News Archives

United Methodist giving declines in 2002


By United Methodist News Service

The United Methodist Church's U.S. members gave more than $154 million to the churchwide work of their denomination in 2002. That is the good news. The bad news is that most of the apportioned funds and special offerings declined a bit from last year.

No one knows yet if this means giving to local churches also declined or if increasing fixed costs, like insurance and utilities, have reduced the portion of collection plate contributions that have reached the churchwide coffers. For the last several years, about four cents of each dollar contributed at the congregational level has been available for churchwide ministry.

The seven apportioned funds, which support the basic budget of the general church, dropped more than $1.5 million in 2002. Receipts for the seven funds totaled almost $113.1 million, a 1.4 percent decrease from 2001 levels, according to the church's General Council on Finance and Administration in Evanston, Ill. The apportioned funds are paid by the denomination's annual (regional) conferences in the United States.

Gifts to these funds were 88.5 percent of the amount asked for 2002, whereas 90.1 percent of the apportionment was contributed the preceding year.

Twenty-four, more than one-third, of the church's 65 U.S. annual conferences gave more to the apportioned funds than they had the previous year, and nine contributed 100 percent of their apportionment. Lower giving by eight conferences significantly impacted the 2002 receipts, according to the finance agency.

"We are all conscious of the current economic environment across the U.S.," said Sandra Lackore, denomination treasurer and council staff head. She expressed gratitude for the congregations and conferences that have supported of the work of the church.

"Our dialogue with annual conference and agency leaders in November reported that the declines in short- and long-term investment income, unemployment, drought conditions, and the challenges of escalating health insurance all combined to make this a particularly financially challenging economic environment," she explained.

Lackore also acknowledged the diligent stewardship of the agencies during these difficult times.

World Service, the largest apportioned fund and the one that supports basic churchwide mission and ministry through the church's agencies, received $61.7 million. This figure is a decrease of $771,000, or 1.2 percent, from the previous year and is 89.2 percent of the annual apportionment.

Among the three administrative funds, only General Administration received an increase in giving - 4.3 percent from 2001. That fund, which includes support for the quadrennial legislative gathering called General Conference, received more than $5.1 million in 2002.

Other administrative funds declined, with the Episcopal Fund down 2.6 percent and the Interdenominational Cooperation Fund down 4.4 percent.

The remaining three apportioned funds, the designated outreach funds, declined slightly. Giving to Africa University almost reached $2.3 million, showing a 0.6 percent dip. The Black College Fund received $9.6 million, a drop of 2 percent; and Ministerial Education decreased 1.8 percent to $18.1 million.

Giving to the denomination's six special Sunday offerings totaled nearly $6.3 million, a decrease of 6 percent overall. Only Native American Ministries Sunday increased. It received $363,233, up 7.5 percent. Declines varied from a 1 percent drop for Peace with Justice Sunday, the smallest of these offerings, to a 9.7 percent drop in One Great Hour of Sharing, the largest of the six. World Communion Day and Human Relations Day each decreased 2.2 percent, and United Methodist Student Day declined 4.2 percent.

Nine annual conferences reached 100 percent in their support of all apportioned funds in both 2001 and 2002. They were Detroit, West Michigan, Wisconsin, Baltimore-Washington, Central Pennsylvania, Peninsula-Delaware, Oklahoma Indian Missionary, Red Bird Missionary and Desert Southwest.

Five conferences gave 100 percent of their World Service apportionment: Minnesota, West Ohio, Troy, Wyoming and Rio Grande. Iglesia Metodista de Puerto Rico also paid 100 percent of its voluntary participation in the apportioned funds of the United Methodist Church.

A total of $34 million was given to bishops' appeals, United Methodist Committee on Relief and general Advance Specials - all forms of designated giving in which the total gift goes to the specified program and administrative costs are paid by other church bodies.

Other outreach funds received $861,635.

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