Economist says recession over, church giving to increase
By Joretta Purdue*WASHINGTON
(UMNS) - Don House has good news for the United Methodist Church. An
economist, not an evangelist, he believes the economy is improving.
knows there is a connection between the state of the economy and the
dollars - or lack of them - in Sunday's collection plate. Few people,
with the exception of professional fund-raisers - are as aware of that
connection as House, a United Methodist and economic consultant from
House is on his way to becoming the denomination's
economist, if he hasn't already arrived. Now a voting member of the
church's financial administrative agency, House was a member of the
United Methodist Funding Patterns Task Force (2001-04), which was
charged with looking at how the denomination funds churchwide
The task force's study led the General Council on
Finance and Administration to recommend, and the General Conference to
adopt, a new formula for figuring the apportionments asked of each
annual conference and, through them, of each local church.
sensed the need for apportionments to be more in tune with the financial
reality of the local churches and annual conferences, so he suggested
incorporating into the formula a factor that reflects the economic
health of the local church. The formula that is being phased in during
this four-year period, or quadrennium, uses local church spending
figures to achieve this.
As a member of GCFA's General Funds
Coordinating Committee, House is participating in discussions that will
lead to the 2005-08 budget proposal that the finance agency will present
to the church's highest legislative assembly next year. He recently
told other members of the council he believes the U.S. economy is no
longer in recession.
"The numbers show we are out of the
recession and in a period of growth, but church records don't yet show
that, and they shouldn't," House said at the committee's May meeting.
to explain what he meant, House told United Methodist News Service, "We
have now experienced five consecutive quarters of sustained economic
growth. This is strong evidence that we have 'bottomed out' and that we
are well on the road to economic recovery."
economic growth" House refers to is based on figures produced by the
U.S. Department of Commerce that show inflation-adjusted increases in
domestic productivity. A recession, on the other hand, is a period when
the gross domestic product figure decreases, showing that output has
"Our apportionment payments are suffering from the impact
of the recent recession that began in early 2001," he added. "The
general press has not yet reported an end to the recession. However, the
facts speak for themselves."
He expects giving to increase and
payment of apportionments to grow as church members become aware that
economic growth has returned, he said. Apportionment income at the end
of May was down 7 percent - more than $2 million - from last year's
comparable figure, to the consternation of church officials. Giving to
the World Service Fund, which supports most of the churchwide ministries
- from creating curriculum to mission outreach and international
advocacy - was down 7.7 percent.
"Improvements should be evident as early as the end of the summer," he predicted.
that apportionments to the annual conferences are now "governed by the
actual financial experiences of the local churches" is comforting to
those engaged in developing the 2005-08 budget for churchwide ministry,
"Apportionments for the 2005-2008 quadrennium are
not 'set' at the 2004 General Conference as in years past," he noted.
"Apportionments are now based upon percentages to be applied to local
church expenditures. Only the percentages are set at General Conference -
not the amount of the apportionments."
No one can predict with
certainty what the economy is going to do, House remarked. However, the
new formula offers what he called a self-correcting feature.
the economy falls back into recession, apportionments will adjust
downward. If the economy continues to grow unexpectedly through 2005,
apportionments will adjust upward," he said. "Today, much of the
pressure of knowing exactly how the local churches will fare financially
throughout the quadrennium is gone."
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*Purdue is United Methodist News Service's Washington news director.
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