Connectional Funding in the Global Methodist Church
By Keith Boyette
Just seven weeks old, the Global Methodist Church is, as anticipated, a small collection of local congregations humbly, yet boldly serving Christ in their parts of the world. For now, the new church’s Transitional Leadership Council and a small staff are providing direction for all of them. In the coming months, the Global Methodist Church will grow as additional churches depart from The United Methodist Church and align with the Global Methodist Church. The denomination will then be organized into annual conferences requiring local leadership and oversight.
Such an organizational structure will enable local churches to maximize their impact as they join together to advance the mission of Jesus far beyond their walls. The connectional structure of the Global Methodist Church is also designed to add value to the ministry of a local church by facilitating meaningful relationships marked by integrity, transparency, and accountability beyond its local setting.
The local church’s investment in the ministries and missions of the Global Methodist Church are called its “connectional funding.” The name reminds all local churches that they are part of one body working together to share the Gospel all around the world. The general church and the annual conferences will establish a percentage each local church is to set aside for connectional funding (based on annual operating income). The local church determines the amount of its annual operating income.
This approach fulfills two important values. First, local churches will determine the amount paid in connectional funding based on their financial condition rather than having an amount dictated to them without regard to local conditions. And second, they must, with other local churches, hold annual conferences and the general church responsible for being good stewards of the resources they provide for fulfilling the Global Methodist Church’s mission and shared vision. Of course, local churches that repeatedly decline to support the connection will eventually be asked to part ways with the new denomination.
Under this connectional funding model, the general church and its annual conferences must learn to operate with the funds local churches provide. Instead of being a top-down funding model, funding is determined from the bottom up. The finances available for funding connectional ministries is determined at the grass roots level. This way of providing resources for fulfilling the Global Methodist Church’s mission and ministries creates mutual accountability between local churches, annual conferences, and the general church.
Additionally, the percentage of local church funds that are committed to the Global Methodist Church’s connectional funding is capped. On an annual basis, local churches will be asked to determine what their operating income was in the prior year, and then pay a percentage of that amount as its share of connectional funding (see paragraph 349.2-3 of the Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline to see what counts as operating income and various exclusions). The percentage to be paid cannot exceed a specific percentage absent a two-thirds vote of either the annual conference or the General Conference depending on the level served by the connectional funding.
For connectional funding for general church operations, the payment cannot be more than 1.5 percent of the local church’s operating income (see paragraph 349.4a). The specific percentage would be determined by the General Conference and could even be less than 1.5 percent. These funds would support the general church’s mission and ministries, financial assistance for candidates for ordained ministry with costs for theological education, holding General Conference sessions every six years, supporting general church staff salaries and benefits, and providing for the general church’s operations. Global Methodist Church leaders anticipate connectional funding for the denomination will be 50 percent less than what local churches were required to pay in The United Methodist Church.
For connectional funding for annual conference operations, the payment would not be more than 5 percent of the local church’s operating income (see paragraph 349.4b). The specific percentage would be determined by the annual conference. Annual conference connectional funding would provide for the compensation and office expenses of the bishop serving that annual conference and its presiding elders, and a portion of the compensation and office expenses of a bishop serving one of the international episcopal areas. It would also cover expenses for annual conference boards and agencies, and the mission and ministries at the annual conference level. In most instances, local churches have previously paid 10 percent of their operating income to support annual conference operations. The goal, once again, is to reduce such funding by 50 percent.
The Transitional Leadership Council recognizes many local churches seeking to align with the Global Methodist Church will have paid, or be in the process of paying, substantial sums of cash to the UM Church as part of their disaffiliation terms. Upon application, the TLC has committed to permitting local churches to decide the amount they will contribute for connectional funding as part of its budgetary process during the season prior to the Global Methodist Church’s convening General Conference without regard to the percentages referenced above. This will enable the local church to ensure that the ministries of the local church are not impaired because of the financial costs associated with disaffiliation, while also permitting each local church to determine how it will contribute to the finances of the new denomination.
If the Global Methodist Church is to achieve its vision of being a streamlined, more movemental church, then those ministries beyond the local church at the annual conference and general church levels must consistently demonstrate they add value to the ministry of the local church. It is a matter of good stewardship of the resources Jesus has entrusted to His church. The Global Methodist Church is committed to transparency and accountability in all such matters.
The Rev. Keith Boyette is the Transitional Connectional Officer of the Global Methodist Church, its chief executive and administrative officer.
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