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e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service


March 24, 2006    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando {0463}

NOTE: A headshot of Whitaker is available at

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

When I was a pastor I used to look forward to receiving my packet of annual reports the way I looked forward to getting my forms from the Internal Revenue Service. The packet would lie on my desk until I summoned the will to begin gathering the information I would need to complete them. Filing reports was never enjoyable, and sometimes it seemed to be a useless task. I have learned that bishops also have reports to file.

This year I have asked the conference's Office of Administrative Services to arrange a training session for clergy who did not submit their reports by the deadline. It is unpleasant to file reports. I am sure it is even more distasteful to be required to come to a training session on making reports. Why is this being done this year?

The purpose is practical, not punitive. Presently, too many clergy are late in filing the several reports due at the end of the year. As a result, the whole system is not functioning properly. The training session is an intervention into a dysfunctional practice in order to correct the problem.

I believe there are some folks who do not fully understand how to make the necessary reports or to use the technology of reporting via the Internet. We hope that learning how to file the reports will not only improve our system, but also ease the frustration of those who have to use it.

I also believe that some do not understand why it is necessary to report on time. The information in the annual reports is needed by the General Conference on Finance and Administration (GCFA) in order to provide information for denominational planning of various kinds. For example, the data is necessary to determine the budget for the church in the next year since the budget set by General Conference is now adjusted annually in accordance with the membership of the annual conferences. The Florida Conference needs the reports of local churches to provide the data to GCFA so that it can accomplish its difficult task and then report to other agencies.

There is another reason we need to fix the problem of late reports. A tremendous amount of time and energy is being expended by district offices and the Office of Administrative Services to contact people to submit the reports. This is time and energy needed to provide the administration required to fulfill the mission of the church. We need to work together rather than place a strain on those who are in our offices to serve us.

Our reports are not trivial because they are a record of our service during the past year. Yet, in one sense they are relatively unimportant compared to our work of ministry. They become important only when they are late and create an imposition on our fellow workers and disrupt the work of the rest of the church. As we help one another by accomplishing this task of reporting, we actually remove an obstacle in our administrative offices to serve the whole church in doing the truly important work that pertains to our mission.

I thank the vast majority of clergy and laity who take care of this responsibility in a timely manner. Especially, on behalf of all of us, I thank the administrative assistants in our district offices and staff in the Office of Administrative Services for their excellent contributions to our life as a church. I also thank them for their patience with us in the business of filing our reports. Forgive us for the past. We are going to do better in the future.

This article relates to Florida Conference Administration.

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