INDIANAPOLIS – “We have been set apart by the whole church for this special ministry,” proclaimed Bishop Marcus Matthews, of the Washington-Baltimore Area and president of the Africa University (AU) Advisory Development Committee, as he opened the committee’s six-hour meeting at the Crown Plaza Hotel near the Indianapolis International Airport.

The Indiana Conference hosted the 50-member committee during its March 1 meeting, which met here specifically to hear about the successful Indiana AU Campaign now in the process of raising $1.6 million in commitments to be paid out through 2016. Ruth Ellen Stone of Plainfield, Ind., serves on the committee.

This past spring during the 2013 Indiana Annual Conference session at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana Conference members approved a three-year campaign to raise $1 million for an endowed chair in Agriculture and Natural Resources and another $600,000 for endowed scholarships for students. Because of the high level of poverty in Africa, most students at the United Methodist-related university depend on scholarship money.

For more than 21 years, Hoosier United Methodists have provided scholarships for several AU students. Many of these scholarships were given through the encouragement of the Indiana Friends of AU, an ad hoc group which supports AU.

From AU’s conception, the Indiana Area has made commitments to the university beginning with the building of two university residence halls for students and ended up building four residence halls.

Africa University is a private United Methodist-related university for all of Africa located near Mutare, Zimbabwe. AU was the first private university to be built in Zimbabwe. In the most recent academic year, more than 2,000 students were enrolled coming from 25 African countries. The higher education institution has graduated more than 5,000 students since its first graduating class of 1994.

Scholarships are vital to AU. According to campaign literature, more than 90 percent of students enrolled there receive financial aid. Africa has the dubious distinction of having some of the poorest nations and the harshest living conditions in the world. According to current statistics, nearly half of Africa’s people live on less than a dollar a day.

AU offers degrees in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Education, Humanities and Social Sciences, Theology, Management and Administration, Health Sciences and the Institute of Peace, Leadership and Governance.

Indiana plan

With this background, the Rev. Bill Keith, a retired pastor of the Indiana Conference living in Westfield and chairperson of the Indiana AU Campaign, reported to the Advisory Development Committee that Indiana has to date received more than $600,000 in pledges and cash toward the conference’s $1.6 million AU Campaign goal.

Keith also reported that the Indiana campaign is moving from its private solicitation of funds, to asking Indiana’s 1,100 congregations to make a commitment toward the three-year campaign (2014-2016) if they have not done so already.

The Indiana Conference chose to raise $1 million in an endowed fund for a Chair (professorship) of Agriculture and Natural Resources since Indiana’s primary industry is agriculture. The remaining $600,000 will be raised to endow student scholarships. Each endowed scholarship costs approximately $125,000.

According to committee reports, the AU Endowment Fund has more than $60 million. It is in the process of raising another $50 million. Those funds are managed through the development office in Nashville, Tenn.

Levels of giving

Keith reiterated three levels of giving for local churches in Indiana that he first introduced during the ten district AU District Rallies across the state this past fall. Those levels include:

  • The Abraham and Sarah Level of $5 per average weekly worship attendance,
  • The Mary and Joseph Level of $10 per average weekly worship attendance, and
  • The John Wesley Level of $20 per average weekly worship attendance.

Keith also envisions local churches raising funds in multiple ways including: special offerings, mission budgets, group with special interests (such as United Methodist Women, United Methodist Men and Youth), endowment legacy gifts, faith promise missions and event fund raisers from dinners to car washes. Each congregation is invited to bring a church pledge to the Indiana Annual Conference Session in Indiana May 29-31 at the Indiana Convention Center. Churches presenting pledges will be given a tool kit of resources to help them to meet their church goal. Hopefully, the $1.6 million goal will be realized at that time.

All pledges toward the Indiana AU Campaign will be managed through the United Methodist Foundation of Indiana based in Fishers. Pledges can be made by check or automatic electronic transfer from the UMFI’s website. Donations and pledges can be made through the conference website at

Saturation event

More than 20 members of the Advisory Development Committee stayed over Saturday night, to speak about Africa University in 25-scheduled churches in Central Indiana Sunday, March 2. Unfortunately, five of the churches cancelled services due to a snow storm, which blanked the state Sunday morning.

Not alone

Bishop Lawrence McCleskey, a retired bishop living at Lake Junaluska, N.C., and executive vice-president for development of the AU Development Office, reported that Indiana is not alone in raising significant amounts of money for the endowment during this three-year period. The Upper New York, Virginia, Louisiana, and Illinois Great Rivers conferences are also raising $1 million each. He said four other conferences are also considering raising one million-dollars each.

The Africa University Fund also is part of the General Church’s apportionment to each of the United Methodist conferences in the United States. Indiana’s apportionment to this fund for this year is $83,713. The fund is used for the operational costs of the university. It’s 1.5 percent of the General Church’s apportionment.

Jim Salley, associate vice chancellor of AU and director of the AU development office based in Nashville, Tenn., also reported that the Grand Rapids District of the West Michigan Conference will be at AU for the March 19 dedication of the new half-million-dollar Ubuntu Retreat Center at AU, which is used by Volunteers In Mission and guests visiting the university. Representatives of the Florida and South Carolina conferences also visited AU earlier this year. Both conferences are seeking ways to assist the university with its mission.

Members of the Indiana AU Campaign and their responsibilities include: Bill Keith as chair, Mark Fenstermacher and Jim Shaw – major donors, Rita Gaither-Gant and Jeannie Park Estep – local church resources, Ruth Ellen Stone – endowed scholarships, John Huie – endowed chair, Manet Shettle – United Methodist Foundation of Indiana, Dan Gangler – communication. For more information, visit

Bishop Marcus Matthews of Baltimore (right) and Jim Salley of Nashville, Tenn. (left), led the day-long Africa University Advisory Development Committee March 1 in Indianapolis.

The Mission of Africa University is to provide quality education within a pan-African context through which persons can acquire general and professional knowledge and skills, grown in spiritual maturity, develop sound moral values, ethics and leadership qualities.

The Africa University Advisory Development Committee of the UMC met near the Indianapolis Airport March 1.