Mission Giving UP
Mission Spending Down
$100 of millions in exorbitant funds in the middle
by Allen Morris, MBA of
Overall View of the UMC Financial Picture
We often receive in a bulletin or have posted on a bulletin board of our churches
poignant pictures of children or poor people with an appeal for some type of offering. A
review of key statistics give us additional perspective on these requests. The fact that
our general boards and agencies have accumulated more invested assets now than at any
other time in history indicates that the money given in response to these appeals is not
making its way to help the intended people. For 1996, the General Board of Global
ministries (Annex E)
had net assets of $409,210,898, the General Board of Church and Society (Annex D)
had net assets of $15,622,476, and the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry had
net assets of $75,807,672.
The GBGM received $191,551,170 in revenues in 1996, up from $168,847,907 in 1995 - an
increase of $22,703,263, or +13.358%. At the same time, distributions and grants to
"outside organizations" not related to the UMC (Annex I)
received $96,465,479 (50.369% of income), up from $70,734,241 in 1995 (41.89% of income
for that year) - a net increase of $25,731,238. Support of the GBGM's offices in New York
City and other administrative expenses received $49,486,777 (25.83% of income), up from
$32,668,817 in 1995 (19.35% of income for that year).
In contrast, direct support of persons in mission received $19,241,794 in 1996 (10.045%
of income), down from $22,731,586 in 1995, which was 13.46% of income for that year.
Direct support of persons in mission in the world division [i.e., foreign missionaries]
was $10,787,894 in 1996 (5.632% of income), down from $15,572,143 in 1995 (9.22% of 1995
income). The boards are growing richer at the expense of missions.
This reflects the picture that overall revenues have been increasing, and more money is
going to the categories of "organizations outside of the UMC" and to
"administrative expenses," both in actual dollars and also as a higher
percentage of GBGM income (this latter statistic reflects a double increase since higher
proportions of a growing revenue are allocated to these two areas). Conversely, money
allocated into overall mission support and foreign mission support decreased, both in
terms of real dollars and in terms of the percentage of GBGM revenues.
This is in the face of a consistent loss of members of over 232 members per day, seven
days a week, 365 days a year for 28 years (See Appendix 6
in Annex C, The Episcopal Fund: "Membership Decline in the United Methodist
Church"). In addition, we have had a steady loss of foreign missionaries since the
1920s - when the UMC had the largest mission sending force in Protestantism - to the 287
today. Even that figure may be too high; one former member of the GBGM stated this past
month that the actual numbers on the field at that time were 203. This may reflect part of
the reason that money allocated to overseas missions is less. Conclusion: the poor and the
children in the pictures are not recipients of all the money given in response to appeals
made in their behalf.
The study included in Annex K
approaches the stewardship issue from the perspective the General Council on Finance and
Administration's (GCFA) policy of denominational agencies retaining a minimum of 25% of
annual operating budgets in reserve. If this is the case, the figures cited above show
excessive accumulation of moneys at the general church level. This study then offers the
estimate that the World Division of the GBGM has accumulated assets representing 40 years
worth of World Service Fund income. In other words, with the funds it has invested, it
could operate for 40 more years without receiving another penny from the World Service
part of the apportionments.
Reserves held by the other divisions and agencies were: 9.7 years for the National
Division, 7.8 years for the Women's Division, 5.8 years for the General Board of Church
and Society, 3.6 years for the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, 1+ year for
the General Commission on Archives and History (total net asset growth was 41% over the
past four years), and less than a year for the General Board of Discipleship (total net
asset growth was 35% over the past four years).
Several questions need to be asked. How much of the money given to help the people seen
in these poignant pictures actually reaches its destination? If there were genuine concern
at the general board levels, would there be so much interest in accumulating money? Are
some of the boards accumulating the money so that they can become economically
self-sufficient - and will no longer need to rely on apportionments - or be subject to the
will of the General Conference?
The observation was made by professors William H. Willimon and (the late) Robert L.
Wilson of Duke University in their book "Rekindling the Flame"* that only 13% of
UM money is actually translated into true mission and benevolence in 1983, down from 16%
in 1970. A salient question that could be addressed in the area of stewardship is
"What happens to that other 87%?" If one were to project that figure out to
1996, the estimate would be 10%. In fact, the most recent calculation by Concerned
Methodists shows that this figure has dropped to 8.7%
What effect does this have on the local church? If one were to drive through the town
of Fayetteville, North Carolina, he could see buses and vans in the parking lots of the
independent and congregational churches: Village Baptist Church, Berean Baptist Church,
Northwood Temple (P.H.) Church, to name a few. This transportation is used to go out into
the community on Sundays - and other days - to pick up poor people for church services.
Questions need to be asked: "Does the money taken out of the local churches to go to
the general church level represent a financial drain at what should be the focus of
ministry in our denomination?" and "Where is the money needed more?"