Treasurer says 2003 ends on low note with high hopes for 2004 (March 4, 2004)



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

Treasurer says 2003 ends on low note with high hopes for 2004

March 4, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140   
mwacht@flumc.org     Orlando  {0034}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND - Florida Conference Treasurer Dr. Randy Casey Rutland said apportionment giving continued to be down in 2003, but he stopped short of saying a declining trend is emerging for the conference.

"Apportionment giving for the conference in 2003 ended three quarters of a percent lower than 2002," Casey Rutland said. "We were at 84.47 percent in 2003 and 85.21 percent in 2002."

Casey-Rutland said the decrease could be attributed to a weaker economy and the high cost of property and health insurance, resulting in some churches not meeting apportionment obligations.

When less apportionment dollars are given there is less money for ministry, missions and church activity, according to Casey-Rutland.

"I am hopeful the new year will be different," he said. "Every year is a new year, but it's hard to predict."

Bill Johnson, chairman of the conference's Council on Finance and Administration, said he was pleased with last year's numbers.

"In my view, year 2003 was a good year for the conference, considering the state of the economy and the difficult challenges many of our churches are facing," he said.  "The conference finished 2003 in an improved financial position, that is, net assets were greater and apportionment giving was higher, although the percentage or receipts compared to apportionments was slightly lower."

Casey-Rutland noted 2003 was not as bad as had earlier been anticipated. "We ended up better than it appeared we were going to do," he said. "December 2003 was a very, very strong month. It's always the biggest giving month."

Now that the 2003 numbers are in, Casey-Rutland said he is concentrating on the 2004 annual conference budget, which increased 3.7 percent or $660,405 above the 2003 budget.

He said identifying priorities is an enormous challenge for the conference and is encouraging General Conference delegates to be aware of issues addressed at the denomination's gathering this April that will increase the budget.

The General Council on Finance and Administration will ask general conference delegates to approve a $585.7 million denominationwide budget for the 2005-08 period, reflecting a 7.3 percent increase over the $545.7 million for 2001-04.

Delegates will also consider requests for about $80 million to support ministries that aren't included in the budget, such as $38.9 million to continue and expand the denomination's Igniting Ministry media campaign and $2.3 million for a communications initiative for the church's central conferences-regional units in Africa, Asia and Europe. Those requests are being submitted by United Methodist Communications in Nashville.

Additional requests also call for funds to support Africa University, a new General Board of Discipleship Division on Ministries with Young People and ethnic ministries efforts.

Casey-Rutland said, overall, delegates must discern God's will as much as they attempt to mind their pockets.

"To follow God is to be optimistic," he said. "We must discern God's will and when we do that, we will be in a better place."

A report of the proposed churchwide budget for 2005-08 is available on the General Council on Finance and Administration's Web site at http:// www.gcfa.org. A summary of the Board of Pension and Health Benefits proposals is available at http://www.gbophb.org.

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This article relates to Conference- and Denominationwide Ministry.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.




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