Author: Rev. Dr. Mark R. Holland, Executive Director, Mainstream UMC
We already know that the churches in the United States currently fund 99.4% of the $134 million annual budget for the global church, with only 56% (and declining) of the votes at General Conference to decide how it is spent. But the official 2018 report by the General Council for Finance and Administration (GCFA) tells us some troubling things we did not know.
During the 2019 annual conference sessions in the United States 41 out of 54 annual conferences elected a majority of delegates who reject the Traditional Plan. Remarkably, The GCFA report shows that these 41 centrist/progressive annual conferences contribute a whopping 78% ($104.2 million) of the total global annual budget. The 4 annual conferences that are 50/50 or unknown regarding the delegates contribute 5% ($6.3 million). There are only ten US annual conferences that elected delegations with a majority in favor of the Traditional Plan. These ten give 17% ($22.3 million) of the global annual budget. Clearly, the lion’s share of the resources come from those who reject the Traditional Plan. Click on the link below for the full color map of the giving.
But this is not the most alarming data in the report.
The 2018 GCFA report shows that these 10 annual conferences, who are the most supportive of the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA), are among the worst at paying out their global apportionments. In fact, 8 of these 10 paid less than 90% of what was expected. By comparison, 8 out of 10 of the 41 centrist/progressive annual conferences paid more than 90% of what was expected. Notably, of the four conferences that are 50/50 or unknown, two paid more than 90% and two paid less. A look-back at GCFA reports to 2015 shows a troubling pattern of WCA annual conferences consistently withholding global apportionments.
Red Bird Missionary and Western Pennsylvania are the only 2 of the 10 who consistently pay 100% of their global apportionment every year. Kentucky has historically paid 100% but in 2018 dropped to 80%. For the rest of the group, underpayment is a pattern. Alabama-West Florida, Oklahoma, and South Georgia consistently pay in the mid-80th percent of what is apportioned to them. Mississippi and North Alabama consistently pay in the mid-70th percent of apportionments. This puts in perspective the seven churches that just left the Mississippi Annual Conference. There seem to be a lot of local churches in these conferences that are simply not invested in our global mission. Leaving is just the next step.
That brings us to the great state of Texas. The three annual conferences that elected moderate delegations (Central Texas, North Texas, and Rio Texas) all paid more than 90% of their apportionments in 2018. The two annual conferences that support the WCA are another story. Northwest Texas is the lowest payout conference in the entire United States, paying only 55% in 2018, a further 9% drop from the already abysmal previous three years. A clergy member from that conference boasted to me last fall that he thought “the Northwest Texas Annual Conference is the most conservative conference in the whole connection.” Well, if by “most conservative” he means withholding the most money from the global church, he is absolutely right.
The most surprising on this list is the Texas Annual Conference (Houston area) which has the third lowest payout in the whole connection. This conference has reduced its payout every year from 94% in 2015, to 87% in 2016, to 72% in 2017, to 67% in 2018. But considering the wealth of the conference, last year alone they withheld a mind-blowing $2.4 million from the global church. We should not forget this conference is the headquarters of Rob Renfroe and the Good News movement who are working in tandem with the WCA to divide the church. And, this is the home of WCA Bishop Scott Jones who just co-authored a plan for GC 2020 that calls for the dissolution of the global church.
Finally, the consistent pattern of WCA annual conferences underpaying apportionments reveals what a complete fraud the WCA “Central Conference Ministry Fund” really is. This fund was recently launched in May of 2019 and currently serves as a major publicity stunt on the front page of their website. This fund purportedly offsets the loss of funds from “moderate and progressive pastors and organizations” who have raised concerns following the Special Session in February 2019. Without a hint of irony, WCA President, Rev. Keith Boyette introduced their new fund:
“Unlike some UM leaders, the Wesleyan Covenant Association has refrained from calling on local churches to withhold apportionments and gifts as a political weapon. We do acknowledge that payment of apportionments presents an ethical dilemma for faithful United Methodists where our church’s teachings are flagrantly disregarded and remain unenforced. We have urged our members to be wise and discerning about the giving of their tithes and offerings, understanding that we each have many options available to support the Lord’s work…By giving to the Central Conference Ministry Fund, donors can be assured that the work of churches and annual and central conferences outside of the United States are not adversely impacted by the conflict in the UM Church.”
And yet, accidently, with no encouragement, 8 out of the 10 annual conferences where the WCA has the most influence, combined to withhold more than $6 million from the global church in 2018. And the WCA has the audacity to try and raise $200,000 to offset their own adverse impact on the Central Conferences—and to blame the deficit on moderates and progressives! Unbelievable.
This raises a fundamental question about funding for the four advocacy groups who call themselves the “reform and renewal coalition.” Good News, the Confessing Movement, Institute for Religion and Democracy, and the Wesleyan Covenant Association list a combined 27 staff members. Have these organizations used their significant influence in their annual conferences to promote funding the ministries of the global United Methodist Church through apportionments or to promote funding their own advocacy and infrastructure? You decide.
The GCFA reports have a story to tell. It is a story the church needs to hear.
Mainstream UMC is also working to raise $200,000. With no pretense, we simply seek to offset the influence of the 27 staff members in the other advocacy organizations leading up to GC 2020. Please tithe to your local church. We will happily accept your offerings at www.MainstreamUMC.com/donate. Thank you.
A note about the Central Conferences. GCFA does not list giving by individual conferences outside the United States, only the cumulative total. In 2018, The Central Conferences contributed a combined $788,000 to the global church, which is only a 65% payout of their total apportionment. This percentage would rank them 2nd to last in the US. And, because we do not know the breakout, we cannot see who gave what. We should remember that the delegates from outside the United States provided 60% of the votes for the Traditional Plan. Without their full-throated support, it never would have passed. Conferences in Western Europe are the only conferences outside the US that have systematically rejected the Traditional Plan.
Here is the Money Map for the Global UMC: www.MainstreamUMC.com
Here is the Delegate Map for the US annual conferences: www.MainstreamUMC.com
Read more about the 2019 annual conference election of delegates: https://mainstreamumc.com/blog/76-of-us-annual-conferences-reject-traditional-plan/
Here is the 2017-2018 GCFA report: https://mainstreamumc.com/documents/resources/general-info-resources/2017-2018GCFAReport.pdf
Here is the 2015-2016 GCFA report: https://mainstreamumc.com/documents/resources/general-info-resources/2015-2016GCFAReport.pdf
Read more about the seven churches that recently left Mississippi: https://www.umnews.org/en/news/7-mississippi-churches-exit-denomination
Read more about the proposal co-authored by Bishop Jones and Bishop Bard: https://www.umnews.org/en/news/two-bishops-offer-plan-for-denominations-future
Read more about the WCA “Central Conference Ministry Fund”: https://wesleyancovenant.org/2019/05/16/wca-launches-mission-fund-for-threatened-global-ministries/