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United Methodist giving trails last year by 5 percent


A UMNS Report By Joretta Purdue*

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
Sharing God's Gifts. Photo number W03037, Accompanies UMNS#489

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
Compared to 2002, giving to the United Methodist Church's apportioned funds is down 5% in 2003. UMNS Photo by Mike DuBose, Photo number 03-365, Accompanies UMNS #489, 10/14/03
A continuing decline in income is reducing the funds available for United Methodist missions and ministry.

The portion of giving that is channeled through the annual (regional) conferences to the general church is down about $3 million, or 5 percent, for the first three quarters of the year compared with the same period last year.

Income for all but one of the denomination's seven apportioned funds is down when receipts are compared with those of a year earlier, the church's General Council on Finance and Administration reported. Apportioned funds support the work of the church both in outreach and administration. Congregations and annual conferences support the funds based on a formula.

"Income from our local churches and annual conferences has run consistently behind last year," said Sandra Kelley Lackore, denominational treasurer and top staff executive of the finance agency in Evanston, Ill. "Our agencies, our bishops and all our directly funded entities are adjusting their spending plans."

Receipts for the apportioned funds totaled nearly $59.5 million, down 5 percent from the $62.6 million at this time last year.

"This is a challenging financial time for many of our annual conferences," Lackore noted. "Across the denomination, lower interest rates, the down investment market for 2000-2002, and significantly increased health insurance costs for both active and retired participants are impacting the bottom line of local churches, annual conferences, agencies and the Council of Bishops.

"In many locales, receipt levels are increasing at a slower rate than expenses, resulting in less funds 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 to $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

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*Purdue is a United Methodist News Service news writer.

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