Where were funds from 2023 separating churches disbursed?

Earlier this year, the trustees of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church released information on the disbursement of tithes from the 113 churches that separated from the denomination in 2023.

The trustees are responsible for overseeing the Local Church Discernment Process, the procedure through which these congregations reached their decision to separate from the denomination. As part of this separation process, each church agreed to certain financial obligations:

• A tithe equal to 10 percent of the appraised value of all church property and liquid assets;

• All unpaid apportionment giving for the prior year, as well as for the year of closure up to the date of the Annual Conference vote to close the church;

• An additional 12 months of apportionment giving;

• All unpaid salary and benefits due to clergy appointed to the church;

• A withdrawal liability equal to the church’s proportional share of any unfunded pension obligations; and

• Other financial considerations and legal liabilities of the local church—such as the disposition of any debts, loans, leases, endowments, foundations and cemeteries—must be satisfied or transferred to a new entity.

In a March 21 statement, the trustees announced the total amount received from the churches that departed in 2023 is a little more than $17.5 million.

Most of that money already has been distributed or set aside for a specific purpose, the trustees stated:

• $7.48 million “Hope Fund”—direct ministry grants that will be shared through the districts;

• $3.8 million in apportionment funds for 2023 and half of 2024 have been disbursed to conference ministries as part of the current year’s budget;

• $2.4 million to the Conference Council on Finance and Administration to ease the financial impact on local churches in coming years’ budgets;

• $1 million to Conference Congregational Development to help support local churches, new ministries and new church plants and communities where poverty is significant;

• $299,000 to cover unfunded pension liabilities; and

• $31,000 in direct billing for pastors’ pension and health benefits.

The trustees are holding $2.5 million to cover their operations and legal expenses. Trustees may release some or all of these funds for ministry after certain legal deadlines have expired.

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