During the Wednesday, June 8 afternoon business session, members of the South Georgia Annual Conference heard a report from the Conference’s Council on Finance and Administration (CFA).
In its report, the Council recommended an amended 2011 budget as well as a severely reduced 2012 budget.
On behalf of the CFA, Chairman Rev. Jimmy Cason presented the Conference with an amended 2011 budget of $12,272,099, down $323,782 from the previously approved budget of $12,595,881. He also presented a significantly slimmer budget for 2012, after the CFA slashed budget requests by $1,078,542. In their report, the CFA proposed a 2012 budget of $11,742,085, down from the requested $12,820,627.
Close attention was paid to financial matters in light of current realities, the CFA said. Both the 2011 and 2012 budgets were cut significantly because the current level of spending cannot be sustained.
The CFA proposed to eliminate the funding for the Georgia Christian Council and the Georgia Council on Moral and Civic Concerns ($19,000 each), Georgia Pastors’ School ($3,500), Comprehensive School for Clergy ($2,000), Vashti Center ($22,151), Open Door Community Center ($22,398) and Wesley Community Centers ($19,669), and proposed a reduction in the Christian Higher Education apportionment by 10 percent, or $81,984. The Office of Connectional Ministries, Pastoral Counseling, Board of Ordained Ministry, the Conference Treasurer’s Office, the Office of New and Revitalized Congregational Development, the Arthur J. Moore Museum at Epworth, and the Bishop and Cabinet voluntarily made reductions in their budgets for 2011 and 2012.
After much discussion and debate, both budgets were approved.
A notable motion was made by Helen Rhea Stumbo, a lay delegate from Fort Valley United Methodist Church. She urged the Conference to consider studying the feasibility and cost-saving implications of reducing the number of districts by at least one. The motion was seconded and passed, and the study will be drawn and presented at the 2012 Annual Conference session.
The CFA will continue to monitor income and expenses very closely, and the newly formed Mission Sustainability Task Group, an ad hoc group of conference leaders who are committed to increasing the church’s mission while reducing expenses, will search for ways to help churches with stewardship development in the current financial climate while also looking for ways to help sustain the disciple-making ministries of local churches and the conference.
“As we worked together looking at conference expenses, a common set of values was evident,” said Dr. Brad Brady, assistant to the Bishop for Connectional Ministries and a member of the Task Group. “We realized that we were all seeking to sustain the mission of making disciples while being faithful stewards of financial resources. Creative funding solutions were sought to reduce the budget while sustaining the ministry. While we will continue to monitor income and expenses, the task group will now begin looking at ways to support local church leaders in growing the spiritual disciplines around stewardship in their congregations.”
Rev. Cason reminded the conference that, despite present circumstances, they are not alone and that God will sustain them.
“These are very, very painful choices,” he said, “but we serve a God of abundance and not a God of scarcity. He is not finished with us yet, but He has called us to be wise stewards of what He’s given us.”
--By Kara Witherow, South Georgia Advocate Editor