Home > Our World > News > News Archives by Date > 2011 > August 2011 > News - August 2011
Budget cuts on table for General Conference


7:00 P.M. EST August 9, 2011

A UMNS photo illustration by Mike DuBose.
A UMNS photo illustration by Mike DuBose.

A recommended budget of $603 million for the 2013-2016 operations of the denomination’s general agencies will go before General Conference in 2012.

The figure represents a 6.04 percent reduction from the previous four years and marks the first time a smaller budget will go before the church’s top legislative body for approval. General Conference could adjust the recommendation when it next meets April 24-May 4 in Tampa, Fla.

In a separate action, General Conference will take up two constitutional amendments that would allow the body to empower a unit of the denomination to make budget adjustments between conference sessions. At present, after General Conference adjourns, no entity can make changes to the allocated budgets.

To be ratified, constitutional amendments must win a two-thirds majority at General Conference and next must be approved by at least two-thirds of the members voting during annual conferences. By contrast, the budget requires a majority vote by General Conference.

Impact of budget reductions

The 40-member board of the General Council on Finance and Administration and the 60-member Connectional Table in May gave provisional approval for the budget for all seven general apportionments, including the World Service Fund that supports most general agencies.

After a review during their July 27-29 meeting, the two groups agreed to send the proposed budget to General Conference.

As it stands, the recommended budget will mean “reductions in programming or staff depending on how the individual agencies react to reductions in funding,” said John Goolsbey, an executive of the General Council on Finance and Administration.

Reductions in the number of members in U.S. congregations and declining revenue already have forced general agencies to eliminate some staff positions and programs. The number of staff positions in 13 general agencies has decreased every year, from 3,139 in 1971 to 1,384 in 2010.

The Rev. Andy Langford, pastor of Central United Methodist Church in Concord, N.C., and a member of the Connectional Table, said most of the denomination’s money is spent at the annual conference and local church level.

The Rev. Thomas A. (Andy) Langford III
Rev. Andy Langford

“I personally think that the majority of the work in our denomination in dollars and everything else is done not in the seven funds but in the rest of (the denomination),” he said. “That $603 million is only 3 percent of the total expenditures of the denomination.”

The reduced budget should provide some relief to congregations and annual (regional) conferences, Langford said.

“What the annual conferences are going to say is, ‘My goodness, we’re going to have more flexibility with what we do,’” he said. “And the local churches are going to say, ‘We will have more flexibility in what we do.’ I think this could actually help the church.”

Factors that go into budget projections include: church membership, inflation, per-capita disposable income, “giving elasticity” (the percent of giving from increased revenue), net spending and the U.S. gross domestic product. What church leaders ultimately are trying to predict is what church members will be able and willing to give in the coming four years.

The recent volatility in the U.S. stock market illustrates why the long-term prospect for giving is often difficult to anticipate.

Impact of constitutional amendments

The proposed constitutional amendments are trying to address some of that unpredictability, Langford said. He is the secretary of the Apportionment Structure Study Group, which first suggested the amendments that the council  endorsed.

“We need a body that can say if we need to spend more money on advocacy than a program, we can shift stuff around. Right now, that cannot happen,” he said. “What we have is an organization that we set it on a course and they have to follow this same track for the next four years and you can’t lay any new track.”

The General Council on Finance and Administration did not support two study group proposals: One to combine the seven general apportioned funds into one fund and one to restructure the apportionment formula to move from an expenditure-based model to an income-based model.

The council did support the study group’s recommendation to emphasize stewardship as a spiritual discipline.

“I feel that there is a need to refocus on the practice of giving as a spiritual discipline in the church,” Goolsbey said. “We’re focusing so much on cutting expenditures, and we’re not really addressing the fact that United Methodists and religious people in general have not been as generous as they have been in the past. Perhaps we need to focus on that as well.”

*Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service.

News media contact: Heather Hahn, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Comments will be moderated. Please see our Comment Policy for more information.
Comment Policy

Commenting Rules

Comments will not appear until approved by a moderator, which will occur at least twice daily.

Please keep your comments brief. Avoid personal attacks and do not use inflammatory or demeaning language.

See our Comment Policy for more information.

Glad you liked it. Would you like to share?

Sharing this page …

Thanks! Close

Comments for this page are closed.

Showing 3 comments

  • Jeff Pospisil 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    “I feel that there is a need to refocus on the practice of giving as a spiritual discipline in the church,” Goolsbey said.

    I think Goolsbey is off base here.  We have many churches and pastors that are not effective.  They have no idea what it is to be a disciple much less make disciples.  If you are part of an ineffective church where it is rare for someone new to come to faith in Christ and each year you see little to no spiritual growth in yourself and in the people around you, why would you want to support that?  We need to refocus on the spiritual disciplines as a means of grace.  When people see their lives changed and others lives changed, they will give to that willingly.
    show more show less
  • Guy Ames 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    This is not a surprise to many of us.  The days in which we could expect that local church offerings and apportionments alone to support the General Agency work is more and more behind us.  Andy Langford makes a good point, reflecting on the impact of the Annual Conferences & Local Churches, but still begs the question of how the UMC can continue to make a mark in those places where the local church is not financially as strong.  One wonders how much more might be done through much greater General Agency collaboration. Shared commuication, printing, curriculum development, marketing, and financial management might be done more effectively and with greater cost-management if these tasks were shared by the agencies rather than each General Agency maintaining its own marketing department, financial department, printing, etc., etc.

    While these are gut-wrenching moment for the church we have often been at our best when challenged with moments like these.
    show more show less
  • sroyappa 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    I agree 100% with John Goolsbey. At the 2000 General Conference, three resolutions (213, 214, & 215) were adopted on "stewardship, tithing and resources." Now more than a dacade has gone by, nothing has happened but continue to experience loss of members, resources and ministries. We have lost spiritual disciplines and that means we have lost JESUS and His Teachings. Had those three resolutions hit the road, by now, our denomination would have had plenty in "God's storehouse" for various creative ministries at ALL levels? How long are we going to remain as "Resolutionary Christians and Book of Discipline Amending Methodists?" The important critical questions are: (1) What fruit(s) has $642 millions produced in the last quadrennium? (2) What fruit(s) or desired outcome will come out of $603 millions in the coming quadrennium? There is NO accountability or "fruit-inspecting" at any level. Further, what are we leaving behind for our next or future generations - empty pews and empty treasury...? Isn't an irony that membership and giving are declining (by 30% of membership since 1968) whereas compensation, health insurance, apportionment and other costs keep increasing every year? I wish there is moratorium on them for at least two quadrennia at all levels.
    Sam Royappa
    show more show less


Ask Now

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.


*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add this address to your list of approved senders.

Would you like to ask any questions about this story?ASK US NOW