Photo: The 2008 General Conference. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS
The Connectional Table and the General Council on Finance and Administration will ask General Conference delegates to approve a $603 million budget for seven general church apportionments during the 2013-2016 quadrennium.
That proposed amount calls for a 6.04 percent reduction from the previous four years and marks the first time since the 1968 formation of the UMC that a smaller budget will be proposed to General Conference. Other proposed quadrennial budgets increased the dollar amounts, but they did not keep pace with inflation.
The $603 million sounds like a whopping amount, but it is only 3 percent of the total expenditures of the denomination.
Slightly over a penny of every dollar given by local church members supports the ministries of all general agencies.
Only one half of one percent (0.5%) of that World Service penny is allocated to ministries of UM Men. In 2011, the General Commission on UM Men raised 75 percent of its own budget, but it relied on World Service dollars for the remaining 25 percent.
Each year of the 2009-2012 quadrennium, the commission received around $340,000 from World Service. That amount would decline by 6.5 percent in the 2013-2016 quadrennium (a loss of $22,100). The amount given to the commission could decrease by another 10 percent if the budget were to be reallocated after General Conference (a loss of an additional $31,790).
If the legislative assembly were to approve both recommendations, the commission would have to raise an additional $53,890 per year beyond its normal budget. That does not factor in inflationary costs.
Additional cuts possible
While those cuts would severely limit funds for scouting and men’s ministry, there are also proposals that would entirely eliminate World Service funds for the commission, resulting in an annual deficit of $340,000.
Proposals to drop general church funds for the commission result from a proposal that would make UM Women and UM Men into “membership-based” organizations apart from the five offices that would fund nine general agencies.
The elimination of World Service monies would alter the presence of the commission within the connection, and the elimination of funds would come after the commission reallocated resources to provide additional assistance to local churches and districts through men’s ministry specialists, scouting ministry specialists and deployed staff.
Factors that go into general church apportionment projections include: church membership, inflation, per-capita disposable income, “giving elasticity” (the percent of giving from increased revenue), net spending and the U.S. gross domestic product. The recent volatility in the U.S. stock market illustrates why the long-term prospect for giving is often difficult to anticipate.
General Conference may adjust the recommended budget.
Constitutional amendment proposed
Delegates will be asked to begin the process of amending the Constitution to empower a unit of the denomination to make budget adjustments between conference sessions. At present, after General Conference adjourns, no entity can make changes to the allocated budgets.
To be ratified, constitutional amendments must win a two-thirds majority of General Conference delegates and two-thirds of the aggregate number of members voting during the following sessions of annual conferences.
If the constitutional amendment and the proposed new structure is approved, the Board of Directors of the UM Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry may recommend to the 45-member General Council for Strategy and Oversight, reallocating $60 million during the 2013-2016 quadrennium.
The proposal calls for the center to use the funds to support development of young people's lay leadership; theological education in central conferences, recruiting and training ministerial students under the age of 35, and creating vital congregations.
Agency staff reductions
General agencies have been reducing the size of their staffs over the last decades. In 1971 there were 3,139 staff members in 11 general agencies. In 2010, there were only 1,384 staff members in 13 general agencies.
In 1997, the first year of the General Commission on UM Men, there were 11 staff members. In 2012 there are seven full-time staffers and one part-time. This paid staff is supplemented by volunteers, including four deployed staff members, 29 men’s ministry specialist and 130 scouting ministry specialists.
If proposed reductions are passed by General Conference, there will be fewer agencies and fewer staff members. There will also be some 350 fewer board members to oversee the remaining staffers.
Study group recommendations
The General Council on Finance and Administration did not support two study group proposals: One to combine the seven general apportioned funds into one fund and to shift the apportionment formula from an expenditure-based model to an income-based model.
The council did support a study group’s recommendation to emphasize stewardship as a spiritual discipline.