Apportioned giving is one of the most misunderstood things in United Methodism. Sometimes maligned as taxes funding a shadowy bureaucracy, they are more appropriately understood as the way United Methodists, as members of a connectional church, come together to do things they could not do alone. Apportionments are used to fund the global mission and witness of our church, to help provide the necessary structure to respond in moments of crisis locally, nationally, internationally, and to develop and nurture the leaders we need today and tomorrow.
Of the apportioned dollars received in the Pacific Northwest Conference, 21% goes on to support the larger United Methodist connection. The remaining balance (79%) is used to fund the ministry priorities that the clergy and lay leadership of the conference discern every budget year and present to the Annual Conference for approval.
As you can see in the graph, just over 1/3 of these funds are used for direct local church support including new and renewing congregations. Programming to support the development of leaders (29%) and existing clergy (12%) are other areas of substantial focus for the PNW.
I’d like to draw your attention to another piece of the pie that impacts all of our churches unnecessarily. To meet the ministry goals of our annual conference, and our shared responsibility to the global ministries of our church, we are required to over-apportion every local church to make up for those churches that will fail to pay their share of the budget. Practically speaking, this means every church is asked to carry more weight because some are carrying less.
This following graph shows what could happen if every church paid 100% of their apportionment amount by the 2019 budget. In the 2016 budget we estimate, based on experience that we will need to over-apportion our local churches collectively by $402,116. This graph shows what would happen during the 3 year period from 2016 thru 2019 if this over-apportionment was reduced and eliminated.
The key take away is this; if every church paid 100% of their apportionment then every church would see a reduction of their apportioned amounts of approximately 8%. And here’s the really good news, the PNW conference as a connectional ministry would still engage in all that we do today. In a sense, we get more for less, with each church keeping more resources in their local church budget to empower their outreach and mission to reach new disciples for the transformation of the world.
It makes sense to work together
In some ways, it is a good and Christian thing, to share a burden amongst friends. For example, it is lovingly connectional to be in a place as a conference to support a church that is having a bad financial year, and not cutting them off from essential services like insurance or the resources that might help them to recover sooner. This is part of the reason so much of the budget is redirected back to the local church.
This vision of more for less is challenging in times when church budgets are often uncertain but it is impossible when a few churches continue to refuse to pay their fair share for partisan and/or political reasons. Their protest may be theological but it has as its result the harm of other local churches, not the institution. In this way, such protest is not faithful to our connectional understanding but more indebted to an individualistic ethic.
As this final chart displays, PNW conference leadership has been committed to a budget that is well under the ceiling provided by conference rules. We recognize that our shared ministries need to be effective and selective as an undisciplined conference budget puts unnecessary pressure on local church budgets.
While we will continue to approach the annual conference budget in a reasoned and disciplined manner, our efforts would be greatly magnified if every local church would do its part, to the best of its ability. Not only would this allow us to continue to work together connectionally – to do the things we cannot do alone – but it would also allow each local church to do more in its own neighborhood.
If you have questions about what you’ve read here or would like to engage us in conversation, we would be excited to converse with you. Leave us a comment here or contact us directly by calling 206.870.6820 or by emailing your Conference Treasurer Brant Henshaw (email) or Assistant Treasurer Rik Jamieson (email).