1995 Stewardship Report | Appendices | Annex A - Annex F | Annex G - Annex N

1997 Stewardship Report on the United Methodist Church

"Therefore, by their fruits you will know them."
- Matthew 7:20, New King James Version

Believing that the laity are unaware of over 99% of what is happening within the United Methodist Church (UMC), and that an informed, aware membership is vital to the renewal of our denomination, we are presenting the following information on the expenditure of church moneys. This data is by no means comprehensive, but provides a means of showing what the priorities are of our denomination's employees. It represents a compilation of stewardship data from financial reports published by the general boards and agencies themselves, previous editions of The Christian Methodist Newsletter, the "Monthly Update," the "1995 Stewardship Report on the United Methodist Church," news articles from other sources, both United Methodist (UM) and non-UM related sources, and examination of data at Concerned Methodists. This study offers an overall view of the UMC financial picture, selected financial data and advocacy support by episcopal leaders and employees in the UM general boards and agencies, and a prognosis for the future. Raw financial data will be presented,coupled with how this money is used, analyses offered, and overall observations made. It is hoped that this study will provide the background from which one could perceive an objective snapshot of our United Methodist Church.

The adage "follow the money" holds true in giving a reliable indicator of what one - be it individual or institution - deems important. In this, we believe that, at times, there is a questionable use of the tithes given so faithfully into the church by the people sitting in the pew.

When a person is asked to give to the United Methodist Church (UMC), it is necessary to look past the rhetoric of "giving to God's work", "returning to God what is His", etc. to the reality of how money is spent. Remember that the Bible tells us that we, both individually and church officials corporately, will be held accountable for the wise use of resources in doing His work (Luke 16:2, etc.). In other words, "How efficiently is the money given in the name of the Lord actually translated by the institution of the church into its intended purpose at its ultimate destination?" Please consider how complicated UM funding practices can be by looking at several examples using the chart.

For instance, the National and World Council of Churches (NCC & WCC) are funded not only through the International Denominational Cooperation Fund (ICF) but also the Women's Division, special offerings, and from the World Service apportionments through any of a number of the general boards and agencies: the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), the General Council on Ministries (GCOM), the General Board of Discipleship (GBOD), the General Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry, and the Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns. In addition to multiple paths of financial support, the ways a given organization may be supported can vary from one year to the next. As a more specific example, in 1992 the GBGM funded the Sandinista "Centro Ecumenical Antonio Valdivieso" (CAV) in three separate ways: 1. directly ($6,000), 2. through the NCC ($7,000), and 3. through the Ecumenical Committee for Aid to Development (CEPAD) ($3,581). Funding within the GBGM to an organization can come from multiple sources; for instance, one group can receive separate grants from the Women's Division, the World Division, the National Division, and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).

This chart shows financial transfers from a previous year and is presented to show the multiple paths of funding:

The importance of money as an indicator of priorities cannot be overestimated. We are constantly told about "worshiping God with our tithes and offerings." Dr. William H. Willimon and the late Dr. Robert L. Wilson have written, "Keeping a steady flow of funds necessary to maintain the institution receives the highest priority. Despite the rhetoric, maintaining and managing the institution are what many officials feel is important." (Rekindling the Flame,* page 63). Coupled with the observation that money is a central focus in our denomination and reflecting the Scripture verse above, we can best evaluate the true priorities of denominational officials and agencies by observing their actions.

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Overall View of the UMC Financial Picture

We often receive in a bulletin or have posted on a bulletin board of our churches poignant pictures of children or poor people with an appeal for some type of offering. A review of key statistics give us additional perspective on these requests. The fact that our general boards and agencies have accumulated more invested assets now than at any other time in history indicates that the money given in response to these appeals is not making its way to help the intended people. For 1996, the General Board of Global ministries (Annex E) had net assets of $409,210,898, the General Board of Church and Society (Annex D) had net assets of $15,622,476, and the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry had net assets of $75,807,672.

The GBGM received $191,551,170 in revenues in 1996, up from $168,847,907 in 1995 - an increase of $22,703,263, or +13.358%. At the same time, distributions and grants to "outside organizations" not related to the UMC (Annex I) received $96,465,479 (50.369% of income), up from $70,734,241 in 1995 (41.89% of income for that year) - a net increase of $25,731,238. Support of the GBGM's offices in New York City and other administrative expenses received $49,486,777 (25.83% of income), up from $32,668,817 in 1995 (19.35% of income for that year).

