The most uncomfortable conversation in the United Methodist Church is the stark reality that 99.4% of the global budget comes from the US Churches—$134 million a year, prior to COVID and US disaffiliations. Despite an anticipated 40% drop in revenue, this percentage will not change. What will change is the percentage of General Conference votes the US has to influence how this money is spent. Currently, the US has roughly 55% of the votes. In four years, that will likely flip to 45%. This is the proverbial elephant in the room at General Conference 2024 while we debate regionalization.
There is a growing sentiment in the US that we will not fund a church that constrains our outreach to our local mission field. Period. Here at Mainstream UMC, we have NEVER heard a group say that the US should not shoulder the lion’s share of the global financial burden of the church. From those who have much, much will be required. We support the global church’s right to make regional decisions (¶101), and we must have the same right for US churches.
The new Global Methodist Church has addressed the reality of minority vote/majority money by zeroing out the global mission budget. Instead, they invite the world to join a ceremonial table where they can compete for funding and sponsorships. If they are deemed worthy or garner enough attention, they might get sponsored by The Woodlands! Tom Lambrecht of Good News hails this as “a different way to do mission.” Finally, one thing we can agree upon—it’s different.
The United Methodist Church supports global mission by actually putting it into a quadrennial budget that everyone can count on. We cover the costs of the infrastructure for every episcopal office (UM Episcopal Fund). We support global staff and educational facilities (GBHEM). We have the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), on call, 24/7. We have an extensive vetting process for our mission partners to facilitate relationships with annual conferences and local churches (GBGM). We share our mission story through our global communications ministry (UMCOM). And, we do this with global financial accountability (GCFA). All of these will be pared back by necessity at General Conference 2024. But they will not be crassly eliminated.
What puts this funding at risk is our outdated structure that grants regional decision making only to those outside the US. We can ask ourselves a simple question: “If those outside the US demanded regional decision making in 2012 with ¶101, why would the US churches feel any differently?” Seriously, in this day and age, what organization stays together through coercion? True collaboration requires that we share both decision making and money. People will ultimately vote with their checkbook (withholding money) and with their feet (walking out the door).
This is exactly what has happened with many “traditional” churches in the US. They did not share the values with the other 75% of the US church, so they withheld apportionments for a generation and then withdrew altogether. The link below shows that many of the conferences hit the hardest by disaffiliations were already the annual conferences with the lowest apportionment payout.
Moving forward at General Conference 2024, without regional decision making for those remaining UMC in the US, the apportionment remittances from local churches will either dwindle or stop altogether. The US churches may even move towards creating a UMC, USA, similar to the Presbyterians and Lutherans. This is especially true if we are forced to fund the very trials of our LGBTQ siblings and their allies that we want to end! Call it whatever you want, this is our new reality.
Regionalization is the ONLY hope of holding together the global mission of the UMC. Voting for the status quo at General Conference 2024 will end the church as we know it. The remaining US church has reached a broad consensus to support regional governance. But it will take a 2/3 vote by the entire global church to make it a reality. If there is not a global consensus to trade control for mission, regionalization will fail. Instead of a connectional system sharing in mission and ministry together, we will all be connected in name only. Without regionalization, mission funding will be a dice roll and the games will begin.
Please support Mainstream UMC’s advocacy for shared global mission through regionalization at General Conference 2024.
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Rev. Dr. Mark Holland
Executive Director, Mainstream UMC
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FYI: The Woodlands is the wealthy flagship of the Global Methodist Church (GMC) that houses Good News and the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA). It is in suburban Houston and disaffiliated from the Texas Annual Conference.
Read how the GMC has abandoned Africa: https://mainstreamumc.com/blog/math-gmc-has-abandoned-africa/
Read Tom Lambrecht’s defense of abandoning Africa: https://tomlambrecht.goodnewsmag.org/another-mainstream-misunderstanding/
Read more about the global structure of the UMC: https://mainstreamumc.com/blog/global-governance-is-dead/
See the 2018 US giving map by annual conference, showing “traditional” conferences have been withholding apportionments for years: https://mainstreamumc.com/documents/resources/general-info-resources/2019-07-16MainstreamUMC-ConferenceGivingMap.pdf