The California-Pacific Conference sent a letter to all their churches with advice on connectional giving options that includes withholding or redirecting apportionment contributions as a demonstration of their rejection of 2019 General Conference votes.
Bishop Grant Hagiya, episcopal leader of the conference, and Howard Hudson, president of the California-Pacific Council on Finance and Administration, sent the message on April 10.
The letter is a guide and not a directive, the two leaders said.
Hagiya said the letter was prompted by over a dozen local churches that have contacted the conference stating they would be withholding apportionments because of the outcome of the 2019 General Conference.
“Most of the churches are just angry with the support of the Traditional Plan and do not want to support the General Conference and larger church in their own mind,” Hagiya said.
“They don't have a nuanced understanding of how the connection works, and we want to take this opportunity to educate them on apportionments. For example, the MEF (Ministerial Education Fund) primarily goes to support our seminaries and Course of Study, with a percentage going back to our own Board of Ordained Ministry. We need to teach our churches how integral this connection really is.”
The special session of the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly passed the Traditional Plan, which strengthens enforcement of bans on “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy and same-sex weddings. The decision keeps the Book of Discipline language that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.
General Conference is the only entity that speaks for the denomination. The special session was held in St. Louis, Missouri, Feb. 23-26.
“When we look at the apportionment numbers, many of our churches have not sent in funds after the special called session,” Hagiya said.
The letter was a proactive way of educating the whole conference about apportionment giving, he said.
“Instead of not receiving any apportionments from some churches, we thought it would be better to provide some alternatives to this general protest anger,” he said.
Apportioned funding is a way of giving that proportionally allocates the churchwide budget for payment by conferences and local churches. A local church or annual conference’s assigned portion of giving supports international, national and conference ministries. Earlier this month, the two groups responsible for putting together the general church budget approved a plan for how to divide significantly reduced funds.
“I have been trying to teach folks that this is not the fault of our Central Conferences, but rather a breakdown in the whole system, and a dated constitutional system that does not work anymore,” Hagiya said.
Hagiya said the California-Pacific Conference Council on Finance and Administration “will look at final numbers and provide as much support as we can to the general church's transformational mission and ministry.”
The letter said the conference didn’t want to “increase the harm of the General Conference by impacting those critical ministries to which we are committed.”
“Personally, I support the connectional system wholeheartedly and tell our Cal-Pac churches that directly. However, many of them are so upset at recent actions that is not something that they can hear right now,” Hagiya said.
“Our action is an attempt to open lines of communication and respond in a more proactive way. Instead of local churches just withholding all of their apportionments as a form of protest, we hope to work with them and help them understand how our connection works in a transformational way,” he added.
The Western Jurisdiction leadership has asked the General Council on Finance and Administration for a detailed breakdown of the World Service Fund.
Sharon Dean, chief officer of communications and marketing for GCFA, said the leaders had been notified that the information about distributions from the World Service Fund is public information and available in the 2017-2020 Financial Commitment Book posted on the GCFA website.
Hagiya and Howard reminded congregations that 76 percent of local church apportionments stay in the conference.
“This is a time when we need every congregation to step up in faithful giving by funding our local mission and ministry at 100 percent and to support the work of the Western Jurisdiction by contributing the small percentage asked for that work as well. Those amounts for each congregation are stated on the monthly remittance form,” the letter explained.