In contrast, direct support of persons in mission received $19,241,794 in 1996 (10.045% of income), down from $22,731,586 in 1995, which was 13.46% of income for that year. Direct support of persons in mission in the world division [i.e., foreign missionaries] was $10,787,894 in 1996 (5.632% of income), down from $15,572,143 in 1995 (9.22% of 1995 income). The boards are growing richer at the expense of missions.

This reflects the picture that overall revenues have been increasing, and more money is going to the categories of "organizations outside of the UMC" and to "administrative expenses," both in actual dollars and also as a higher percentage of GBGM income (this latter statistic reflects a double increase since higher proportions of a growing revenue are allocated to these two areas). Conversely, money allocated into overall mission support and foreign mission support decreased, both in terms of real dollars and in terms of the percentage of GBGM revenues.

This is in the face of a consistent loss of members of over 232 members per day, seven days a week, 365 days a year for 28 years (See Appendix 6 in Annex C, The Episcopal Fund: "Membership Decline in the United Methodist Church"). In addition, we have had a steady loss of foreign missionaries since the 1920s - when the UMC had the largest mission sending force in Protestantism - to the 287 today. Even that figure may be too high; one former member of the GBGM stated this past month that the actual numbers on the field at that time were 203. This may reflect part of the reason that money allocated to overseas missions is less. Conclusion: the poor and the children in the pictures are not recipients of all the money given in response to appeals made in their behalf.

The study included in Annex K approaches the stewardship issue from the perspective the General Council on Finance and Administration's (GCFA) policy of denominational agencies retaining a minimum of 25% of annual operating budgets in reserve. If this is the case, the figures cited above show excessive accumulation of moneys at the general church level. This study then offers the estimate that the World Division of the GBGM has accumulated assets representing 40 years worth of World Service Fund income. In other words, with the funds it has invested, it could operate for 40 more years without receiving another penny from the World Service part of the apportionments.

Reserves held by the other divisions and agencies were: 9.7 years for the National Division, 7.8 years for the Women's Division, 5.8 years for the General Board of Church and Society, 3.6 years for the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, 1+ year for the General Commission on Archives and History (total net asset growth was 41% over the past four years), and less than a year for the General Board of Discipleship (total net asset growth was 35% over the past four years).

Several questions need to be asked. How much of the money given to help the people seen in these poignant pictures actually reaches its destination? If there were genuine concern at the general board levels, would there be so much interest in accumulating money? Are some of the boards accumulating the money so that they can become economically self-sufficient - and will no longer need to rely on apportionments - or be subject to the will of the General Conference?

The observation was made by professors William H. Willimon and (the late) Robert L. Wilson of Duke University in their book Rekindling the Flame* that only 13% of UM money is actually translated into true mission and benevolence in 1983, down from 16% in 1970. A salient question that could be addressed in the area of stewardship is "What happens to that other 87%?" If one were to project that figure out to 1996, the estimate would be 10%. In fact, the most recent calculation by Concerned Methodists shows that this figure has dropped to 8.69991%

What effect does this have on the local church? If one were to drive through the town of Fayetteville, North Carolina, he could see buses and vans in the parking lots of the independent and congregational churches: Village Baptist Church, Berean Baptist Church, Northwood Temple (P.H.) Church, to name a few. This transportation is used to go out into the community on Sundays - and other days - to pick up poor people for church services. Questions need to be asked: "Does the money taken out of the local churches to go to the general church level represent a financial drain at what should be the focus of ministry in our denomination?" and "Where is the money needed more?"

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Selected Priorities and Organizational Support by Episcopal Leaders and Employees in the UM General Boards and Agencies

The bishops, by virtue of their position, are the leaders of our church and should offer spiritual guidance, establishing a climate of worship that nourishes and grows the laity in the spiritual realm. Their actions and the priorities they espouse are important to the direction of the United Methodist Church (Annex C). In practice, they, along with members of the General Board of Church and Society, General Board of Global Ministries, the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, and UM Communications are active in the socio-political arena. To examine their actions as reflected in "The Episcopal Fund" - Annex C, and the other associated annexes (A, B, D, E, F, G, I, K, M), one would conclude that they were supportive of homosexual advocacy, abortion, euthanasia, and a selected political agenda, in addition to the normal functions of an organized church.

