Brother, can you spare a vowel (or two)?
So, you have stumbled across a few extra dollars you would like to make a charitable contribution.
Where would you most like to send it: MEF? UMVIM? UMCOR? GBGM? CCPI?
I have a suggestion. Perhaps we could use the money to buy a vowel or two for all the initial-heavy shorthand we use so often. I’d throw in a few bucks.
I thought, going back to a lengthy career as a sports writer and editor, that I was well versed in the use of initial shorthand. Baseball couldn’t survive without them: AB (at bats), RBI (runs batted in), HBP (hit by pitch), SB (stolen bases), CS (caught stealing), OBP (on base percentage), IP (innings pitched), ERA (earned run average), WP (wild pitches), PB (passed balls), PO (putouts). And this is just a sampling of baseball’s initial-philia.
But Major League Baseball (MLB) has nothing on the United Methodist Church (UMC). If we are not careful, our conversation can start to sound like we are reading random tiles pulled from a Scrabble box.
Certainly some shorthand, such as UMW (United Methodist Women) and UMM (United Methodist Men), is easy enough to decipher. But how about PAUMACS (Professional Association of United Methodist Church Secretaries) or GBOPHB (General Board of Pension and Health Benefits)?
Notice that PAUMACS added an “a” to the initialization of its name and GBOPHB left out an “a.” Did they work out a trade?
I am neither surprised, nor offended, when people refer to the North Georgia Advocate by the initials WCA (Wesleyan Christian Advocate). The NGA has been in publication less than two years. The WCA had a 170 year history, and three simple initials to remember. And habits are tough to break.
But the problem is not using the shorthand initials for different groups and agencies. The problem is when we so liberally sprinkle them into our conversation that we can forget that not everyone knows everything that we know.
Though I generally prefer to not publicize my ignorance, it can be difficult to hide at times. So, I was more than a bit curious when I came across a reference to the “CRSP calculator” on the NGUMC website. It sounded important, like something I should know. Unfortunately, I had no clue.
As I discovered after some digging, CRSP is shorthand for: Clergy Retirement Security Program. And now I know why CRSP needs a calculator. Couldn’t we just make it CRSPC for short?
And, in case you were not familiar with all the initials used in the second paragraph, here is the key:
MEF (Ministerial Education Fund), UMVIM (United Methodist Volunteers in Mission), UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief), GBGM (General Board of Global Ministries) and CCPI (Central Conference Pension Initiative).
In case those are not enough examples for you, here are a few other consonant-heavy shorthands in common use: GBHEM (General Board of Higher Education and Ministry), GCAH (General Commission on Archives & History), UMNS (United Methodist News Service), UMCOM (United Methodist Communications), GBCS (General Board of Church & Society), CIEMAL (Council of Evangelical Methodist Churches of Latin America), and GBOD (General Board of Discipleship).
One of the easier shorthands to remember, MUST Ministries, has a different sort of issue. MUST is an acronym for Ministries United in Service and Training, which means MUST Ministries uses the word “ministries” twice in its name.
But that is certainly better than being known as MUSTM.
This is GWH for the NGA, the official news source of the NGUMC.
Glenn Hannigan is editor of the North Georgia Advocate. If you have any other questions about the Advocate, or news to share, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.