The Rev. Dr. Craig Parrish enjoying a lighter moment as a delegate at General Conference 2012 in Tampa, Florida last April. To his left is the Rev. Gloria Kymn. Photo by Patrick Scriven.
The Rev. Dr. Craig Parrish, PNW Conference Treasurer
Interviewed by Rev. David Valera, Executive Director of Connectional Ministries
David Valera: Craig, take us back to the time you started in this role.
Craig Parrish: I became the Conference Treasurer October 2000, so I’ll be completing 13 years in the role. This ministry of administration has been a great match for my skill and personality. There have been times of great challenge and times of great accomplishment. The challenges have been the most formative.
DV: What have been your key learnings?
CP: It has been important for me to remember that the Conference Treasurer is an employee of the Annual Conference, hired and supervised by the Council on Finance and Administration. In that role the Treasurer sometimes stands between the Bishop and what the Bishop wants to do financially in the life of the Annual Conference. In its wisdom, General Conference has created a separation of power that has worked very well in the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference with the three Bishops who have been assigned here during my tenure.
DV: Tell us more about “working with Bishops”.
CP: Working with Bishops can be interesting. During one of our transitions of episcopal leadership, the departing Bishop said, there are a couple of things at the house that you probably should know. OH! He goes on to say, none of the kitchen appliances work but it has not been a problem because we don’t cook, OH, and someone ran the car through the back of the garage, OH, and we hear noises in the celling and under the house, OH, and the roof leaks, OH, and we don’t get hot water in the master bathroom, OH. Well there is nothing a little time and money cannot fix. Thousands of dollars and weeks later all new appliances, a new roof and water heater were installed, the garage wall was repaired, the birds were out of the attic, the rats were out of the crawl space and a new episcopal family was in residence… Quite an adventure.
DV: What is the most significant challenge you’ve met?
CP: The most significant challenge came in 2003-2004 when the apportionment receipts dropped to 78% and the contingency reserve fund was at an all time low of $4000. We went out into the conference with 25 listening sessions to determine what the people valued in the conference budget. During this process the people not only express their opinions on what should be funded but they learned how the financial system of the conference works. The result of that experience was the reduction of districts from 6 to five and a $100,000 savings. In 2004 Retired Bishop Jack Tuell served as the Seattle-Tacoma DS until Rev. (now Bishop) Elaine Stanovsky was available. Bishop Ed Paup reinstated the Tacoma District in September 2007 and for some reason, the money came in.
DV: Are there aspects of the job you will not miss?
CP: One aspect of the job I will not miss is answering the same question for the 100th time, like “can Memorial Funds be in the general fund or must they be a separate account!” (Loud laugher follows). Closing church buildings and property has been a learning experience. It’s easy for one to assume that a closed or abandoned church building automatically represents an asset for Annual Conference. Well that is only true if “someone” else wants the building. And that “someone” is a buyer.
I have sold a church on eBay, let one go to the county for unpaid taxes (even the Sheriff’s sale didn’t generate a single $), gave one to the city, sold several for 50 cents on the dollar, and had the marvelous experience of going into the closed building to find that the congregation had stopped using a portion of the building long ago. When entering the unused portion, I discovered that the rainwater had come down the inside of the walls rather than going down the downspouts. The interior walls were on the floor as lumps of goop and plaster. In this building the weight of the pigeon poop in the attic had collapsed the ceilings. What will we need to do? Who will pay for the cleanup of this mess? (Much laughter again.) This particular situation turned out great. The Conference Trustees, the Tacoma District and the Board of Congregational Development came together and rehabilitated the entire building and transferred ownership to Kalevaria UMC.
DV: What do you see as the future of the PNW, and the church as a whole?
CP: The future is coming fast. There will be more adventures and challenges in that future as it sweeps over us. The churches of the Annual Conference have been gradually bringing our apportionments receipts back up. In 2012 we received 88.03% of the apportioned budget, the highest percentage since 1998. In the intervening time between 2004 and 2012, the Council on Finance and Administration has been reducing the budget as much as possible. As our churches experience decline, the Council realizes that it will be harder and harder to sustain a static budget. The strategy has been to reduce the apportioned budget in a measured way keeping pace with the rate of decline. In this process we must still tend to the basic services that the Annual Conference provides the churches. The hope is that once the Tuell Center is fully operational, the training and retooling of clergy and laity will begin to affect the life, mission and vitality of local churches and faith communities of the conference – including their finances.
There it is…the challenge of the future and our life together. The past is gone…only tomorrow holds promise. After 41 ½ years of ministry, it is time to retire. My spouse, Sharon, and I are looking forward to the next phase of our live together. We have grandchildren to spoil and sites to see.
Although Rev. Dr. Craig Parrish will be retiring as PNW Treasurer by December 31, 2013, he will continue to serve as (very part time) Treasurer of the Alaska United Methodist Conference. DV.