Often the argument is proffered that a bishop's powers are limited in how much he can affect the priorities pursued by the church's employees. This argument is effectively neutralized by the observation that if a UM pastor or general board started supporting a radical right-wing organization such as the American Nazi Party, he would be summarily forced out of the church, or the funding for that offending board would be reduced. An examination of numerous sources would reveal a long history of such activism, especially in the promotion of homosexuality mentioned previously. Recommended reading are: On Thin Ice by Roy Howard Beck, "The Betrayal of the Church"* by Dr. Ed Robb and Julia Robb, "The Coercive Utopians" by Rael Jean Isaac and Eric Isaac, and other good works. Annexes A, B, C, D, E, F, G, I, K, L, M and N contain information supportive of this premise.

Since homosexuality appears to be a "flag" issue in the United Methodist Church today, that is the area we shall examine. One cannot help but observe that the recent acquittal in the trial of The Reverend Jimmy Creech for performing a "same-sex covenanting service" is only the latest in a series of events beginning in 1972 and is leading to other subsequent actions: the decision by the bishops and cabinets of the Troy conference (Bishop Susan M. Morrison)[1] and the California-Nevada Conference (Bishop Melvin Talbert) in affirming the right to perform this type of ceremonies, and the action of (now) over one hundred UM clergymen stating that they too would perform same-sex covenanting ceremonies [2]. These actions are in clear violation of the will of the 1996 General Conference in Denver, Colorado. This in turn has led to a vigorous request by evangelical laity and clergy in the California-Nevada Conference for a formal split of the two factions in the United Methodist Church (See Annex N).

The uproar over the decision in the Jimmy Creech trial has elicited a swarm of formal statements by various bishops to the effect that they "support the Book of Discipline" (with little mention of the Scripture) that look all too similar. The thrust of these statements is that the Creech trial in Nebraska did not have any effect on other areas of United Methodism. Since the payment of apportionments is expected of all in the denomination, then the actions of the bishops and general boards are, in effect, being funded by the people in the pews. This means that a layman or laywoman, regardless of how evangelical he/she may be, is funding the promotion of the gay lifestyle by those "Denver 15" bishops who publicly opposed the church's and the Bible's stance on homosexuality at General Conference, along with the bishops of the Troy and the California-Nevada Conferences. The same support is provided corporately by those evangelical churches. If the structure of the UMC is unable - or unwilling - to enforce decisions made by the General Conference and codified into The Book of Discipline, then we have a problem; that is tantamount to ecclesial anarchy. This, assuredly, affects our connectionalism.

Dr. Calvin Johnson has observed, "If the will of the General Conference cannot be enforced in one area, it cannot be enforced in any part." He further stated, "The Jimmy Creech case cannot be viewed as an isolated case that doesn't affect anyone else. If connectionalism does not apply here, then connectionalism is forever discredited."

Additionally, we believe the pursuit of such priorities to be a misuse of UMC resources in that the needs of the people in spiritual areas are not being met. Someone once said, "If you do things you shouldn't be doing, you won't have time to do the things you should be doing."

In addition to the neglect of spiritual areas that are so vital to the life of our church, there is an element of duplicity in the political advocacy that is conducted. When UM staffers from these respective agencies are lobbying our national leadership on behalf of a "cause," they give the appearance of speaking for the UMC's 8.5 million members when, in fact, they do not. In addition, staffers frequently adopt positions opposite to that of the majority of United Methodist laity, notably in the areas of abortion and homosexuality. Two surveys in the files of Concerned Methodists show that the UM membership opposes both of these practices, yet the actions of UM staffers and bishops would lead to the conclusion that these actions are supported. Even more importantly, the deleterious effects of the "gay" lifestyle is shown in "The Episcopal Fund" - Annex C, Appendix 4, from both a socio/physical and a spiritual perspective.

The Methodist Church started as one man doing what he could to take the message of Jesus Christ to the "ordinary people" and, as a result, his legacy brought changes in two countries and throughout the world. our present church tries to effect political change, neglects spiritual change - and fails at both. This reflects on our church leadership.

Possibly, we need to ask ourselves a question: "Is our denomination dysfunctional?" We often have a pastor, whose salary is paid by the members of his congregation, obeying the wishes of his superiors, whose salaries are paid by the collective members of the churches, pursuing some priorities that are, at times, objectionable to those same members. Yet, despite the protests made to these same clergy or board staffers, there is little or no change in behavior. In other words, the people are expected to pay the apportionments, yet the hierarchy does not expect itself to be accountable for their actions to those same people who pay their salaries. This is what one UM pastor termed the "Unidirection Connection."

