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Cooperation among delegates holds line on general church budget

Cooperation among delegates holds line on general church budget

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Cooperation among delegates holds line on general church budget

May 4, 2008     News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0844}

An e-Review Feature
By Erik J. Alsgaard**

FORT WORTH, Texas — Thanks in part to the efforts of the Florida Conference delegation to the 2008 General Conference, the general church budget of The United Methodist Church for the next four years will increase only 4 percent.

Mickey Wilson (left), treasurer of the Florida Conference, and the Rev. Phil Roughton, senior pastor at Christ Church United Methodist in Ft. Lauderdale, confer during a plenary session April 30 of the 2008 General Conference in Fort Worth. Photo by Tita Parham. Photo #08-0831.

Delegates to the quadrennial assembly adopted a budget of $642 million during debate May 2, the final day of the 10-day gathering.

Efforts to tack on an additional $60 million to the budget were turned down by the delegates, a move that Mickey Wilson, treasurer of the Florida Conference, worked behind the scenes to ensure.

The theme of the General Conference was a “Future with Hope,” Wilson said, and he sensed that hope throughout the budgeting process.

“Fiscal responsibility was apparent in our committees and on this floor,” Wilson said after the debate and vote on the budget, “thanks in large part to the leadership of the General Council on Finance and Administration, the Connectional Table, and the cooperation of the General Secretaries.

“The budget was held at $642 million, the exact figure that they came to us with six months ago. I’ll leave this General Conference knowing that there is indeed a future with hope.”

Wilson said holding the budget at the same level initially presented to the General Conference was a historic move. Extra non-budgeted items approved by delegates — totaling $3.5 million — were funded through the denomination’s general agencies from their respective budgets, ensuring no additional apportionment dollars would be used.

“In the committee we were emphatic at holding the budget to the $642 million,” Wilson said  “We thought, ‘That’s a fair budget, a little over a 4 percent increase over a four-year period.’ But when another almost $3.5 million got added to the budget from the floor, we were insistent that that be used from agency reserves and through their own budgets, and that’s exactly what happened.”

For congregations in the Florida Conference, the impact of the general church budget will not have changed as a result of the debates and votes during General Conference. Wilson said he was pleased with the adopted budget.

“It means that there is an absolute awareness of being fiscally responsible, number one,” he said. “And number two, that they can use reserves within the agencies to fund what I’m calling add-ons. This is good news for the Florida Conference, but more importantly it’s good news for The United Methodist Church. You have a group of people who came here and cooperated instead of adding $60 million.”

The Florida Conference delegation had also come to General Conference asking for information and review of unrestricted net assets — reserves — of the general agencies. Wilson and the chair of the Florida Conference Council on Finance and Administration, the Rev. Dan Johnson, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Gainesville, had sent a letter to General Conference delegates in the financial administration legislative committee asking for this so-called reserve analysis.

“The Connectional Table and the General Council on Finance and Administration have assured us that the next time they meet to discuss the budget, they’ll have available a complete analysis of the net assets of every general agency,” Wilson said.

Wilson sought to put the final result of the budget debate and adoption in colloquial terms  “fellow Texans can understand.”

“To keep doing bidness as usual ain’t the way to get bidness done,” he said. “Well, at this General Conference, we didn’t do bidness as usual and as a result, we got bidness done. Cooperation like I’ve never seen in my life. This is great.”

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is director of communications for the Florida Conference.