The financial woes of 2017 are in the rearview mirror for Yellowstone United Methodist Conference.
The conference raised more than $100,000 in a special Harvest Time Legacy campaign and for the first time in a long time, the conference is paying 100 percent of general church giving.
“I am so grateful for the people of the Yellowstone Conference for their faithful giving! We came together during a time of great need and showed that we can make things happen as we bear witness as disciples of Christ,” said Bishop Karen Oliveto, leader of the Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain conferences, which make up the Mountain Sky Area.
For the fourth consecutive year, Rocky Mountain also paid 100 percent of their apportionments.
Last summer, the Revs. Jeremy W. Scott, vital congregations developer for the Mountain Sky Area, and Jeff Rainwater, superintendent of the Wyoming district, presented the report “Financial Crisis” during the 2017 annual conference session. The report stated, “Unprecedented financial challenges have emerged in the last five months radically challenging our short term sustainability.”
The finance report showed the conference heading toward a forecast deficit of $303,356 by the end of 2017. The conference has been aware of looming financial trouble for several years. In 2011, the General Council on Finance and Administration, the denomination’s finance agency, did an assessment of the conference and found the future was uncertain.
Oliveto, the first openly gay bishop in the denomination, was assigned to the Mountain Sky Area at the 2016 Western Jurisdiction meeting.
“A small minority of churches have reduced their support of the conference because of stances we've taken on social issues, such as our support of demonstrators at Standing Rock. Within that minority are a few who were opposed to the election and assignment of our bishop because of her sexual orientation,” said Charmaine Robledo, director of communications, Mountain Sky Area.
The Rev. David Burt, assistant to the bishop, said many churches, groups and individuals contributed to getting the conference back on track.
“Individuals from as far away as Texas, Michigan, California, Oregon, Washington, D.C., and Florida sent gifts,” he said.
Two small membership churches — Hyattville United Methodist Church in Wyoming and Troy United Methodist Church in Montana — were highlighted in a letter and video of thanks that went out from the conference.
“Hyattville doubled their mission share payment to the conference. So not only did they pay their apportionments in full, they were able to give the same amount over and above their apportionment,” Burt said. “How they managed to do that I am not sure, but incredibly grateful to them for their commitment.”
Burt said Troy was able to give significantly from their endowment to the Harvest Time Campaign fund.
“They recognized the need and found a way to respond to the need,” he said. “Troy is a small community in northwest Montana that was hit hard economically when the asbestos mines closed. The church there is a major community organization.”
Burt said several groups from the Rocky Mountain Conference gave to their “sister” conference.
Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain conferences are exploring becoming one conference, and will be holding a joint annual conference June 7-10 at the Eccles Conference Center in Ogden, Utah.
Yellowstone Conference will be continuing its efforts with the Harvest Time Legacy Campaign into 2018. The desire is to enter a new relationship with the Rocky Mountain Conference in a strong position, Burt said.
Oliveto said that paying 100 percent of the general church apportionments is an affirmation of “our commitment and connection to The United Methodist Church.”