Thursday, February 17, 2011

What is the KY UMC doing in Thailand?

Help me with my United Methodist understanding as what started in our interest to help plant a church seems to have gotten complicated.

My church started supporting a student pastor and new church development of a Thailand United Methodist congregation among the Akha people a couple of years ago. Our primary contact was through Mike & Sherri Morrissey, General Board of Global Ministries missionaries in Thailand & United Methodist elders in the Kentucky conference. After a meeting with them late summer 2009 I encouraged our international mission team in support of the effort & by November we were in partnership. We were to be in financial and prayer support for 5 years, starting at $300 a month, and eventually weening down to $100, and then concluding the support with expectation the church would stand on it's own feet. Further, we would send a mission team during that time period to assist the congregation in their move toward financial and ministry independence. It was an exciting model that we embraced.

During an email exchange with the Morrisseys in early April 2010 the mission couple responded to my request for details of the work and to begin planning for a team for our church to visit. Item #4 in that email states "Finally, as of June 1, 2010, Sherri and I will complete our contracts with GBGM and will begin our ministry in Thailand serving under the newly formed Thailand Methodist Mission (TMM). As TMM missionaries, we will be working in partnership with GBGM to provide credentialing training to UM Pastors in Thailand (Course of Study, Advance Course of Study, and Local Pastors School) as well initiating the Pioneering Pastors Project, which will train and resource pastors to plant churches in sub-districts which are unreached."

Of course, since we had funding and were involved and anticipating "next steps" I checked this sudden change of plans with GBGM. I've found my contacts at GBGM very helpful in trying to understand what was happening half way around the world. From their perspective the Morrisseys were leaving GBGM and none of their previous work would "transfer" elsewhere. In the time since then that has proven to be the case as the Morrisseys ministry efforts have shifted.

"The board is neither a part nor aware of a plan to subsume our work in a 'Thailand Methodist Church.' Thailand is part of the United Methodist Southeast Asia Mission, which relates to Global Ministries under Par. 590 of the 2008 Book of Discipline. The Southeast Asia Mission also includes Laos and Vietnam... Other missionaries will be assigned by the board to continue the church development work in which the Morrissey's were engaged."

Get the picture?

In September 2010 my congregation and I hosted the new Thailand GBGM missionaries for a day. Maybe you read the article on this missionary couple as GBGM introduced them in June. They have an incredible story, and are adding to that with their mission service at this stage in their lives.
KY UMC Mission OfferingVangs They have now been in Thailand since late fall 2010.

But the issue just won't go away and I was surprised today to find an annual conference seeking funds for the Morrisseys!

Enter the Kentucky UMC and their mission offering to be received at annual conference. Recall that the Morrisseys are elders in full connection in that conference. And note that they are serving in the Thailand Methodist Mission which has no standing through any UMC entity other than the fact that 2 ordained elders are serving there. See Thailand Methodist Mission regarding what they show of their work. The Morrisseys will receive half of the KY UMC mission offering with a goal set at $120,000! The contrast could not be sharper though as the other group set to share the offering is church planting in the Venezuela United Methodist Church.

I can only hope that Bishop Davis and the KY UMC leadership relied on the fact they were working with elders from that conference and did not know the "rest of the story" about the TMM and the UMC work in Thailand.


David said...

To further confuse things...did the Morrisey's get "Advance" status when they changed affiliations?
That would allow them to be set up as an "official UM" ministry, while not a United Methodist generated ministry.
Otherwise, it just seems that the Conference is sponsoring two of its own, in extension ministry, unless the Bishop has not authorized this particular mission, in which case, administrative leave proceedings ought to be forthcoming.
Sorry for the long drawn out. I feel for ya, and want the Conference in the best position possible, along with missions in our name to succeed.
David Camphouse

revscottep said...

That's a good question David, but they have neither GBGM or GCFA recognition or status. I'd like to hear from someone in KY to know what is up with this. Got any contacts there?