|United Methodist giving trails last year by 5 percent
By Joretta Purdue
A continuing decline in income is reducing the funds available for United Methodist missions and ministry.
The portion of giving that is channeled hrough the annual (regional) conferences to the eneral church is down about $3 million, or 5 ercent, for the first three quarters of the year ompared with the same period last year.
Income for all but one of the denomination's even apportioned funds is down when receipts re compared with those of a year earlier, the church's General Council on Finance and Administration reported. Apportioned funds suport the work of the church both in outreach and administration. Congregations and annual conerences support the funds based on a formula.
Income from our local churches and annual onferences has run consistently behind last ear, said Sandra Kelley Lackore, denominaonal treasurer and top staff executive of the nance agency in Evanston, Ill. Our agencies, ur bishops and all our directly funded entities re adjusting their spending plans.
Receipts for the apportioned funds totaled early $59.5 million, down 5 percent from the 62.6 million at this time last year.
This is a challenging financial time for many f our annual conferences, Lackore noted.
Across the denomination, lower interest rates, he down investment market for 2000-2002, and ignificantly increased health insurance costs for oth active and retired participants are impacting he bottom line of local churches, annual confernces, agencies and the Council of Bishops.
In many locales, receipt levels are increasing t a slower rate than expenses, resulting in less unds being available for support of the mission of our denomination at every level, she added.
Of the apportioned funds, only the General Administration Fund was up from last year in the Sept. 30 report. Totaling almost $2.9 million, it was up 1.4 percent.
World Service, the largest apportioned fund at $31.7 million, is running $2 million less than last year for a decrease of 5.7 percent.
Other apportioned funds and their percentages of decline: Africa University, $1.2 million, 6.2 percent; Black College, $5 million, 5.4 percent; Episcopal (the bishops' fund), $8.4 million, 2.8 percent; Ministerial Education, $9.3 million, 6.8 percent; and Interdenominational Cooperation, $1 million, down about $5,400 or 0.5 percent.
We remain confident that with the guidance of our bishops and other annual conference leaders, United Methodists will seek to fulfill in 2003 the financial commitments to global ministry and mission made by the 2000 General Conference, Lackore said.
When the six special Sunday offerings are added to the apportioned funds, the rate of decline is slightly less 4.9 percent. Total giving in the two categories was $63.7 million, compared with $66.9 million in 2002.
Other giving not compared because it varies with need from year to year includes $19 million in general Advance Special gifts for specific mission programs and relief efforts carried on by the United Methodist Committee on Relief, as well as $594,302 to other outreach funds.
In all, the finance and administration agency reports $83.3 million in giving to the general church in the first nine months of this year. Congregations can find materials on understanding and interpreting the general church's finances at www.umcgiving.org.
Purdue is a United Methodist News Service news writer.