News and Views

New budget undergirds local stewardship ministries

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In an on-going effort to empower the stewardship of local churches, BWC members passed a $18,223,006 budget for 2023 that helps in the recovery from pandemic challenges and addresses the uncertainty of future changes in the denomination.

The budget is based on the 90 percent collection rate proposed by the Conference Council on Finance and Administration, an increase from the 89 percent collection rate assumption in 2022.

“These increases are to be celebrated as they recognize a certain resilience within our local churches that has supported a financial recovery from 2020 that is much faster than anyone could have expected,” said CFA chair Phil Potter. “The actual collection rate in 2021 was 90.7% and the collection rate through April of this year exceeds 91 percent.”

The 90 percent collection rate assumption is slightly below the historic collection rate, which averaged 92 percent prior to the pandemic.

In setting the apportionment formula, the benevolence factor remains steady this year at 17.55 percent, meaning churches will contribute this percentage of the money they spend on salary and program and operating expense to mission shares that pay for ministry beyond the local church.

This giving will add up to create a mission share income of $12,484,383. This represents a decrease of $621,000, or 4.7 percent compared to the 2022 budget. It is part of what Potter called the “the next step in our strategic glide path that has a current goal of reducing the mission share income to $12 million.” That goal, he said, is 16 percent less than the $14 million mission share budgets that the Conference maintained successfully from 2013 to 2019.

The reduction is an effort to make an educated guess at how much financial impact local churches disaffiliating from The United Methodist Church might have as the denomination addresses issues of human sexuality at the General Conferences session expected to be held in 2024.

If the number of churches in the conference is reduced, “it is important to the Council that the remaining churches are not increasingly burdened by their mission shares,” said Potter.

Potter also noted that while the mission share income was $12.5 million, grants, reserve funds and other revenue, brought the total budget to $18,223,000.

Among the budget highlights are:

  • A 3 percent pay increase for Conference staff.
  • A non-profit tenant at the Mission Center has signed a new 10-year leader, adding $24,000 of income to the budget in 2023.
  • Disaster response grants from new strategic partners increased from $10,000 to $50,000.
  • Deaf Ministries increased $12,500 to support additional accessibility ministries.
  • The funding of Unified Funding Task Force grants from Trustee closed church sales reserves was increased from $415,000 to $625,000. This increase continues to enable the legacy of our closed churches to support the work of planting new churches and new ministries within the Conference.

 In other action, Conference members approved the report of the Commission on Equitable Compensation, which raised the 2023 base salary for clergy by $1,398, or 3 percent. This makes the base clergy salary in the BWC $47,990. Members also increased the recommended housing allowance by 3 percent, or $623, making the recommended housing allowance $21,394.

During the discussion, the Rev. DaeHwa Park made a motion to codify the reimbursement that clergy receive for travel, continuing education, and other expenses at the rate of $6,100.

This is traditionally a matter set between pastors and their local churches. In many churches, the rate is reportedly $4,100. However, because of the complex implications this may have, Park agreed to refer the motion on reimbursable expenses for the clergy to Conference stewardship committees, who will report back at the 2023 Annual Conference Session.