May 25, 2023 | by Heather Hahn
The United Methodist Church will look and operate very differently going forward.
That was the frequent refrain at a May 17-19 meeting that saw the denomination’s financial leaders shrink an already record-low proposal for the denominational budget in the wake of new projected losses from church disaffiliations and closures. The leaders also heard input on reducing the number of United Methodist bishops.
Yet even while grieving the departures, the leaders also discussed The United Methodist Church’s opportunities to revitalize and share God’s love with renewed vigor.
“Thinking about mission and ministry while trying to ensure stewardship for years to come is a delicate balance,” said the Rev. Moses Kumar, top executive of the denomination’s General Council on Finance and Administration.
“All of us have dedicated hours to this because each one of us cares deeply about The United Methodist Church.”
He was addressing a gathering that brought together the boards of both the finance agency and the Connectional Table, a leadership body that coordinates denominational ministries and resources.
The GCFA board now is proposing a 2025-2028 denominational budget of about $370.5 million to next year’s General Conference, the denomination’s top policymaking assembly. That’s about $3 million less than the budget the finance agency began working on last fall.
The new bottom line also marks a nearly 40% reduction from the denomination-wide budget that General Conference approved at its last regular meeting in 2016.
The proposal requires significant cuts to all funds that support denomination-wide ministries — including United Methodist general agencies and bishops.
It also will be the lowest budget to come before General Conference since 1984, when the international denomination had far fewer members on the African continent and had yet to establish Africa University, now supported with denominational funds.
Figuring out how to manage such steep reductions and maintain vital ministry around the globe has been a source of tension between the GCFA and Connectional Table directors.
However, after months of negotiations, the two groups on May 18 each unanimously approved recommendations on how to divvy up a much-smaller budget.
“We’ve had some disagreements with GCFA, and we’re happy to end in a spirit of agreement on these numbers,” said Dave Nuckols, the Connectional Table’s treasurer, in presenting the leadership body’s recommended budget allocations.
However, he added that he hoped conversations could continue to restore the collaborative budget process the two boards had previously used in developing the budget recommendations that go before General Conference.
Both the GCFA board and Connectional Table have long agreed the denomination-wide budget should be significantly reduced. But they differed on how low to go while still sustaining ministries at all levels of the denomination.
In The United Methodist Church, local churches provide a share of church giving — called apportionments — to annual conferences, church regional bodies that in turn pay apportionments to general-church ministries.
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