As I watched our new Conference CFA (Council on Finance and Administration) do their work this past Thursday, I was impressed that the term “fiscal responsibility” is not an outdated idea in our new Indiana Conference. Our CFA is working very hard to bring a balanced, realistic, and even cautious budget for 2010. It is difficult work because we are a new conference and it is hard to predict either costs or income. The CFA is following the model from the Imagine Indiana plan, which means we will live off a tithe of 10% from the local churches’ current expense income for the conference, plus 1% for the districts (although each district can choose whether to add to this 1% for special needs). This total of 11% is less than the previous North and South Conferences asked of their local churches in apportionments to support our connectional ministries, so the CFA has had to make hard decisions as they have prepared the 2010 budget.
Here are some of the ways that the CFA and the conference leaders are seeking to provide fiscal responsibility:
1. We are reducing from 18 to 10 districts over the next year.
2. The total conference and district staff positions are projected to be reduced from 82 to 55.
3. The new conference Directors and the CFA actually cut over $4.5 from the original proposed budget to bring the 2010 budget into a balance with very cautiously projected income figures.
4. The CFA, with its excellent leadership by Dr. Kent Millard of Indianapolis St. Luke’s church, is committed to working on the stewardship level of our individual United Methodists and our United Methodist congregations here in Indiana. As Kent noted during the CFA meeting, if all of our churches will simply tithe to the conference budget, then we have plenty of money to meet our needs. Tithing at all levels – individuals, churches, conference – is the key.
So I am proud of our efforts to have fiscal responsibility. I am also concerned that this is not happening on a national level here in the US. A recent article at CNN.com by Gary Shapiro titled “Next Generation won’t have a Bill Gates” points out the danger of the rising national debt which will prevent future entrepreneurs from getting funding for new ideas and projects. The projected national debt by 2017 will more than equal the total size of the US economy itself. In such a scenario, fiscal responsibility will become an out-dated phrase or an oxymoron.
As a new Indiana Conference, we cannot avoid fiscal responsibility. Our new CFA understands that, and they are doing their best to be good stewards. They deserve our support.