Faced with the problem of a small, declining congregation, Rev. Dr. Bill Jenkins could see the writing on the wall.
Closure was eminent.
Having served as Pastor of Christ United Methodist Church (San Diego, CA) for 12 years, Dr. Jenkins had a good idea of how the church could best minister to its neighborhood. “Will you trust me?” So, with the support of Conference leaders during that time, Bill set out to pursue his vision and author a new story for his church.
Christ United Methodist Ministry Center
In June of 2011, the California Pacific Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church transferred the charter from Christ United Methodist Church to Christ United Methodist Ministry Center. Dr. Jenkins then retired from the pulpit and became Executive Director of Christ Ministry Center. Now actively operating in the heart of San Diego, the Center achieves its purpose by offering a home for “homeless congregations” to worship and minister, and for public benefit charities to help the helpless.
Currently, a dozen ministries call the Christ Ministry Center home, representing a variety of denominations as well as serving diverse ethnic, cultural and language backgrounds. In addition, several charitable organizations reside in the center ranging from a food pantry and addiction recovery programs to a ministry for women recently released from prison. The Ministry Center is a thriving place now, welcoming 1,000 people through its doors each week.
While the instruction manual for developing a ministry center had to be written from scratch, its mandate for caring for the under-served came directly from Scripture. Feeding the hungry, quenching spiritual thirst, clothing the naked, ministering to the sick, caring for captives, and befriending strangers as specified by Jesus in Matthew 25 are the aspects of discipleship supported by the Christ Ministry Center.
Along the way, a special friendship was formed between Dr. Jenkins and Dr. Donald Owens, the Pastor of the Exodus Baptist Church and tenant at the Christ Ministry Center. Dr. Owens found favor with the missional outreach and connectional structure of the United Methodist Church. Dr. Jenkins admired the quality work of the Baptist-based resident ministry.
At some point, Dr. Owens asked how his congregation might become a United Methodist ministry. In fact, what began was a conversation among four ministries: Christ Chapel (members of the former Christ UMC), the Spanish language ministry of the former Christ UMC, a Haitian Methodist ministry, and the Baptist ministry.
All four of these ministries celebrated the Wesleyan ways of ministry and it seemed to be the right decision to be in conversation. Eventually, after three years of hard work and prayer with Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño and South District Superintendent Rev. John Farley, Exodus United Methodist Church held its Constituting Conference on Sunday, February 15, 2015. Following worship and an election of its Church Council, Exodus Church held the first Charge Conference of its 240 members. The death of a former congregation has given a new and transformed life to a vibrant faith community!
A Model for Other Urban Churches
When asked if Christ United Methodist Center (and the birth of Exodus Church) was a model for other urban churches to follow, Dr. Jenkins says, “Yes! We are not doing anything new. We are a modern day Foundry,” referring to the former London canon foundry used by John Wesley in the 1700’s for evangelism and ministries to the poor.
“I just prayed, ‘don’t let me mess it up,’” he adds modestly.
Dr. Jenkins reluctantly admits that three things were also helpful in leadership of a new kind of ministry: “An entrepreneurial drive with an ecumenical spirit and good business sense.”
David Stump, former Lay Leader of Christ United Methodist Church, credits Dr. Jenkins’ “perseverance and determination to make it work” as instrumental in the accomplishments of Christ United Methodist Ministry Center.
“Bill’s faithfulness to honor the Gospel, patience, and passion for building relationships were the linchpin that held everything together,” states Stump. “Of course, there were miracles along the way, too.”
How You Can Help
Become a donor to support Christ United Methodist Ministry Center and its efforts to help the helpless. Donors will receive tax-deductible receipts for the donations and be recognized on its donor webpage. Contact Dr. Bill Jenkins (888) 282-6367 or firstname.lastname@example.org to become a Sponsor or Partner, or donate online at MyFount.com.
By Susan Naslund, Companion Staff