UMC Split May Lead to 20% Drop in Giving to Denomination’s Global Ministries

Members of the Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts attend worship at First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto, Calif. A UMNS photo by Deborah White

The exit of congregations from the United Methodist Church will cost 20% of local churches’ net expenditures and force changes in how they contribute to the denomination’s global ministries, say UMC budget officials.

The board of the General Council on Finance and Administration heard the bad news at its meeting before the Thanksgiving holiday. Council personnel calculated the figure based on surveys returned from 47 UMC conferences nationwide.

“This is a plan that in a year of uncertainty is meant to be conservative because we don’t know what is going to happen,” Council CFO Rick King told the panel, according to United Methodist News.

Historically, the UMC has an apportionment, or assessed donation, from each of the 54 U.S. conferences to go toward denomination-wide ministries. The amount for each has been based on spending by the conference’s local churches, costs those congregations pay, how strong the conference is economically, and a base percentage that the worldwide General Conference approves.

With a split over same-sex marriage and allowing non-celibate LGBT clergy likely to be approved at the next General Conference in 2021 — postponed from earlier this year due to COVID-19 concerns — the finance agency has recommended dropping the economic strength factor. King said in 2018 that U.S. conference treasurers view the multiplier as “not transparent.”

At the same time, the GCFA has planned to lower the base percentage to bolster local churches, which have been losing members and income as well as seeing fewer profess the faith and a drop in worship attendance. The cut would put apportionments at 2.7% of local church spending by conference.

Pre-COVID-19, nationally, the UMC’s giving per member was increasing slightly. However, apportionment giving this year was down nearly $12 million through October. That pace would mean payment of only about 70% of the $151 million in apportionments budgeted for 2020, worse than during the 2008-2010 recession. In comparison, 85% of apportionments were paid in 2019.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Kyle Huckins