NASHVILLE, Tenn. (GBHEM) - A partnership agreement between Brazilian educational institutions and the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry will further the Board's ability to "engage effectively in its global work of developing principled Christian leaders for the church and the world through the Methodist international connection and network," said the Rev. Jerome King Del Pino, GBHEM general secretary.

Under the agreement, signed this past month between GBHEM and the General Council of the Methodist Institutions of Education (COGEIME), the council will function as the regional operating vehicle of the Methodist Global Education Fund for Leadership Development (MGEFLD). This is the first of five regional vehicles planned under the initiative.

Bishop Marcus Matthews, president of GBHEM's Board of Directors, said the partnership is the culmination of "twenty-four years of hard work" and represents a significant step in furthering the global education work of The United Methodist Church.

Bishop Luis Vergilio, vice president of the College of Bishops of the Methodist Church in Brazil, said the agreement represents the understanding of the church that education promotes human life, stewardship of nature and justice.

Under the agreement, COGEIME will provide technical assistance and support to 120 Methodist educational institutions that enroll 95,000 students in Latin America.

"The present economic crisis impacts every corner of the world," Del Pino said. "This is the time for us to work together, as partners, not only to overcome current difficulties, but also to advance the development of principled Christian leaders around the world."

Recently, members of COCEIME met with GBHEM officials and Bishop Neil Irons and Dr. Vivian Bull, a GBHEM consultant, to discuss Methodist higher education in Brazil, as well as the role of the Methodist Church in higher education in that country.

The Rev. Prof. Luis de Souza Cardoso, executive director of COGEIME, told the group that while public education is the right of all citizens of Brazil, many families simply cannot afford for their children to access education. "Many have to work," he said.

Bishop Stanley Moraes said that Brazil today is "very urban" and 80 percent of those not attending school are in the cities.

To learn more about the Methodist Global Education Fund for Leadership Development or to donate online, visit www.ghbem.org/mgef.