United Methodists Balance Budgets, Needs

Delegates to the United Methodist General Conference are wrestling with ministries to address global needs and the ability of local churches to fund those programs.

While the top fiscal agency of the United Methodist Church proposes a 2005-08 budget of $585 million, the financial administration legislative committee estimates the 10-million-member church could apportion a total of $612 million.

On May 7, the final day of the conference, delegates will establish the general church budget and decide how the amounts will be raised.

As of the May 6 morning session, delegates had added $43.8 million to the $585 million budget proposed by the General Council on Finance and Administration. All requests for additional funds will now be considered by the financial agency before final presentation to General Conference on May 7, the final day of the assembly.

During the afternoon and evening of May 6, the 40-member agency will balance financial requests with their belief in the ability of local church members to raise the proposed totals. Agency members will re-examine budget requests and consider whether the totals will all be included in apportioned totals or in an asking such as an Advance Special, a World Service Special Gift or even the creation of a new apportioned fund.

The final proposed Council on Finance and Administration budget will also be considered by the Financial Administration Committee. That body of General Conference members may propose amendments to that report.

 The original $585 million recommendation was created from a process that took place over the last 2001-04 quadrennium.

The Council on Finance and Administration received requests from all general boards and agencies, and considered other needs funded by the seven general apportioned funds for ministries around the world.

In fall 2002, representatives from every annual conference and general agency told the council of mounting pressure regarding pension accounts and health insurance. They also expressed concern about the state of the economy. This, combined with the statistics that there are 216 fewer churches in 2004 than 2000, led the group to assume an attitude of fiscal conservatism. The recommendation represents less than a 5 percent increase each year.

“You have an awesome responsibility,” Sandra Lackore, the council’s top staff executive, told the conference. “You must decide the core missional and financial priorities — in a word, the values of our denomination for the next four years, and many years beyond.”

*Sueanne Whorl is a correspondent for United Methodist News Service.

News media contact: (412) 325-6080 during General Conference, April 27-May 7.  After May 10: (615) 742-5470.

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