I have just returned from the fall meeting of the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) of our denomination. You might expect that such a meeting during these hard economic times would have been discouraging. Not at all. There was realism. There were plans laid to deal with decreasing finances (although to date, the giving to general church apportionments is actually higher this year than last year in terms of both real dollars and percentages), and there was great concern expressed that we keep the focus upon ministry and mission. Many expressed worries about our local churches and our annual conferences, and of course our general church apportionment formula includes an adjustment for economic conditions, so that during hard times the level of general church apportionments to the conferences and local churches actually drops.

Mostly the overall attitude was positive, hopeful, and faithful. The tone was perhaps best expressed by the following bit of what I would call “Thanksgiving Wisdom for Hard Times” that was shared by Dr. Byrd Bonner, the Director of the United Methodist Foundation. He said that during tough times our focus must be upon:

“Faith, not fear
Abundance, not scarcity
Giving, not receiving
Caring, not crisis
Long term, not short term
Spirituality, not materiality
Grace, not greed”

I would add these additional words of wisdom for our Thanksgiving focus:

  • Gratitude, not griping
  • Generosity, not selfishness
  • Long-term, not short-sighted
  • Eternity, not immediacy

What wisdom would you add for this Thanksgiving? During these tough times, I pray that you will share a Happy Thanksgiving with your loved ones.

from Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Area of The United Methodist Church