A generous spirit is necessary for the church to do its work. This was the message of the Laity Address given at the 2016 Annual Conference Session.
Lay Leader Margaret Borgen addressed Sunday’s Conference Session, telling the assembly that giving to the church is an elephant in the room members find it hard to talk about, but that it is basic to the church’s ability to perform ministry.
“Financial stewardship is a priority for me,” she said, “and for the future of the church.”
Borgen said she is sad and angry when the church cannot support ministry because there is not enough money, and when conversations about money are about how to divide a smaller and smaller pie.
“When we continue to cut our Conference budget and place the burden if fundraising on our programs and ministries,” she said, “instead of letting them focus on bringing about the Kingdom of God where they serve.”
Being a United Methodist Christian is part of her DNA, she continued, and it also makes her sad to hear disparaging talk about apportionments.
“Our apportionment system is how we do ministry together,” said Borgen. “Our apportionment giving provides the financial resources to Make Disciples and Transform the World beyond our local congregations. It enables us to express God’s love in tangible ways to a hurting world.”
Apportionments should be given a different name, she said; Shared Giving.
She asked the faithful present if they remembered when they joined the United Methodist Church, giving them a moment to share the memory at their respective tables.
“Those are treasured memories you shared,” said Borgen. “And although our experiences of joining the church may vary, the vow we all made was the same; to support the United Methodist Church with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and for those who joined more recently, with our witness.”
She then said she believed those who took the vow meant it, but that bottom line, “Collectively, we United Methodists do not give enough money to support the things we believe in.”
Borgen shared the statistic that the average United Methodist Church member in Iowa gives less than $10 per week, and while for some this amount is a sacrificial gift, for most, it is not.
American identity encourages materialism, she continued, “But our Christian identity proclaims all that we have is already God’s.”
How differently church members would think about giving if they understood this premise, Borgen said.
Happiness and satisfaction is not found in acquiring more possessions, stated Borgen, and we need to think beyond this world and this life.
“To act as though we will live forever is not good stewardship,” she said.
Borgen said as well that it is in giving away that we know the joy of discipleship.
“Plainly speaking,” she stated, “if we want to live fully into our vision, we need greater financial resources, more money, to support it.”
Unfortunately, she said, the Iowa’s United Methodists have come to accept as reality that every year there will be less money, and that apportionments will not be fully paid.
“When that is our expectation, it becomes our reality,” said Borgen.
Borgen called on the assembly to envision a different reality and think once more about their membership vows.
“A different expectation about giving will create a different reality,” she said, “and lead us more fully into our vision.”
“If we all go home and lead our churches to increased giving,” Borgen said in summation, “we will strengthen the United Methodist Church in Iowa, we will give our mission and ministries a broader reach, and we can become the church God needs us to be.’