By Kara Witherow, Editor
In a time when not much is certain, this is clear: the South Georgia Conference is connectional.
Despite uncertainty in The United Methodist Church and concerns for the denomination’s future, South Georgia’s apportionment giving remains steady. As of the end of July, the Conference is on pace to pay local and regional apportionments at the same rate as were paid in 2018.
The Conference also approved a 2020 budget of $9,326,184, a more than 7 percent decrease from the 2019 budget. This follows a 6 percent decrease from the year before. Since 2010, the conference budget has been reduced by 25 percent.
Deliberate choices were made by the Conference’s Council on Finance and Administration (CF&A) and the Annual Conference to prioritize local church budgets over the conference budget.
“We recognized that anytime we put money in the conference budget we have stopped the local church’s ability to decide how to spend it and what ministries they want to support themselves,” said Dr. Derek McAleer, Director of Administrative Services.
Keeping more money in local churches is a priority, said Dr. McAleer, and is why CF&A has worked hard to reduce the Conference budget $3 million – from $12.5 million to just under $9.5 million – in the past 10 years.
“Every budget year we are looking more carefully at each item and asking if it is something so important to our overall ministry that we need to require our local churches to support it,” he said. “That’s difficult because we weren’t supporting anything that was a waste. Everything in our budget was good; the question was how much do you substitute the conference’s selection of good ministry for a local church’s choice of what’s good ministry?”
Much of the reason for the reduction in next year’s budget is because the liabilities for the pre-1982 pensions and benefits have been paid.
The world has changed in the past 10 years, and the budget has reflected it. A shift to more digital communication and fewer printed and mailed items has saved $100,000. CF&A has also urged meeting organizers to rethink travel and the ways in which they meet.
“We don’t communicate the same way, we don’t interact the same way,” Dr. McAleer said “Things have changed; technology provides us with options we didn’t have before.”
Even after the 2019 General Conference session, where the passage of the Traditional Plan left the denomination deeply divided, giving to general church askings is down only 5.5 percent.
The continued paying of apportionments is encouraging, said Randy Griffin, CF&A chair and a member of Martha Bowman United Methodist Church in Macon.
“I think it exemplifies a continued spirit of unity and wanting to remain unified,” he said. “We’re really excited about seeing that level of support keeping up with where we were last year in spite of all the conversations going on.”
For every dollar given to the local church, 90 cents stays in the local church. Eight cents goes to Conference apportionments, 1.25 cents goes toward district apportionments, and less than 1 cent goes toward Advance Specials.
“Getting the funds back in the local church allows us to reach out in many more directions than we would otherwise be able to,” Griffin said. “I am very thankful that the local churches are able to keep more of their receipts to do things within their church and their communities.”
CF&A, the Administrative Services Team, and the Communications Team have prepared several documents to help explain the budget. Click here to access them.