"By the Numbers ... Are We All-In?
For the 2014 budget, the Annual Conference Session in 2013 voted an increase in the budget of $700,000 more than our CCFA (Conference Council on Finance and Administration) had recommended. Sadly that vote to increase our budget for 2014 did not also bring with it the will or the faithfulness to pay those extra funds. In fact our total Indiana Conference tithe income DROPPED from $13,070,431 in 2013 to $12,813,980 in 2014. This amount represented only about 81% of the "potential tithe" if our churches would have paid 10% of their tithable income, so our CFA was only able to pay 81% of our general church apportionment share. That is a decrease and a change from our trend of improving in our faithfulness in making those payments. Even though all other bills were paid, this shortfall in tithing meant that many other aspects of our mission and ministry did not receive the full support budgeted or needed. Even worse, this will certainly cause us to reduce some of our plans for 2015 and to propose a reduced budget for 2016. Our Indiana Conference is certainly not bankrupt, and our CFA is doing a good job of managing our cash flow, but when our congregations only pay their tithe at 80% it makes the budgeting process very tight.
Let me remind you that the "tithing model" was adopted so that churches were not charged "apportionments" based upon anything other than their own income – so that the Annual Conference income would rise and fall with the local church income because we are all in this together. That is the sad part, for me, of the poor payment of the tithe in 2014. We know from their own statistics that our churches as a whole had improved income in 2013, so why did that not translate to an increase in payment of a tithe of that income? Does it mean that we are not really "all-in" even when the Annual Conference Session votes for an increased budget? To put it even more bluntly: Apparently our clergy and lay members voted for an increased budget and then expected someone else to pay for it.
(By the way, as the President of the General Council on Finance and Administration, I am pleased to report that across our UM connection the total giving for 2014 was up by 2% over the previous year, and we had 25 Annual Conferences pay their general church apportionments at 100% – higher than any previous year when at most 20 Conferences reached 100%. Sadly this means that our Indiana Conference payment of our obligations to the general church looks even worse by comparison)
Another place where the numbers say we are not "all-in" is our Indiana Campaign for Africa University. The Annual Conference voted to adopt a goal of $1.6 million, and we are very near to reaching that goal which is good. But I was surprised and disappointed to learn that fewer than 400 of our congregations have participated in any way toward reaching that goal. Where are the other 700 churches who also voted for the Indiana Conference to do that AU Campaign? While I am grateful for the generosity of those who have given (and some individuals have given very generously), I note that too many of our churches are not "all-in" for this effort.
So, I will keep asking the question, "Are we all-in?" I will keep lifting up the need for us to be faithful and accountable to those things we vote for and say we are going to do. And I will re-double my efforts to communicate and to celebrate those places where we are "all-in" for our mission. I hope more of you will join me in that effort, even as I confess my leadership failures as your bishop.
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