Looking at General Conference from a financial perspective
BY CHARLIE MOORE
I would like to begin by saying how humbled and blessed I feel to have been given the opportunity to participate as a lay delegate from the Baltimore-Washington Conference. The confidence expressed in me by members of our Annual Conference is deeply appreciated.
Now – to my reflections on the events of the past several weeks. I am finding it more difficult than I anticipated to process and condense my thoughts. In addition to my role as a voting delegate, I also participated as a member of the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA). As I walked the halls of General Conference back and forth between hastily called GCFA meetings, Finance Administration legislative committee meetings and full plenary sessions, I found myself constantly asking the question – how is all of this going to impact my local church back home and our ability and need to grow and sustain ourselves as a “vital congregation.” Therefore, much of my personal focus was on the evaluation of the potential financial impacts of the decisions being made.
It was clear to me from the beginning that most of the delegates did not need to be convinced that our general boards and agencies needed to find ways to reduce expenses, and hence, reduce apportionments and leave more money at the annual conference and local church level. The real dilemma, however, was in trying to respond to Christ’s call to do more and “feed my sheep” with ever shrinking financial resources.
The frustrations I felt were very similar to the internal struggle I feel when trying to prioritize the use of limited time and money when working with VIM teams in Zimbabwe. How in the world can WE choose from the endless number of “needs” that we encounter?
Over a short period of time, I came to the realization that we all had to stop in our tracks and listen. We needed to be sure we listened to others in a non judgmental manner and, more importantly, that we listened to hear God’s voice directing us. We needed to fly at “thirty thousand feet” to get the big picture and not allow ourselves to make long term strategic decisions based upon on our own personal short term agendas.
It was extremely challenging as a member of GCFA in that we were being asked to present a budget for the next four years without having the final decision as to how our boards and agencies were going to be structured. Participating in this process was like building an airplane in mid air.
Having said all of this, I truly believe that there are many positive things that came out of this General Conference. While there was no grandiose (or even minor) corporate restructure adopted, it is true that almost every general board and agency’s budget within the World Service Fund has been reduced by about 10 percent.
Some of this reduction is enabled by a reduction in their boards of about 50 percent, which will save well over $3 million. Other budget reductions are being facilitated by the utilization of reserves generated by surpluses in prior periods.
While these reductions are being made, there has actually been in increase in funding for clergy development. A total of $5 million has been allocated for a new Theological Education Fund for conferences outside the U.S. and $7 million was approved for a new “Young Clergy Initiative” inside the U.S. These new funds have been created in response to the Call To Action and one of its primary focuses on clergy development.
Overall, the final approved apportioned budget was set at $603.1 million which is a reduction of $38.8 million (6 percent) from the current quadrennium. This will help in creating slight reductions in apportionments to annual conferences over the next four years. Although it is a relatively small amount, this should also result in more dollars being left at our local churches. Praise The Lord!