By Jessica Connor
Giving-wise, the S.C. Conference of The United Methodist Church just closed its best year in a decade.
S.C. United Methodist churches paid 89.72 percent of apportionments for 2013 — almost 3 percent higher than the 87 percent paid in 2012, which itself was almost 3 percent higher than 2011's 84.2 percent.
That 89.72 percent for 2013 translates to $15.76 million paid to the conference last year of the $17.6 million total budget ”and about $200,000 more for ministry than the conference received from churches in 2012.
While the conference did not achieve Bishop Jonathan Holston s 92 percent goal, and at the end had hoped to break a downsized internal goal of 90 percent, achieving the best numbers since 2002 is something to be proud of, said Conference Treasurer Tony Prestipino.
All things considered, it was an excellent year, Prestipino said. We re in a lot better shape in the conference than we have been, and it makes operating the conference easier.
Holston said he is grateful for the tremendous response toward apportionment giving.
These are excellent steps in our stewardship giving, Holston said. While we did not achieve our goal of 92 percent, I am reminded of the quote attributed to Michelangelo, which says, ˜The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but it is in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark. Beloved, I truly believe the best is yet to come as we continue to seek a more excellent way.
Prestipino said Holston s goal next year is even higher: 95 percent.
The Rev. David C. Surrett, president of the S.C. Conference Council on Finance &
Administration, said CF&A continues to be strongly supportive of the bishop in continuing to move us forward in the avenues of faithful financial stewardship.
Surrett noted CF&A is committed to presenting a budget to the Annual Conference session that is efficient, is well planned and meets the growing needs of this growing state.
Above and beyond
What helped the conference achieve such high numbers this year was three-fold, Prestipino said: a commitment among local churches to supporting the conference s many programs and agencies, such as campus ministries and Salkehatchie Summer Service; increasing financial health across South Carolina; and a handful of churches that went above and beyond their own 100 percent payments.
Prestipino said one church in the Marion District (who wished to remain anonymous) had previously experienced great hardship; but that church not only paid its apportionments 100 percent, but also contributed an extra $25,000.
Several Columbia District churches went above their amounts, too, bringing that district s total payments to 100.37 percent.
This was also the first year the conference paid 100 percent on certain line items that traditionally had received less. Africa University (which South Carolina helped to found) received 100 percent for the first time ever, Prestipino said, thanks in large part to advocacy from the Rev. John Culp and to Washington Street UMC, which contributed an extra $5,000 to help the conference reach that goal.
Robbie Douglas, business administrator at Washington Street, said the $5,000 gift came from one member who felt called to help AU get 100 percent and wanted Washington Street to be represented. But Douglas said the gift didn t surprise him, because Washington Street has missional work in its blood.
Our church takes our apportionments very seriously; it s a very mission-oriented church, Douglas said. It s just part of who we are; we feel it s important that our gifts, which we feel are God-given, are used where they are needed to be used.
The Rev. Bill Childs, Washington Street pastor, said his church is extremely proud to have played a significant role in helping the conference reach 100 percent for AU.
This also was the first year the conference paid 100 percent to the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the UMC. Previously, S.C. had paid less, but the SEJ reduced its budget by 50 percent and requested conferences in the jurisdiction to try hard to pay 100 percent, so we stepped up and did it, Prestipino said.
S.C. giving among top in UMC
Full details on 2013 giving is not yet in across the nation, but for 2012, South Carolina was in the top quarter in terms of apportionment percentages and in the top 10 conferences for the amount actually paid to the General Church.
Across the state for 2013 the Columbia District was the only district to achieve 100 percent or more, though other districts did achieve payments in the 90th percentile. The Marion District paid 92.84 percent, the Orangeburg District paid 92.33 percent and the Anderson District paid 91.47 percent. See below for the breakdown by district.
The Advocate s April edition will include a full listing of what each S.C. UMC paid to the conference.
Surrett said CF&A is very appreciative of the sacrificial giving of all UMCs in the conference.
The (92 percent) goal was challenging, and the move ahead over two percentage points is indeed exciting and excellent progress, Surrett said. There are many, many needs within South Carolina ”a multitude of new residents moving in, college students who need nurture and the care of the church, families in desperate housing situations to which Salkehatchie responds, and others of similarly significant magnitude.
Apportionment Giving Through the Years
“ S.C. Conference Treasurer s Office
Apportionment Payments by District
Rock Hill 86.91%
“ S.C. Conference Treasurer s Office