distributed by December 1, 2006, to health-related organizations, institutions, and prison ministries that minister to women and children across the U.S. Shawls were prepared for the May 4-7, 2006, United Methodist Women's Assembly in Anaheim, Calif. Several hundred more are expected to arrive in time for the event.
Membership on the Rise with New Initiatives
Paulette Kim, executive for membership, reported an increase of 75 new units of United Methodist Women this year in the United States. These include Korean, Hispanic, Haitian, African-American and college units.
"That means that in the past two years, we have grown our organization by over 175 units and almost 100 reorganized units," Ms. Kim said.
Directors previewed the Online Community, an online initiative meant to reach new and existing members across geographic and demographic boundaries. The online community - to be unveiled at the May 4-7 Assembly in Anaheim, Calif. - will be an internet-based community that meets around social justice, spiritual, and mission concerns. Developers of the concept believe that women involved in the community will find stimulating discussion, community, and resources to study and involve themselves as in-depth as they desire - on their own time.
Immigration and the Biblical Issues Was a Theme
In the Christian Social Responsibility work, Division directors looked closely at Biblical issues of day laborers, and then, applied their perspectives to work around immigration and farmworkers.
Choosing to re-direct some of their racial justice funding to the immigration issue, directors voted on ways to ease tensions around immigrant issues and build safe communities. They are urging United Methodist Women to explore the immigration realities in their own communities; to find ways to challenge the racism; and to look for specific entry points into immigration work such as the public education system.
Child labor within the immigration issue continues to be a concern for directors. Migrant farmworker children have one of the highest school dropout rates, possibly because there are no limits on working hours of these children before and after school.
The Division wants United Methodist Women to advocate for H.R. 3482, the Children's Act for Responsible Employment, the present Federal child labor law, which does not protect the health, safety, and education of child agricultural workers to the same extent as it does for other working children. According to the resolution, "Children working in commercial agriculture suffer the highest rates of injuries and fatalities of any other working youth. The agricultural industry consistently ranks as one of the three most dangerous industries in the United States."
Directors also voted to advocate for the CARE Bill (H.R. 3482), which is before Congress right now. The Bill amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to increase penalties for violations of child labor laws, and addresses the inequities and harsh conditions faced by the 500,000+ children currently employed in agriculture in the U.S.
Remembering who grows their food, directors spoke on behalf of elements contained in the AgJOBS Bill. According to the resolution, "AgJOBS is the most important piece of legislation affecting farm workers in decades. It will adjust the status of certain foreign agricultural workers, amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to reform the H-2A worker program under that Act, provide a stable, legal agricultural workforce, and extend basic legal protections and better working conditions to more workers. It makes dangerous illegal border crossings unnecessary for hundreds of thousands of workers, and allows farm worker families to stay together and fully participate in the society they help feed."
According to the accepted resolution, "this compromise was only a first step in broader reform needed for the current immigration system."
Directors also voted to:
- Endorse the "Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) and sign a "Statement on the Rights of Children, Families, and Food Marketers;"
- Urge young women to participate in the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, () on May 3, 2006;
- Endorse the Global Priorities Campaign and the ONE by ONE to fight global poverty;
- Advocate with leaders to halt nuclear proliferation and work for a peaceful resolution in countries such as Iran;
- Approve the Spiritual Growth Theme for 2010 to be, "For The Love of God, John's Letters."
Date posted: Mar 25, 2006