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Strong, but challenged

Strong, but challenged

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Strong, but challenged

March 2, 2006    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando {0454}

NOTE: A headshot of Whitaker is available at See related story "Financial challenges ahead: leaders gather to discuss possibilities," e-Review FUMNS  {0543} at

An e-Review Commentary
By Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker**

As we enter into a new fiscal year in local churches and the Florida Conference, this is an appropriate time to reflect upon our record in 2005 and our goals for 2006.

The record of giving by Christians in The United Methodist Church in 2005 was remarkable. In 2005 United Methodists gave $85 million more than in 2004! Most of the additional giving — $80 million — consisted of contributions to assist victims of the tsunami in Asia and the hurricanes in America. That generosity in helping people whose lives have been devastated by natural disasters is an indication of a spirit of compassion and moral character shaped by the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed and believed by ordinary people in our local churches every Sunday.

The record of giving by the local churches of the Florida Conference in 2005 was the best in recent memory. In 2005 Florida United Methodists collectively paid nearly 90 percent of the goals for support of the connection and mission of The United Methodist Church in Florida and around the globe. Also, nearly $4 million was given for special offerings, mostly to provide relief and recovery for victims of hurricanes in America.

The Florida Conference's success in supporting the goals for connectional giving has a major impact upon the ability of the whole United Methodist Church to meet its budget and accomplish its goals set by the General Conference. Florida shares with North Georgia the distinction of having the highest goals for connectional giving in the entire church.

I am proud of the improving record of United Methodists in Florida in connectional giving. I think this is the result of the efforts of a lot of people who care. More pastors are fulfilling their responsibility to inform and motivate the leaders and members of local churches about the common ministry United Methodists perform in the world. The laity have been inspirational in their desire to know more about what The United Methodist Church is doing and to fulfill their share of financial support for our common effort. Education provided by The Florida United Methodist Foundation and timely reports provided by the Florida Conference treasurer's office have contributed to this improving record.

I believe that if we can be successful in meeting our financial goals in 2006 then we can set a new trend in Florida. This is an important year because it can be a time when we establish a new pattern of our full participation in the global connection of The United Methodist Church. I am confident that we can do what we set out to do.

At the same time, we are facing a difficult challenge. The premiums for property and casualty insurance have increased dramatically in 2006. While distressing, this development is not surprising to any of us. We are living through a climatic cycle of frequent and powerful hurricanes during a time when we have large populations and property in vulnerable geographical areas. The storms create claims that are paid by the insurance companies, causing the insurance companies to demand higher premiums. During 2004 and 2005 our churches in Florida paid total premiums of a little more than $18 million, but we received more than $35 million in paid-out claims.

Frankly, all of us wish the whole problem of hurricanes and huge insurance premiums would just go away, but it won't. Like so much else in life, we shall have to deal with the problem, and we can deal with it as we deal with other difficulties: we come together, make sacrifices and overcome our obstacles with the grace of the living God.

On Feb. 13 I invited the officers of the Florida Conference to meet to discuss the financial record of 2005 and look at the goals for 2006 and 2007. Every leader and agency of the conference is aware of the whole picture of our financial situation. Together, we shall try to make the best decisions we can make.

If I could summarize our present situation I would say we are strong, but challenged. Clearly, there is much good news to report on our financial health as a church in Florida, but at the same time we have to deal with the financial costs of living in this place at this time in the history of the climate of our planet.

I hope we will not let circumstances triumph over our aims. There is an old maxim: do not pray for an easy life; pray for strength and courage to overcome the difficulties of life. It applies to our financial challenges and opportunities, but even more so to our daily struggle to be the people of God in the face of physical weaknesses, worries, temptations and historical challenges to create a world of justice and peace. May the Spirit of God illumine, empower and guide us to be the people of God who witness to God's purposes and power in the world.

More information about the Feb. 13 meeting can be found in the article "Financial challenges ahead: leaders gather to discuss possibilities," e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service {0543} at


This article relates to Florida Conference Finances.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Whitaker is bishop of the Florida Conference.