552 Congregations Saluted for Honoring UMC Core Value of Connectional Giving

Date Posted: 3/21/2011

On behalf of the ministries and mission of the Texas Annual Conference and the whole United Methodist Church, I want to recognize and thank every church that paid 100% of its apportionments. I also express my appreciation to those congregations that stretched and worked to do the best possible toward reaching 100% of their goal. I am aware that some congregations went into their reserves while others made heroic efforts in this difficult economic year. Thanks to all of you.

 

Our conference payout this year was 84.57%, much lower than is customary for us. Yet, as we examined the numbers more carefully, we discovered that 60% of our shortfall was in a total of 10 congregations. The district superintendents and I are working directly with all those congregations to learn the cause of their challenge and to address it specifically. Despite the economic uncertainties, the vast majority of our congregations paid their apportionments in full. I expect that group to grow even larger in 2011. Your leadership in financial giving is part of the great tradition and culture of this conference.

 

It has been my objective as your Bishop to build our relationship upon honesty, availability, and straightforward conversation. Now is just such a moment for some serious reflection.

 

In light of this year’s record, we ask ourselves two important questions:

 

First of all, “How will this level of payout impact our conference’s work for 2011?” It’s just like your local church – income received makes a difference in the level of ministry a congregation can extend. In consultation with the Council on Finance and Administration, The Texas Annual Conference will reduce spending to 80% of the program budget for 2011. We will continue to pay salaries and benefits in full as well as our contributions to pensions and health benefits – much as you would do in a local church, but ministry areas will be reduced.

 

Practically speaking, it means that although we had intended to start as many as nine new congregations this year, we are now anticipating starting only four or five. New churches are critical factors for membership growth, and we hope this reduction is temporary. We will need to limit transformation funding of existing congregations, such as the “Good Soil” project in the East District, which supports dozens of small member congregations. Although the needs in Ivory Coast are especially critical this year because of the unstable political situation, we are reducing our anticipated support for projects such as the “The Voice of Hope” radio station and 56 Methodist elementary schools in Ivory Coast. We will continue to apply for grants in special areas.

 

Secondly, “What does this payout mean for our general church connectional ministries?” Although we were able to pay 100% of World Service, virtually every other area of ministry was significantly reduced. Examples include Africa University at 78.58% (down 11.04%), the Ministerial Education Fund at 79.4% (down 9.39%) and Inter-Denominational Cooperation Fund at 76.14% (down 9.71%).

 

Our conference was not alone in a lower payout, and many denominational groups are already making significant reductions. For example, I am a member of the General Board of Global Ministries, and we have made numerous staff reductions (about 65), combined offices and are considering dramatically reducing the size of the board (that takes General Conference action). I believe that some of these changes are needed as long as we maintain and grow the number of missionaries, humanitarian and relief efforts, and connect congregations with the Advance for Christ and His Church.

 

Finally, I have a fundamental faith in the Resurrection — that’s the hope I carry through Lent and whatever difficult periods we may endure. All signs indicate that the economy is slowly improving — especially here in Texas. That improvement helps everyone. The new initiatives congregations are exploring in this conference will help those churches meet the future with hope and new energy. My prayer is that the Texas Annual Conference will be in a healthier financial position at the end of 2011.

 

Thank you again for your faithful witness and for making difficult decisions on behalf of our future.

 

Grace and peace,

Janice Riggle Huie 

See List of Churches that Paid 100%