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A Prognosis for the Future

The future of UMC finances, and indeed of the UMC itself, appears to be problematic. First, the simple mathematics of an ever-decreasing membership base having to respond to ever-increasing demands for payment of the apportionment will precipitate a financial crisis at some point in the future, unless this trend is reversed. In addition to that, an "Annual Conference listening Project" conducted by the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) suggests UMC financial problems are likely to continue. As a way of securing input about the budget that was recommended for the 1997-2000 quadrennium, GCFA conducted group interviews with leaders of fourteen conferences. In 1993 there was no consensus about the financial future, but in 1994 most conferences agreed that income would either fall or be flat in the next quadrennium, and connectional ministries would need to be better focused, better interpreted, and more clearly relevant to local church needs. Asked about funding levels general agencies can expect in 1997-2000, conference leaders said it would be "about the same" or "less". Attitudes toward the general church range from neutral to negative. When there is enthusiasm for general funds, there is equal concern about the "high level of administrative expense and failure to prioritize." [3] Annex E on "The General Board of Global Ministries" and especially Appendix 1, the Report by Dr. Karl Stegall, reinforce this view and should be carefully examined.

Reasons for the negative attitudes toward perceived stewardship at the general church level may stem from staffers' extravagance, waste, lack of accountability, and - at times - obfuscation. For instance, a presenter at a district level lay education session desired to illustrate why it was "necessary to pay the full apportionment." He gave the illustration of a line of people whose collective job it was to pass a glass of water from one end to the other without spilling any. He stated that "if one person sips a little out of the glass before he passes it on, not as much will reach the end of the line. In the same way, when a church does not pay its full apportionment, then less is available for mission." The question should be asked, "Why is the glass only 13% full in the first place?"

This exemplifies why there is a growing distrust of financial accountability stemming from the general church level. Especially troubling is the proliferation of untruthfulness by UM clergy, including pastors, district superintendents, and bishops. Integrity is central to our existence as a Christian church; if there is no trust, there will soon be no institutional church.

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Individual and Collective Responses to Stewardship

"So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver."
- 2 Corinthians 10:7, New King James Version

The issue of personal stewardship can be addressed by, what we believe, are "free choice" rights people have in the giving of their tithes exemplified in "A Methodist Syndrome" (Annex L):

  1. Each person owes his tithe to the Lord.
  2. Each person has a right to know how his tithe is spent.
  3. Each person has the right to not be coerced, pressured, manipulated, or lied to in the area of stewardship.
  4. Each person has a right to have his tithe spent to support those causes that are biblical and with which he agrees.
  5. Each person has a right to not have his tithe spent in ways that are unbiblical and/or antithetical to his beliefs.
  6. Each person has a right to give through whatever agencies will best use his tithe in accordance with his wishes.
  7. Each person has a responsibility to give his tithe through whatever agency or combination of agencies will make the most efficient use of it, of which the United Methodist Church is one.
  8. Each person has a right to support those ministries in the local and/or general UM church with which he is comfortable.
  9. Each person has a right to not support those ministries of the local and/or general UM church with which he is uncomfortable.
  10. Each person has a right to exercise the actions delineated above without being pressured, manipulated, or asked to leave the church.

Simple and to the point. It might be added that if lying is involved in the expenditure of church moneys, then possibly that type of mission is not for the legitimate work of Jesus Christ.

A corporate solution to stewardship dilemmas is exemplified both by the case involving the First United Methodist Church in Marietta, Georgia (Annex M) and by the pastors and laity who are petitioning the California-Nevada Conference for separation from a hierarchy supportive of homosexuality (Annex N) and from the United Methodist Church. After a careful study of various aspects of the situation in the denomination, the members of FUMC Marietta made a responsible decision. Appendix 5 in Annex C reflects the reaction by Bishop Lindsey Davis in response to their action. It must respectfully be stated here that we in Concerned Methodists disagree with the thrust of Bishop Davis' letter, and see too many errors in it. Voluminous information at Concerned Methodists, and over thirty-five years' experience in observing (United) Methodist actions verifies the conclusions reached by the Marietta church. What is needed at this juncture is an objective, reasoned analysis of the problems in our denomination. We should then formulate actions that will correct those causes leading to the decline of our United Methodist Church.

