By Jessica Connor
We're still on track.
That's the word from S.C. Conference Treasurer Tony Prestipino, who says United Methodist churches across the state continue to pay a bit more than they did last year when it comes to apportionments.
As of Oct. 31, apportionment payments were at 59 percent (or $10.66 million), compared to 56.7 percent (or $9.96 million) this time last year.
The 2.3 percent increase is promising, Prestipino said.
Everything is still looking good, he said. Right now we re staying afloat, and I have high hopes we ll be at the 85 percent level at the end of the year.
UMCs typically pay at least 80 percent of the conference budget, and the more they pay, the more United Methodist agencies and organizations receive for their programming. Last year, churches paid 83 percent of the $17.5 million total conference budget for 2010, or $14.6 million.
Prestipino said that as of Oct. 31, the Columbia District giving reflects the strongest percentage, with 72.2 percent of apportionments paid. The Marion District comes in second, at 65.6 percent paid as of Oct. 31, followed by Rock Hill at 62.6 percent. The Florence District so far has the lowest percentage paid, at 38.9 percent.
Prestipino said that is a big jump for Marion District; last year, its churches had only paid 52 percent as of Oct. 31.
Marion District Superintendent the Rev. Dickie Knight said he is so proud of the churches in his district, though he can t point to any one factor specifically that might be contributing to their increase in apportionment payments. He tries to encourage pastors to encourage their churches to move toward paying their apportionments in full, saying he feels the pastors are a major player in getting the apportionments paid. Also, the district has a large number of laypersons who are committed to the mission and ministry of the UMC through apportionment giving, and they are working in tandem with pastors to drive giving.
Most of the churches put their apportionments in their budgets and really do want to pay 100 percent of them, even it means cutting back in some other areas of ministry, Knight said, noting that many of the district s churches are in some of the most economically depressed areas of South Carolina, yet they are faithful in paying their apportionments.
Columbia District Superintendent Dr. Tim McClendon said his district values connectional ministry; last year they paid out a record 98.9 percent on apportionments and hope to do so again.
Every year at charge conferences, I try to put a face on apportionments highlighting one of our connectional ministries that one church couldn t do but together we can, McClendon said. That s our theme, ˜Together We Can Do More! Some churches struggle, of course, but I think they can see the results of their shared ministry and take it seriously. It is not an obligation. It s a celebration.
Prestipino said he is grateful for whatever churches can pay, and any increase in the percentage helps.
It helps us administer the conference better, and it helps all the different ministries, the scholarships, the home, camps and retreats, Prestipino said. You can t always see the tangible effect, but it does help.