By Jessica Connor
United Methodist leaders are taking a giant step forward this year in apportionment goals for the S.C. Conference.
Bishop Jonathan Holston has set a goal of S.C. churches paying 92 percent of apportionments for 2013 ”far more than the conference has seen in decades. Last year, S.C. UMCs paid 87.02 percent of apportionments for 2012 “ the best numbers since 2003 and almost 3 percent higher than the 84.2 percent they paid in 2011.
The 2013 budget is $17.6 million. Reaching 92 percent would translate to $16.2 million for United Methodist programs and agencies across South Carolina.
Holston said the point of our apportionment giving is never the money; it is about doing together what no individual, congregation, district or conference can do alone.
Setting the goal of 92 percent is to faithfully share in being a part of the Body of Christ, doing Christ's work, Holston said. It is committing ourselves to a ministry of being the hands and feet of Jesus, making disciples, training leaders, creating new places for new people and addressing the needs of children and poverty.
Conference financial leaders are optimistic.
I think it s doable, said Conference Treasurer Tony Prestipino. I think we re seeing people in our churches feeling more confident. There are more messages of hope out there. I think people are excited about some of the ministries going on in the churches and throughout the conference.
That excitement is translating to giving, he said.
So far, the numbers support the optimism. As of Oct. 22, churches across S.C. have paid almost 61 percent of apportionments compared to this time last year, when they had paid 56.99 percent.
The Rev. David Surrett, chair of the conference Council on Finance and Administration, said initially, he felt 92 percent was a large stretch from last year, but now he is very excited about the goal.
Pastors and congregations are enthusiastic about the ministry of our church at this time in South Carolina, and especially our bishop, Surrett said. CF&A has set nine goals for the period 2012-2016 in order to raise levels of stewardship, more adequately fund critical areas of ministry and more efficiently use our funds and overall resources. Goals are even more critical in an age of changing understandings of the role of the church and its organized structure. They help us focus more directly on specific areas of need and growth in ministry.
Surrett said achieving a higher percentage of apportionment giving will allow CF&A to not so deeply affect programs and ministries to accomplish its goal of setting apportionments at 15 percent of total average net funds of all churches in the conference.
Columbia District is leading the 12 districts in giving, paying 75.22 of apportionments as of Oct. 22. The Marion District follows at 65.56 percent, with the Greenville District at 62.81 percent and the Walterboro District at 62.46 percent. The Hartsville District is currently last at 53.07 percent, just behind the Charleston District at 53.57 percent.
Last year, the Columbia District achieved 100 percent after its churches teamed up and gave a little extra to help those churches not reaching 100 percent to meet that goal. This year, Columbia District Superintendent Dr. Tim McClendon is very hopeful the district can do 100 percent again.
I think that the laity and clergy of the Columbia District ˜get connectionalism. They understand and appreciate that together we can do more for God, McClendon said. We pool our human resources and call it itinerancy, and we pool our financial resources and call it apportionments. In both cases we share, and it works. It s part of our DNA to be in ministry and mission together.
McClendon summed it up quoting Methodist missionary E. Stanley Jones, who once said, When the tide of missions comes in, all the ships rise.
Apportionment giving is missions and all the ships are rising in the Columbia District, McClendon said.
The Rev. Dickie Knight, Marion District superintendent, said his churches are dedicated to doing whatever it takes to pay their apportionments because they understand their dollars directly support everything from clergy development to conference programs, such as Salkehatchie, Revolution and the Summit on the Black Church.
The vast majority of my churches and pastors are committed to The United Methodist Church and to our connectional system, and therefore to paying their apportionments, Knight said. Some of the smaller churches are struggling, but yet they pay their apportionments and make whatever sacrifices are necessary, and even the smaller churches are committed to paying 100 percent.
Knight said he think the 92 percent goal is achievable, and possibly a lot of that is because churches are inspired by Holston and his obvious display of commitment and perseverance, which they saw at Annual Conference in June.
Folks saw Bishop Holston come on the scene and ho
w well he handled the conference, and I think they saw his commitment to our conference and to The United Methodist Church, said Knight, who noted that when the churches realize 92 percent is Holston s personal goal for South Carolina, they want to help reach that.
Surrett said he hopes local churches will be proud of every stride forward they make in giving and ministry support, because those dollars are well spent.
The entire CF&A is most appreciative of all monies given for the work of Christ through South Carolina United Methodism, Surrett said. We are anticipating a very, very strong finish to apportionment giving in 2013.
For up-to-date information on the current apportionment percentage, or for more information on conference finances, visit www.umcsc.org/home/offices-2/treasurer .