By Jessica Brodie
In a year of struggling apportionment payments because of COVID-19 and financial woes statewide, conference leaders are celebrating some good news: monthly apportionment receipts have returned to normal levels.
However, given below-normal giving in the first part of the year, apportionments are down conference-wide.
As of Nov. 13, the conference treasurer reports total paid apportionments of $10.9 million of the $17.6 million budget for the year, or 61.97 percent. That’s a drop of 6.98 percentage points from this time last year, which saw $12.2 million collected, or 68.95 percent.
“We continue to lag behind 2019 in terms of percent of budget collected,” said Beth Westbury, treasurer for the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. “Currently, we have 194 churches that have not paid anything toward apportionments for 2020. Last year at this time number was 124. We are encouraging those churches who have not paid anything to contribute, even if in a small amount.
“We would like to have 100 percent of our churches participate in the support of the missions and ministries that occur at the state and denominational levels.”
However, Westbury said, while January through May apportionment receipts were below normal, beginning in June, the monthly apportionment receipts returned to normal levels.
“For most months, apportionment collections range between $1.2 million and $1.4 million. We have had several months recently with collections in the normal range,” she said. ”It is my hope that if we can continue the normal pace of collections, we will collect 82 percent of our budget.
“This is not near our normal collection rates, but this has not been a normal year.”
“Thank you to all the churches and charges for their generosity up to this point in time. It’s a blessing as we enter the end of the year,” said the Rev. Mitch Houston, chair of the conference Council on Finance and Administration. “Let us all join together being the church and doing what we can do with our gifts.”
Houston said as of press time, 194 churches of the 964 churches in the conference had not given anything toward their apportionment payments.
“We hope that by the end of the year each church could pay something toward their apportionments,” Houston said.
Westbury said, there is another thing to celebrate, as the Orangeburg District is showing an increase in apportionment giving over the prior year. At this time last year, Orangeburg had collected $708,571. This year it has collected an increase, at $737,152; it is an increase of $28,581.
“We hope the momentum in the Orangeburg district will catch on in other districts,” Westbury said. “I appreciate the leadership the Rev. Ken Nelson has given in the short time he has served the district.”
Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, is the last day to pay apportionments. Payments must be in the treasurer’s office by 4 p.m. that day. If the church is paying electronically, either through Vanco or the new church portal, the payment must be initiated by 3 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. After that time, they will temporarily close the payment portals to allow time for payments in process to clear and for staff to prepare for the 2021 year.
“I applaud the work of our churches and the way they have adapted and overcome the challenges this year has presented,” Westbury said. ”I believe that our churches will continue to rebound from the setbacks experienced this year and will grow in their faith from this experience.”