Three finance-based reports were made Saturday afternoon at Annual Conference. Each of the boards were able to share positive information, even in the face of some challenges. Leading off was the Clergy Support Team. Chairman Steve Pinnell looked back at some of the challenges this team has faced over the past few years including new ways to think of health care for retirees and a 2012 General Conference decision regarding clergy pensions.
Over the past four years this group has looked at the Affordable Healthcare Act and how it will affect clergy, the appointment process and local churches. Pinnell reflected on his gratitude for being able to look at “worldly things in a truly Methodist way.”
Tom Ventura, vice chair, pointed toward changes in the annuity rate for pre-1982 retirees and the policy on parsonage and housing guidelines. Details can be found in the Conference workbook. Ventura did draw attention to a concern. Only 73 percent of clergy are making a contribution of at least one percent to the United Methodist Pension Plan. A contribution is required for a clergy person to receive full pension benefits.
Team member June Dewees addressed upcoming changes to the clergy health care plans. Healthflex will be offered again in 2016, with no increase in premiums. Dewees attributed the ability to keep healthcare costs flat to our outstanding participation in wellness programs.
Tom Hilton, Chair of Finance and Administration (CF&A) began his remarks by acknowledging the faithfulness of local churches in paying apportionments. In 2014, 87 percent of apportionments were paid out, an all-time record for the Missouri Conference. 627 churches paid 100 percent of apportionments and 34 went beyond, exceeding their assessed amounts. The Mid-State District had the highest payout rate at 97.4 percent and the Heartland Central District was most improved, increasing their payout by nearly 7 percentage points.
This team asked for two changes of substance. District Superintendent salaries are approved to be increased by 2.1 percent, although Hilton pointed out that this group has voted to take no increase in the past two years. A recommendation has been made that the Conference eliminate the policy that all investments be federally backed. Hilton pledged that CF & A will continue to seek investments that will produce reasonable income and protect investments and will be in accordance with the social principles of the United Methodist Church. Hilton placed before the Conference a budget of $13,880,297, a very slight decrease from last year.
Ivan James, Chair of the Board of Trustees reported that 18 churches were closed in 2014. Two of those churches became satellites of existing churches. Open Hearts in Wright City is now part of Sunrise UMC and Carl Junction is part of St Paul UMC in Joplin. James addressed the sadness that many feel when a decision is made to close a church. “It’s sad to see churches that once had ‘vigorality,’” James said. “I make up words,” he said as an aside. James called for an increased effort to make struggling churches into ‘revival’ churches.
A continuous record of spending control aligned with mission allows the Missouri Conference to continue to pursue its mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Members of Annual Conference voted to approval the proposals presented by the three teams on Monday without debate.