Trustees: 10% tithe from 2023 separating churches disbursed

The trustees of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church have released information on the disbursement of tithes from churches that separated from the denomination in 2023.

After 113 local churches in the South Carolina Conference separated from the UMC at Annual Conference 2023, the trustees were entrusted with determining how best to use what they call “the seed that God has provided” through the tithes of these departing congregations.

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.

“We are called by a generous and loving God to be faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms—this has always been so within our connection,” said the Rev. Shannon Bullion, chair of the trustees of the Annual Conference. “Being entrusted with the care of the tithes of separating churches, the trustees have diligently and collaboratively discerned what we pray is the best use of what God has provided.”

South Carolina Resident Bishop L. Jonathan Holston and the Cabinet have prayerfully considered how to effectively support and empower the mission and ministries of the local church and encourage revitalization and leadership development.

They have established the “Hope Fund”—available to local churches through their district offices—to provide financial support to assist congregations in achieving the conference’s “Our 4 Priorities” as they make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. 

“We celebrate mission and ministry at multiple levels in the local church,” said Dr. Stephen Love, the Greenwood District superintendent and dean of the Cabinet. “We are grateful that we can sow the seeds of hope, walking with congregations as they dream God-sized dreams and realize that hope for the future.”

On June 6, 2023, members of the 2023 South Carolina Annual Conference approved the closure of the 113 local churches, whose members had voted to separate from the denomination.

The process for closing these churches—all of which planned to continue in ministry as new entities—is found in Para. 2549 of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church.

These churches, having completed the conference’s Local Church Discernment Process, determined they can no longer function as a United Methodist church because they firmly believe the denomination has not consistently upheld its stated doctrine on issues of human sexuality. Each church held a church conference during which at least two-thirds of professing members supported declaring formally that the church can no longer continue to function as a United Methodist church.

Tithes from Separating Churches

  • Total amount received: $17,574,285

  • Assumed specific allocations:

    • Apportionments (2023 and half of 2024): $3,816,747

    • Direct billing: $30,978

    • Unfunded pension liability: $298,986

  • Retained by Trustees of the Annual Conference

    • Legal reserve: $1,342,757

    • Operating reserve: $1,208,482

  • Conference Council on Finance and Administration: $2,400,000

  • Conference Congregational Development: $1,000,000

  • Districts, via The Cabinet (Hope Fund): $7,476,335

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