Bishop John Schol addressed more than a thousand United Methodist leaders of Greater New Jersey (GNJ) on May 5 via Zoom and YouTube to discuss the present realities and a $5 million pathway to grow the mission and sustain the missions and ministries of its more than 500 vital congregations during and following COVID-19.
“The plan’s first step is to turn the church outward during the pandemic by modifying current spending and raising new funds to allocate $500,000 for food security.” GNJ is organizing 15-25 Hope Centers and congregations to distribute in response to the unfolding economic and food crisis in New Jersey created by the pandemic,” said Schol.
He added that GNJ is committed to raising an additional $1.5 million for food security for what is anticipated as a two-year food security challenge because of the economic crisis that continues to unfold.
With almost 15,000 cases and 964 deaths per one million people due to COVID-19, New Jersey has the second highest rate in the world. In GNJ two clergy and more than 100 laity have died because of COVID-19 and more than 600 clergy and laity have been infected with the virus.
The organization and coordination of the food distribution will be carried out by A Future With Hope (AFWH) that was organized by GNJ to rebuild and build new 276 homes and provide case management for 500 families. AFWH and GNJ anticipate a similar effort that organized more than 12,000 volunteers and in-kind services. AFWH anticipates organizing volunteers and massive food donations and raising funds to purchase food.
GNJ leadership have also taken steps to undergird congregational ministry and leadership during the crisis as part of the $5 million initiative. This includes:
- a four-month holiday for congregations from paying shared ministry apportionment
- $1.5 million to assist congregations in three areas:
- Emergency grants to racial ethnic, rural and urban vital mission congregations in low-income communities
- Sustain full-time appointments
- Support congregations, particularly in urban communities that applied for Payroll Protection Program (PPP) funding but were denied because of a lack of funding
The $5 million plan is funded by budget cuts, borrowing money from its Harvest Mission Fund, a three-month holiday for CPP payments by Wespath and the recent sale of a church property. Also, GNJ will not fill four open positions, and all staff will furlough during the summer. The staff furloughs include executive staff furloughing for three quarters of a month and all other staff furloughing for half a month. Bishop Schol is donating one month of his salary to the GNJ COVID-19 initiative.
People from across GNJ are responding with donations, commitments and apportionment giving. Twenty percent of the congregations continue to give at the regular appointment rate in spite of giving the four-month shared ministry apportionment holiday. Titusville United Methodist Church after hearing the bishop’s address called an administrative council meeting and voted to send 100% of its shared ministry apportionment for the year in May, stating GNJ has helped them through their challenges and now want to help others during this crisis.
The full 25-minute address of Bishop Schol can be found on the GNJ website at www.gnjumc.org and on YouTube here.
Donations to the COVID-19 Miracles Everywhere Campaign can be made on the GNJ website at www.gnjumc.org.