Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Missouri United Methodist Camps - Potential Compromise

As Annual Conference approaches here in Missouri, my anxiety has slowly risen. I have been rather worried about how the conversation about the recommendation to sell our four conference-owned church camp properties is going to be. It is a recommendation to which I am opposed, and I was not looking forward to speaking and voting against it, for a number of reasons.

First, the people on the Camp Board are my friends and colleagues, people I respect and trust. It’s hard to disagree with your friends about such a significant issue. Secondly, there has been some … ugliness, shall we say? This conversation has not always been a pretty one, and I do not want my honest opposition to seem to be adding to the ugliness. And thirdly, the whole thing kind of breaks my heart, and it is hard to do anything with a broken heart.

But I have hope. There are two options that will be on the table of which I am aware that would seem to be pretty good compromises. Simply put, there are two resolutions to be considered (posted both here and here) at this year’s conference that would sell two of the properties to associations set up to run them. Jo-Ota would be sold to the Jo-Ota Methodist Association and Wilderness would be sold to the WRDC Association. The sale price would be a symbolic one, and the sites could continue to be used as resources for the mission of the church, to make disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world.

This is brilliant. The Conference Office has zero inclination to own camping and retreat property. These sales would achieve that goal. What I did not like about the Save Mo UM Camps option was that it forced the Missouri Conference to hold camps on the properties that they had absolutely no interest in maintaining. Even if that DID pass, it would be awful, awkward, and disingenuous.

By selling the properties to the people who ARE, in fact, interested in owning them, the Missouri Conference “wins” in that they do not have to own the properties. And those who value the properties also “win” because they get to hold church camp on the properties they love.

The only difference I can see is that the price for the properties would be considerably lower than it might be otherwise. However, the Camping Board has always said that this recommendation isn’t really about money, anyway. So it seems to me that shouldn’t be too big of a stumbling block to this process.

And so at the moment I am inclined to vote “YES” on the Camp Board recommendation, and then “YES” on the 2 resolutions that would sell Jo-Ota and Wilderness to the Associations who are proposing to run them.

Two questions I still have:
Question - Is there any way I could be assured that the 2 alternative resolutions would pass before voting on the initial recommendation to sell them at all?

Question - Will similar groups (associations) form around the Galilee and Blue Mountain properties?

I’ve been thinking this over, and I honestly cannot foresee any issues that anyone would have with this plan. Those who want to be “out of the property management business” at the Conference Office will achieve that goal. Those who want to have church camps at Wilderness and Jo-Ota will be able to. And those with no real vested interest shouldn’t have any objections.

Somebody tell me why this isn’t a wonderful solution to a potentially contentious issue …

Added at 7:05 - Another issue: neither the Jo-Ota Association nor the WRDC Association would receive apportionment funds from the Missouri Conference. This would necessitate immediate and ongoing fundraising, sponsorships, grants, etc. in order to support ministry at the sites.


Steve said...

Hi, Andy. Like you, I am anxious as Conference draws near, and I am praying that we can gather in love and listen to one another with open minds (myself included). While I do not subscribe to the following argument, it does not seem unreasonable to me:
"Is the Conference not shooting itself in the foot twice? First, by selling the properties below market value; second, by creating organizations that will be direct competitors in the camping market? While the Conference doesn't want to own camp property, it does want to have a camping program. While the camp sales "aren't about money," surely that argument has realistic financial limits."

Andy B. said...

I don't think so Steve. I wouldn't see the groups as competitors, just as I don't see other congregations or denominations as such.

Andy B. said...
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Andy B. said...
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Andrew Kerber said...

I believe the problem can be resolved more easily. Replace the board with officers more in tune with the desires and needs of the membership of the church. Only a board truly out of touch with the general membership could possibly have created the current situation.

Melissa Gaither said...

Andy, I do not see the MOUMCamps option as a problem, I believe those that want to direct a camp, would prefer to be at our own facilities, not at locations that we do not have control over. There are so many camps that were not offered this year because the camp directors were not comfortable with the locations that were being offered. I believe the camps could be up and running in no time, being available for not only summer camps, but the many retreat groups that loved our locations, which the conference has totally disregarded in their consideration. I an anxious to have this decision made, I just hope the people of the UMC are at least given a chance to provide solutions to many of the concerns that have been presented. I am praying for a Win-Win for all!! See you soon!

Tom S said...

I favor the resolution presented by saveMOUMCamps. One of several reason is that if the camps are,sold now, it will be too late to do anything else. If we keep the camps and do a feasability study, all options will still be on the table. Hopefully the group doing the feasability study can present a well researched and well reasoned proposal that can be supported by a much greater consensus than exists in the current situation.

Tom Vansant said...

Andy, I am in a similar position as you. I do back the SaveMOCamps resolution which should give Galilee & Blue Mountain a chance to try to form similar boards. The Wilderness and JoOta proposals are my second favorite options. Right now the conference camping program is renting camp sites around the southern part of the state. Wilderness and JoOta will be able to enter the same market place that all these other camps participate in. Their resolution also state that the properties go back to the Annual Conference if the cease to exist. I see these as Win-Win proposals.

I like much of what the camping board proposed and will be going to camp next Monday. I think the mobile camps are fantastic! I suspect we need an appology tour and then move on to an exciting - more effecient - better quality, era.

Rev. Carl Knap said...

I would like to add 2 things to this discussion:
I am a board member of the Jo-Ota Methodist Association and have done much of the work writing our operational plan and budget. These documents can be found at
1.) Funding: we have the support of 51 churches in our area. These churches have all pledged an initial $50 for advertising and promotion of our petition. They have all indicated that when the camp is "sold" to us they will continue to give as part of their annual budget for missional giving. Jo-Ota also receives proceeds from a trust that was set up a number of years ago. The average amount of that trust is $31,000 per year. Individuals that will become a part of the association will pay yearly dues that will also help run the camp. Furthermore, we intend to add endowed funds to bolster our budget for years to come.

2.) Sale price: we have been told by the CFA that they can not recommend an affirmative vote for our petition because of the sale price figure of $1. CFA and the Camp Board are counting on sale proceeds to fund the new direction for camping. If these funds are not available they have told us they would need to raise apportionments. This would be resisted by many. The big issue our association has with this information is that the current rented sites are all south of I-70 and very few alternatives exist north of I-70. If Jo-Ota is sold our people will not have access to camping and retreats. This is sad.

I hope this helps.