We invite your attention to the information contained in the Annexes with the reminder that "by their fruits you will know them." By examining the actions of UM bishops and general board staffers, you will have an indication of how your tithes are truly being used by our denominational structure - and what effect it has on God's work.


  1. Newscope, 3/20/98, p. 3
  2. Newscope, 3/20/98, p. 3
  3. Newscope, 10/6/95, p. 2

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Notes on the organizations referenced in the Annexes:

Unless otherwise indicated, financial data on all of the organizations listed in the study came from the following sources:
  • Report of the Treasurers of the General Board of Global Ministries for the years covering 1994, 1995, and 1996.
  • Financial Disclosure Report of the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church for the years 1994, 1995, and 1996.
  • The Daily Christian Advocate for the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, covering the 1997-2000 quadrennium.
  • Treasurers' reports, annual reports, and financial disclosure reports from various general boards and agencies of the UMC.

A With the political changes that have occurred in the southern half of Africa and the demise of the ANC, SWAPO, and PAC, this area is being monitored for possible Marxist influence.
G Good News magazine, published by the Forum for Scriptural Christianity, 309 East Main Street, Wilmore, Kentucky 40390
FRN Further research is needed and being conducted as to activism.
I The Institute on Religion and Democracy, 1521 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036
L With the political changes that have occurred in Latin America in the past three decades, these groups are being monitored to see how they are affecting the political arena in this area.
N These groups are being monitored to see how they affect the national arena in political, economic, and/or social advocacy.
R RENEW/ECUMW - The Evangelical Women's Network. Paper by Faye Short, RENEW/ECUMW Network, P.O. Box 889, Cornelia, GA 30529.
T The study by United Methodists for More Faithful ministry written by Mr. Mark Tooley.
U UMAction, Washington, DC.
* Financial support given by the General Board of Global Ministries. The GBGM has the largest budget of any of the general boards and agencies, and is the most prolific supporter of non-UM groups, causes, and agencies.

For those organizations in the Annexes with three figures listed, the amounts are for 1994, 1995, and 1996, i.e. (reflecting the most current figures available). For instance, "$100/$100/$100" shows that the organization received $100 for each of the years 1994, 1995, and 1996. This also helps to establish a specific pattern of funding. Most organizations will show some funding for 1996. For those that have only one figure listed, funding will be indicated by year. In some instances, funding for an organization was indicated by a single amount with a past year indicated to show a pattern of support for a specific cause that we are tracking. Others such as the Episcopal Fund, UM Communications, and the General Board of Church and Society show an amount that approximates the yearly budget for the 1996-2000 quadrennium, if exact figures were not available from the agency.

Also, it should be noted that some actions such as political advocacy in a specific area involved multiple groups; for instance, activism on behalf of Cuba may have involved the GBCS, GBGM, NCC, and the bishops.

A Historical Perspectives of United Methodist - related Stewardship
B (United Methodist) Communications
C The Episcopal Fund
  • Appendix 1: Letter by Bishop C. P. Minnick, Jr.
  • Appendix 2: Letter from the Raleigh Religious Network for Gay and Lesbian Equality, signed by United Methodist pastor Jimmy Creech
  • Appendix 3: News Release by the "Denver 15"
  • Appendix 4: Fact Sheet on "The Gay Lifestyle"
  • Appendix 5: Letter signed by Lindsey Davis, bishop of the North Georgia Conference*
  • Appendix 6: Membership Decline in the United Methodist Church
D The (United Methodist) General Board of Church and Society
E The (United Methodist) General Board of Global Ministries
F The National Council of Churches in Christ
G The World Council of Churches
H United Methodist Organizations and Trends in the General Church
I Non-United Methodist Organizations Supported with UM Money
K "UM Global Agencies Amass $100s of Millions"*
L A Methodist Syndrome, by Phil Shriver
M Case Study - First United Methodist Church of Marietta, Georgia**
N "A Proposed Recommendation for ERF to the California-Nevada Annual Conference"
*Taken from "The Unofficial Confessing Movement Page" on the INTERNET (permission granted to use information):

**Taken from website "Good News - Transforming Lives into Christ's Likeness" page on the INTERNET (permission granted):

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Annex A - Annex F | Annex G - Annex N | Appendices | 1995 Stewardship Report |

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P. O. Box 2864
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Phone: 910/488-4379 FAX: 910/488-5090
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