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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

World Vision: is it disloyal?


The four churches of Montecito (called M-4) have been working in a partnership with World Vision for several years. Our choice of world vision was made for two reasons: 1. We needed a non-denominational and Christian broker that all four churches (Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Episcopal, and Covenant) could enthusiastically work with. 2. We all knew and trusted the World Vision representative who worked with us.
Our two projects have been HIV/AIDS care kits (about $25 per/kit) to Zimbabwe and now, most recently to Rwanda. The first time we took on the project we raised money for and filled 1,000 kits and last spring, in conjunction with bringing in Jim Wallis, we raised money for and filled 2,000 kits. Our congregations worked hard and worked together. It felt right that 3,000 kits were distributed in desperately poor areas, with each kit having supplies to care for up to 7 people for 3 months. The community response was positive, but the denominational response was luke warm to cold.
The push-back I received from several directions was disappointment that I did not channel our Covenant energies in a Covenant direction. It was negative about World Vision being a high waster of gifts on administration, advertising and overhead.
The question is this: is it a sign of institutional disloyalty to work with agencies other than one's own? How can a genuinely ecumenical initiative happen in a community if each denomination must work through its own agencies? Is this one of the fruits of a post-denominational world? Is it a good problem or a bad one? How collaborative or how exclusive should Covenant churches be?

7 Comments:

At 10:42 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think denominations have to focus on providing services that add value to its churches and setting a broad vision for the churches, but also avoid getting in the way. The Covenant is diverse enough that it needs to allow its churches enough flexibility to meet the needs in their specific areas (or to form partnerships with other churches). It can add value by assisting in areas of finance, HR resources, legal resources, ministry resources, and other services that enable the staff to focus more on direct ministry and less on administrative issues.

 
At 10:55 AM , Blogger Thinkin Kristian said...

I know there is alot to consider here, but cant it be simple also? What denomination do you think will be in Heaven? We are only here for a short time, the Message is important, the denomination is for individual preferences. I dont think that the people youre giving the kits to care wether youre a Baptist or Lutheran, its silly really, just a way to divide and in some ways, makes us less effective Christians.

 
At 4:58 AM , Blogger Brad Boydston said...

While I understand the unique setting for your collaborative effort and would have probably made the same choices you did I think it is important to look at it from the denominational admin perspective, too.

Covenant World Relief was chartered by the denomination and given a mandate by the churches to develop an effective and efficient arm for relief and development. And they've put together some incredible alliances with churches and organizations -- and done so with extremely low overhead. They've created the ultimate lean giving machine.

The only problem is that the same churches which commissioned the ministry into existence are now being wooed by other less-effective but flashier organizations.

In someways CWR has become the victim of its own success. If it spent more money at home messaging the givers (with gimmicks and slick programs) and helping them to feel good about what they're doing -- and less money directly on relief and development -- then churches wouldn't be so easily sucked into the fad of the relief year.

I can understand why CWR feels annoyed. They've done a great job -- but the better they do their job the more fickle and less committed the churches act.

We're sending them mixed signals. We're telling them that we want them to develop a great relief and development ministry but then we don't support it because we like the packaging that some other less-effective group with high paid media consultants puts together.

The question is really who is the consumer that we're trying to serve?

 
At 8:16 AM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

Dear Brad; I love the words you use to describe both World Vision and me: "wooed","less effective", "flashier", "gimmicks", "slick programming", "fickle", "less committed", "high paid media consultants"! Yikes!
Those words make World Vision seem predatory and MCC and me gullible lunks. Is that really the perspective?
I agree that World Relief is a victim of its own success. But doesn't the mandate "to see it from their perspective" cut both ways?
Thanks for taking the time and thought to respond.

 
At 12:20 PM , Blogger kent said...

Don, what are the chances that the other churches in M4 would go along with a program from your or another denomination? World Vision give you the opportunity to work with an independent group that is not partisan. World Relief has no reason to feel slighted. I imagineyou supportthem as well.

 
At 3:19 PM , Blogger Brad Boydston said...

"Those words make World Vision seem predatory and MCC and me gullible lunks. Is that really the perspective?"

As I said upfront I would have probably made the same choice you did -- at least for this project. (That was a great community ministry that you all pulled together!) And I, too, personally continue to support the work of World Vision -- monthly -- and do so in spite of the fact that they have high overhead and spend a lot on flashy programs to get people involved.

In a sense we're all lunks when we buy into this stuff. But World Vision is simply responding to the fickle nature of the church. To accomplish what they need to do they feel they have to "market" heavily. If we changed our outlook they would shift, too, so that they can continue the good ministry they do.

The CWR guys understand -- but they are just frustrated because many churches have stopped supporting CWR altogether and are instead channeling all of their relief funds toward the groups with the biggest flash -- and not necessarily the most efficient ministry.

If we supported CWR AND World Vision I'm sure that would be okay in their minds. We want to bless what others are doing. But they keep hearing from local churches that they are supporting this organization or that so they can't help the work of CWR.

You're just catching a bit of their frustration. And frankly, we in the local churches, have not been fair to them -- telling them that we want them to do something for us and then not supporting them when they do it.

There is also a certain paradox in the situation because CWR is really an ecumenical collaboration. A lot of the money is funneled through the NAE's World Relief organization. Even though we are not a member of NAE we've become their largest partner -- because they are of like-mind and meet our standards for effectiveness. Likewise CWR channels funds through local church ministries in disaster areas. We also partner with Church World Service (which should make the mainliners happy), Mercy Ships, Food Resources Bank, and Bread for the World.

IOW, most of this money never comes through with a "Covenant" label to the end receivers. It's an ecumenical collaborative in itself.

I want to be a cheerleader for CWR whenever I get the chance. It's one of the great things that we have done together as a Covenant.

 
At 4:59 AM , Blogger bluesky said...

A great supporter of World Vision is AIDtoCHILDREN.com.

AIDtoCHILDREN.com is a dual-purpose site for building an English
vocabulary and raising money for under privileged children in the most
impoverished places around the world.

Check it out at http://www.aidtochildren.com

 

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