Income is down at the 8.3-million-member United Methodist Church. To cut costs, the UMC's global ministries board is paring its mission force of 2,100 people in 74 countries by 11 percent. It is not renewing the contracts of some missionaries; it is sending some into early retirement without replacements; it will not appoint any new missionaries in 2003; and it has scrapped short-term mission projects. The board, which already has laid off 94 headquarters staff since 2001, has $7.5 million less to spend this year.
Which is why cries of outrage went up from the grass roots when it was learned directors had hired retiring top executive Randolph Nugent as a consultant to the tune of $400,000 over the next two years. His newly created job will be to promote missions education in UMC seminaries.
The heat is being felt by audit committee members in the UMC's finance division. Because of controversy over similar consulting arrangements at other UMC agencies over several years, they've been considering a recommendation that would prohibit employment of a former staff member by an agency for at least 24 months. If they adopt it, the next howls will be from executives deprived of their golden parachutes.