May 04, 2012
Delegate Eradio Valverde Jr. from the Southwest Texas Annula (regional)
Conference multitasks while listening to the May 4 plenary session at
the 2012 United Methodist General Conference in Tampa, Fla. A UMNS photo
by Kathleen Barry.Click on image to enlarge. View more photos.
General Conference 2012 approved a budget of $603.1 million for seven
general church funds during the 2013-2016 period; that total is 6.03
percent less than the amount apportioned for the previous four-year
period –– the first time the assembly has accepted a lower budget than
the amount set for the preceding period.
That sounds like a whopping amount, but local churches should not
count on huge savings, since only 2 cents out of every dollar in the
collection plates go to support general church ministries. Also, costs
of annual conference operations, clergy pension benefits and
inflationary costs are likely to increase local church costs.
Two new line items
Delegates approved two new line items in the World Service Fund. They
established a new $5 million fund for theological education in central
conferences and $7 million to recruit and train young clergy in the
That action, combined with earlier recommendations to reduce agency
budgets by 6 percent, means general agencies will receive nearly 10
percent less money in the 2013-2016 period than they received in
The General Council on Finance and Administration reduced the
Episcopal Fund by $3 million and gave $1.5 million to World Service to
restore some funds to the general agencies. The finance agency also gave
$1 million to cover deficits related to operating General Conference
and allocated $500,000 to the General Administration Fund.
While the $1.5 million will help agencies, and they may experience
some savings in a reduced number of agency board members, those savings
will be less than reductions and the rate of inflation over the next
Since all local churches do not pay the full apportionments, the
amount received by all funds is less than the amount budgeted. In the
past, receipts have hovered around 88 percent of the goal amount.
The delegates called for the Advance Edition of the Daily Christian
Advocate to be translated into Kiswahili, and increased the size of the
Commission on General Conference, thus adding some $600,000 to the cost
of the General Conference.
The Commission on General Conference will struggle to find ways to
reduce costs. For instance, it could decrease the number of delegates
from 1,000 to 600 or decrease the number of days the assembly meets. It
also could make greater use of technology and consider other cost-saving
Apportionment fund formula
Delegates continued the present apportionment formula that provides a
percentage adjustment based on the economic strength in a conference,
which is based on per-capita income in the area, and local church costs
divided by the number of people in attendance.
They also approved a requirement that general agencies receiving
general church funds provide an annual report on the names of people
receiving funds as outside contractors and the amounts paid.
Peck* is a 12-time veteran of General Conference – Once as a seminary
student; once as a conference editor, three times as Newscope and
Circuit Rider editor, four times as DCA editor and three times as UMNS
News media contact: Kathy Noble, Tampa, Fla., (813) 574-4837, through May 4; after May 4, Nashville, Tenn. (615) 742-5470, or email@example.com.