$604 million general church budget passes
Goodbye, historically low budget. Hello, slight increase.
General Conference delegates approved a general church budget of $604 million for 2017-2020.
That represents a slight rise over the $603.1 million approved at the 2012 General Conference and an increase over the $599 million budget proposed to the 2016 delegates. That budget proposal came from the directors of the General Council on Finance and Administration and the Connectional Table.
Delegates added $5 million to the proposed budget to double the Central Conference Theological Education Fund, which supports United Methodist schools, pastors and pastors-in-training in Africa, Asia and Europe.
The delegates also approved a formula for a new source of giving: apportionments from United Methodists in central conferences to both the Episcopal Fund, which they have long supported, and the General Administration Fund. The requested giving is $5.1 million.
General Conference establishes the total amount of money needed to support church wide ministries. That amount is then apportioned mainly to conferences in the United States, which in turn ask for apportionments from local churches.
The final budget won approval by a vote of 751 to 33. It allocates the following:
- World Service Fund: $310.7 million
- Ministerial Education Fund: $104.9 million
- Episcopal Fund: $92 million
- Black College Fund: $41.9 million
- General Administration Fund: $36.9 million
- Africa University: Nearly $9.4 million
- Interdenominational Cooperation Fund: $8.2 million
Funds help with such denomination-wide endeavors as planting new churches, providing resources for evangelism, supporting theological education, advocating for church social teachings, engaging in international development and cultivating new mission fields.
Impact on local church offering
United Methodists in the U.S. will still bear the lion's share of general church expenses.
The finance agency requests apportionments from each U.S. conference based on a formula that includes its local church expenditures, local church costs, the economic strength of the conference and a base percentage approved by General Conference.
Even with the slight budget increase, U.S. local churches are unlikely to feel much effect.
U.S. churches, on average, retain slightly more than 85 cents of every dollar they collect in their offering plates.
Most of the giving outside the local church goes to support jurisdictions, episcopal areas, annual conferences, districts and direct-billed pension and health benefits.
The percentage of local church expenditures given to the general church has gone down from about 2.27 percent in 2002 to 2.14 percent in 2014. In other words, about 2 cents of every dollar in the offering plate goes toward the general church budget.
Adapted from a story by Heather Hahn, multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service, a part of United Methodist Communications.