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United Methodist conference treasurers aren’t singing “Happy Days Are Here Again,” but they’re not singing the blues either.
A number of United Methodist financial personnel say a mood of cautious optimism holds. Giving during the last couple of years has been steady, and there is a notable improvement from the deep recession of 2009.
Preliminary figures from the General Council on Finance and Administration, the denomination’s finance agency, show 2013 United Methodist giving well in line to meet the denomination’s budget and serve its ministries.
“Bottom line, we had a pretty good year financially,” Charlie Moore announced at the February board meeting of the finance agency. He is the chair of the board’s committee on General Agency and Episcopal Matters and a member of the Baltimore-Washington Conference.
Last year, United Methodists gave nearly $128.6 million to general church funds, about 89 percent of the requested apportionments. In 2012, United Methodists gave slightly more — $132.7 million to general church funds, an apportionment-collection rate of about 90 percent.
The denomination's budget for general funds is based on the assumption that 86 percent of apportionments will be collected.
Apportionments are the share each annual conference or local church pays to support international, national and regional missions. At the general church level, the money supports bishops, United Methodist ministerial education, most general agencies and denomination-wide efforts such as the Black College Fund and Africa University in Zimbabwe.
Twenty of 59 U.S. conferences paid full apportionments to support the national and international United Methodist ministries of the general church in both 2012 and 2013.
Moore noted that the recent giving marks a significant change from five years ago. In 2009, only 14 of what were then 62 U.S. conferences paid full apportionments. Because of that, there were postponed projects, pay reductions and staff layoffs at all levels of The United Methodist Church.
“Many of us feel like we’re through the worst of the recession,” Lisa King, Wisconsin Conference treasurer, told United Methodist News Service in an interview. She is president of the National Association of Annual Conference Treasurers.
“Part of what we’re also seeing — at least in some annual conferences — are churches that are merging or reducing pastoral support. They had to make some tough decisions, but they are stronger financially.”