Your General Church gifts at work

By Elliott Wright

STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS) - United Methodists can become evangelists and church planters around the world through a fund launched with an initial gift from an Atlanta businesswoman.

Mary Watson pledged $400,000 to the 400 Fund - $1,000 per new congregation outside the United States - in a church development effort by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

She received a standing ovation from the board's directors during their Oct. 13-17 meeting in Stamford, Conn.

"I am excited by the thought of 400 new churches and what God can do with 400 new churches," she said when introduced by the Rev. Edward Paup, the mission agency's top executive.

Watson and her husband, the Rev. Ralph Watson, a retired United Methodist pastor, are engaged in mission around the world and have notable involvements in Russia, Estonia and Brazil.

A mission board goal of 400 new congregations outside of the United States during the next four years is part of the denomination's commitment to create "new places for new people by starting new congregations and renewing existing ones." Another initiative aims at starting 650 new congregations in the United States.

Starting new churches, Watson told the Global Ministries' directors, "is part of what God wants us to do in the world. . We are to be God's hands."

A member of Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Watson challenged other United Methodists to contribute to the new 400 Fund. "If we all do our parts, there will be no parts left," she said. "Children can take part, even by giving a penny per new church. The young will catch the vision if we give the vision to them."

The 400 Fund will be used to support clergy training, develop Christian education resources and provide worship facilities appropriate to the locations. The emphasis will be on new church starts in 20 countries - in Asia, West Africa, Eastern Europe and Central America - designed as Global Ministries' "mission initiatives."

The fund is being handled through The Advance, the United Methodist designated mission-giving channel. The Advance number is 400400, and 100 percent of every gift will go to start new churches.

Elliott Wright serves as the information officer of the General Board of Global Ministries.