By Jessica Brodie
It’s the final stretch, those last few weeks before financial books close on what has been a difficult and tumultuous year. The goal has changed, scaled back from 90 percent to 84 percent with a push toward achieving what can be done over focusing on what can’t.
But if conference financial leaders get their Christmas wish, United Methodist churches across South Carolina will send in something—anything—so missions and ministries can get back to a reasonable level of monetary support.
As of Dec. 15, the conference had brought in $12.5 million of its $17.6 million budget—roughly 71 percent. That’s about 5.5 percentage points lower than last year at this time, which saw about 76.5 percent, or almost $13.6 million in apportionment payments from churches across South Carolina.
Conference Treasurer Beth Westbury said she is hoping churches will do all they can to pay something toward apportionments in these last few weeks before 2020 apportionment payments must be turned in; the deadline is Jan. 14.
“We typically collect a bit over $3 million from Dec. 1 through the last day to pay apportionments,” Westbury said. “As of Dec. 15, we have collected $753,000 of that $3 million.”
Westbury said if the conference can collect $3.05 million in this last period, it will achieve an 84 percent collection rate for 2020.
“It is not the 90 percent rate we achieved in 2019, but it is still a terrific comeback from the slow start at the beginning of the year,” she said.
Conference collections dipped January through May because of the pandemic, but have recovered to normal levels since then, Westbury said. Still, the dip took a toll. If the conference does achieve the $3.05 million target for this last period, the total dollars collected will be lower by almost $1.2 million.
“Let’s not dwell on what we cannot do. Let’s do what we can,” Westbury said.
She urged two key things: One, for every church in the South Carolina Conference to pay something toward apportionments for 2020. And two, for churches struggling to give 100 percent to consider supporting something close to their church’s heart, such as children’s ministries or people in Methodist homes.
“We know we cannot achieve 100 percent in apportionment collections, but we can achieve 100 percent participation by the churches,” Westbury said. “We currently have 129 churches that have not paid anything in apportionments. I appeal to those churches and ask that they make a monetary contribution to the mission and ministry that occurs at the conference level. It does not have to be 100 percent and you may choose to support something close to your church’s collective heart.”
For instance, she said, churches could support children and youth ministries by giving to Camps and Retreat Ministries. Support college students and higher education by giving to Senior College Scholarship, Spartanburg Methodist College or campus ministries. Support the generation that has been secluded in nursing homes by coronavirus by giving to Methodist homes. Support worship activities through equitable compensation and congregational development.
As for districts, Westbury lifted up the Orangeburg District, which she said is the only district to show an increase over the prior year in dollars collected.
Walterboro District has the highest collection percentage, an honor it has held for the last several years. But, she said, Rock Hill is close behind, with 81.13 percent versus Walterboro’s 82.75 percent.
“This may be the year that Rock Hill takes the top spot,” Westbury said.
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.