Methodism 101: Apportionments
During the small group meetings to discuss the mission and ministry of Embry Hills and the 2010 stewardship campaign, several people have asked for help in understanding the United Methodist apportionment system. This is the portion of our budget that is paid to the General Church and to the Annual Conference. For those who are not longtime Methodists, paying for services beyond our local congregation may seem like a burdensome add-on to an already tight budget. And even the born and bred Methodists in the crowd are sometimes seeking more understanding of the way our fair share of apportionments is determined and where that money goes. So I thought apportionments might be a good topic for this month’s UM 101.
You remember that our last article talked about the connectional nature of the United Methodist church. This is more than just a convenient way to supervise clergy. Our connection is considered to be a missional strategy that allows us to deploy our resources strategically so they do the most good. In a connectional ministry we are all in it together. And, as with any local congregation, our joint ministry must be funded.
Apportionment dollars are used to pay for a variety of costs and one article is too short to go into each with detail. But there are some broad categories that are helpful. The World Service Fund helps to pay for our collective mission and ministry around the world, including missionaries, communication strategies, some local church programs, leadership training, peace and justice initiatives and ecumenical efforts. The Ministerial Education Fund helps to insure the availability of competent clergy leaders. The Africa University Fund supports the first private university for young men and women on that continent, with specialties such as agriculture, business and management, education and health sciences, while the Black College Fund helps to support historically black colleges and universities here at home.
The Episcopal Fund pays for salaries, office expenses, health coverage and partial parsonage expenses for active Bishops and provides pensions for those who are retired. The Interdenominational Cooperation Fund enables us to have an effective presence in national and worldwide ecumenical organizations. And the General Administration Fund provides for systems of accountability and underwrites the legislative work of the General Conference and the Judical Council. This group is also responsible for maintaining historical artifacts and shrines.
In addition to these General Church Funds, our apportionment dollars are at work in North Georgia paying salaries for District Superintendents and Conference staff, planting new churches, and providing retirement compensation for those clergy who were in ministry before an adequate pension plan was in place.
How do we determine a congregation’s fair share of the cost? At the General Church level there is a formula consisting of three factors: 1) a church’s net expenses minus current capital debt, apportionment payments and all benevolence giving; 2) a base percentage that is applied to the net expense number; and 3) a percentage adjustment that may be applied in conferences where per capita income creates unusual need. Once the general apportionment figure for an Annual Conference is determined each conference uses a formula to distribute the cost of the General Church support among its local congregations along with the various Conference and District expenses that must be covered .
In the most recent materials prepared by the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) there is an analysis that helps to put apportionments into perspective: Of every $1000 given in a United Methodist congregation $845 stays in the local church. Twenty- two dollars goes to General Apportionments, $124 goes to Jurisdictions, Annual Conferences and Districts, and $9 goes to other General Funds including the United Methodist Women
When it comes to apportionments it is easy to slip into feeling that this is nothing more than an unfair assessment. But our understanding of ministry suggests that we are stronger when we work together than when we each try to do ministry in isolation. Like the connective tissue that allows us to move our limbs, our connection helps us to be strong and effective at the local level. Our individual gifts of support make us a better church for the sake of God’s world.
This is the second in a series written by Associate Pastor, Elaine Puckett, that describes what it means to be a member of the United Methodist Church.