Seventeen Conferences Pay 100 Percent Of General Church Commitment

February 24, 2009

A UMNS Report

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

Feb. 23, 2009

In one single action, United Methodists in the Baltimore-Washington Annual (regional) Conference trained thousands of clergy and laity, granted more than $1 million to congregations, helped more than 100 students go to college and began a partnership with an East European annual conference - just to name a few.

How? They gave 100 percent to The United Methodist Church's seven apportioned global ministry funds.

Baltimore-Washington was one of 17 U.S. annual conferences that gave 100 percent or more in 2008, according to the United Methodist Council on Finance and Administration.

Other conferences that gave at that level are Alaska, Central Pennsylvania, Central Texas, East Ohio, Eastern Pennsylvania, Greater New Jersey, Illinois Great Rivers, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma Indian Missionary, Peninsula-Delaware, Red Bird Missionary, Rio Grande, West Michigan and Wisconsin.

The Illinois Great Rivers conference reported on its Web site that despite an economic downturn globally, apportionment receipts for January 2009 were 0.57 percent ahead of January 2008.

"Your congregations are continuing to step up to the plate and meet the challenge," said Bishop Gregory Palmer, leader of the conference, at a gathering in February. "While the news media may be saying we're in a downward slide, we are showing the world that God's resources are abundant."

Rick Van Giesen, Illinois Great Rivers conference treasurer and director of administrative services, agreed with Palmer's assessment.

"It is both heartening and astounding that even in the midst of this brutal economy, our people continue to give faithfully. There is no question that good folks are giving sacrificially. The impact of their contributions is being felt, literally, around the world!"

Thirty-seven conferences increased their apportioned giving in 2008. The total collected from all 63 U.S. conferences was $130.6 million. The total percentage paid in 2008 was 86.24 percent of the apportioned amount of $150.97 million, said A. Moses Rathan Kumar, top executive for the denomination's financial agency.

In 2007, 89.6 percent of the apportioned amount was collected, and 23 conferences paid 100 percent.

"Indicators of the U.S. financial markets tell us our levels of giving should be down significantly," Kumar said. "The numbers in this report indicate that the people of The United Methodist Church see a different reality."

Ways we give

The general funds of The United Methodist Church include World Service, Africa University, Black College, Episcopal, General Administration, Interdenominational Cooperation and Ministerial Education. The General Conference, the denomination's top lawmaking body, establishes budgets for the general funds.

The general funds are supported through the payment of apportioned funds throughout the church. Annual conferences use a specific formula to determine how much money they need for the apportioned funds, and that is divided among local churches. In addition, individuals, local churches, districts and annual conferences may make monetary gifts to the designated funds, of which 100 percent goes directly to a specific project or ministry.

This connectional giving enables the denomination to conduct training for church leadership, respond to emergency needs around the world, provide resources for spiritual development, promote racial and social justice, and participate in many global ministries, Kumar said.

"Giving has its biblical foundation," said Kumar and Bishop Lindsey Davis, president of the finance agency's board of directors, in a joint statement. "As recorded in 1 Chronicles 29:12-14 we honor God when we give generously.

"We take this opportunity to acknowledge the generous giving of local churches to the ministries of The United Methodist Church that impact lives," they said. "Every person touched by the ministries of the Church has been enriched by your giving. Thank you for your faithfulness to the United Methodist connection and for your participation in apportionment giving."

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.