UMC Leadership Advocates for $12 Million Budget Cut, Highest in Nearly 20 Years

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Many U.S. Protestant churches carry out a 90-Day Challenge to encourage non-tithers to start giving regularly. (FILE) |

Leadership in the United Methodist Church are calling upon the denomination to adopt $12 million in cuts for the upcoming budget planned for the next four years.

The UMC General Secretaries Table met Monday in Nashville and announced Tuesday that they supported a reduction in the proposed budget from $611 million to $599 million.

According to the statement released by the general secretaries, if adopted the $599 million quadrennial budget would be the lowest in 16 years.

"The formula would roll back the general church apportionments to the lowest percentage since the current apportionment formula was introduced in 2001 and represents a $4.1 million cut from the budget General Conference adopted for the current quadrennium," added the leadership.

United Methodists gather in one of the exhibition halls at the Pittsburgh Convention Center to hold a service to open their 2004 General Conference on Tuesday, April 27, 2004.

Representing various general boards and general commissions, the secretaries at the Monday meeting acknowledged in their announcement that the "reduction to $599 million will impose hardships and require reworking ministry plans."

"But with appreciation for the creative strategies undertaken by annual conferences and congregations, and in accord with churchwide efforts to reach and serve more people in more places, they agreed that reducing the base rate percentage used to determine annual conference apportionments is timely and appropriate," continued the statement by the leadership.

Moses Kumar, general secretary and treasurer for the UMC General Council on Finance and Administration, told The Christian Post that proposal was unaimously endorsed by those at the meeting.

"The General Council on Finance and Administration and Connectional Table will meet in the near future to determine whether to adopt the recommendation of the General Secretaries and make it their own proposal to the General Conference," said Kumar.

"The ultimate decision on the general Church budget for the next four years will be determined by the delegates of the General Conference held in Portland, Oregon, in May."

Kumar added that if implemented "all organizations receiving general Church funds will be impacted by these reductions equally."

John Lomperis, United Methodist action director for the Institute on Religion & Democracy, told CP that the decreased budget proposal was actually not low enough given trends in the UMC's American numbers.

"So rather than increasing the budget by 1.3 percent they now say decrease it by 2/3 of 1 percent — over four years. It's a step in the right direction, but a rather pathetically tiny one," said Lomperis.

"Our U.S. membership routinely decreases by more than 1 percent every year. You don't have to be a math whiz to see that this model of squeezing more and more money out of fewer and fewer congregations and members is not sustainable."

An elected delegate for this year's General Conference, Lomperis of IRD also told CP that he expected delegates at the Portland meeting in May to approve the reduced proposed budget.

"But I need to add the caveat that any General Conference may consider other proposals that would increase budgets in piecemeal ways — like adding money for one new wonderful-sounding program at a time — or decrease budgets by eliminating or streamlining part of our denominational structure," continued Lomperis.

"If we are serious about fiscal responsibility and turning our denomination around, we need to make much more significant cuts to our unsustainably bloated denominational bureaucracy."

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