BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Realizing the tough economic times we are experiencing statewide, the conference budget proposal, to be approved at the upcoming Indiana Annual Conference session next month in Muncie, represents a balance between what the Imagine Indiana proposal outlined as the goals for our conference ministries and a sound financial plan to support those ministries. The 2010 unified conference budget will be the first joint budget of the former North and South Indiana Conferences.

For the first year, as we begin to live into the Indiana Conference, some of the initial goals will be tempered by the level at which we are currently receiving the tithe from our local churches. This budget proposal is supported by a tithe (10 percent) from our local churches plus a 1 percent asking for district support. There will not be a 2-percent-plus asking in 2010 for General Church Apportionments.

In order for our work to be more effective, the Imagine Indiana plan called for more locally initiated programming. To meet that goal the 2010 budget asks for a tithe to the annual conference and a 1 percent asking for district budgets. Districts will have the authority to set their own budgets and priorities for the 1 percent they raise. The 1 percent replaces district apportionments.

One of the compelling reasons for creating the new Indiana Conference was a more effective and efficient structure in resourcing our local churches. The 2010 budget proposal represents a 33-percent cut in conference and district staffs and the support of one conference center instead of two conference centers and an area office. Job descriptions are more focused on resourcing congregations than in the previous conferences and such resourcing being initiated at the local church, grassroots level rather than top-down programming determined at a conference level.

General Church

The goal for the new Indiana Conference is to meet our General Church obligations in full; something that neither of the former conferences has been able to do for several years. This obligation is still a very real goal for the new conference, but one we will need to pace ourselves on during a three-year period. For 2010, the conference needs to be committed to paying at least 80 percent of its General Church apportionments with a 90 percent commitment for 2011 and eventually 100 percent in 2012.

Our Indiana General Church obligations help support the worldwide ministry of our global denomination. One-hundred percent giving to The United Methodist Church's seven apportioned funds translates to supporting outreach through our church's general agencies, paving the way for African students to pursue higher education, enriching 11 historically Black colleges, nurturing our bishops in their ministry, providing the financial backbone for General Conference, cooperating with people of other faiths and strengthening seminarians in their spiritual journey. (Read more at

Apportioned funds enable United Methodists to do together what no church, district or annual conference could do alone.

Health-care insurance

Closer to home, the initial hope for the Imagine Indiana plan was the new conference would offer the richer benefits plan for health insurance and premium subsidy for our Indiana retired clergy. Unfortunately, that was not financially sustainable in our current financial environment. The Indiana Conference Council on Finance and Administration has asked its Benefits Committee to structure its retiree insurance and subsidy with considerably less money from our conference tithe in 2010 than what was originally requested. This change is less a product of creating a new Indiana Conference and more a result of where health care costs have gone nation-wide. Your Conference Council on Finance and Administration is attempting to hold the line on the total percentage of cost that a retiree insurance subsidy plan absorbs of our total tithe budget.

We encourage our congregations to tithe their monthly income in order to enable the ministries we support around Indiana, across the United States and around the world.

Jennifer Gallagher serves as the new conference treasurer as she continues to serve as the South Indiana Conference treasurer She is based in Bloomington.