By Fred Koenig
Rev. Sheri Swanson, chair of the Missouri Conference Finance and Administration Team, presented a report to the session that indicated the Missouri Conference remains in a financially strong position.
“We have finished yet another excellent year in terms of your generosity. I am astounded by just how generous the Missouri Annual Conference continues to be,” Swanson said.
One mark of that generosity is remarkable giving outside the Annual Conference. For more than two decades, the Missouri Conference has been celebrating our partnership through the Mozambique Initiative, and this spring, CFA approved the fundraising for new work in Puerto Rico.
Another sign of generosity is in apportionment giving. In 2017, there was $12.3 million given to apportionments, an increase of $200,000 from 2016 and a new Missouri Conference record. There was also a new record set for the payment percentage, coming in at 88.99 percent, an increase of more than 1.5 percentage points from 2016. There were 608 churches who paid 100 percent of their apportionments including 21 churches who went above and beyond exceeding 100 percent in their payments. And, the Mid-State District has reclaimed the top payout with a nearly 98 percent payout, just edging out last year’s winner, the Southeast District who also approached 98 percent. The Gateway Central and Ozarks Districts increased their payouts by 6 percent each.
In the last couple years, CFA and the Trustees realized that the policy of using funds from discontinued churches was too restrictive. In a conversation that also involved the Cabinet and Clergy Support Team, it realized that some of those funds may well be needed to insulate the Conference against future pension liabilities. Some of those funds may also be needed for congregational development or even in one of the new areas of focus. For larger amounts, those in excess of $25,000, CFA, the Cabinet, Bishop, Director of Congregational Excellence and Treasurer will develop a plan for its use. This actually reflects what they have done when other assets have yielded more significant financial assets.
The proposed budget of just over $13.8 million is down slightly compared to 2018 reflecting about a $45,000 thousand decrease.
“As we say every year, Nate and CFA are committed to holding our apportionment requests in check,” Swanson said. “We truly believe that the most effective ministry occurs in local churches, and while the Annual Conference and General Church have a role to play, we are committed to containing the financial impact of that role on our most effective ministries. Because of that, we are presenting a decreased budget for 2019, even as we work to continue restructuring for a new vision.”
General and Jurisdictional support shows a decrease of a little over $109,000. This reflects an effort by various general agencies to ask for less than what was actually authorized by General Conference 2016.
District Superintendent Compensation is only increasing by .2%. In fact, the slight increase in the DS fund is mostly represented by the continued shift of DS housing from districts to the Annual Conference. Many should see a corresponding decrease for DS housing in their home district now that it’s being funded almost entirely from the Annual Conference.
Clergy Support shows a significant decrease for next year. This is typically the case, though this year’s decrease is not as much as in years past. Most of that is tied to a reduction in total payments under the retiree healthcare stipend plan approved back in 2008. These payments are being made to a closed group of retired pastors, so it decreases from year to year.
Throughout the budget is an item called “stabilization.” Stabilization ensures that all salaries and fixed expenses paid by the Conference will be 100 percent covered even though total apportionments aren’t paid at 100 percent. The formula factors in the most recent year’s apportionment data, so this 2019 budget benefits from the fact that 2017 collections were high.
“I’m proud to be part of a Conference that understands the need for great financial accountability and responsibility,” Swanson said. “We recognize the decline in many of our churches, but I believe we are seeing more fruitful ministry than ever. I am proud to be part of a conference that finds ways to do better and more exciting work while remaining fiscally responsible.”