By Jessica Brodie
As it looks now, the South Carolina Conference is poised to reach its financial goal for 2017 and then some.
This year, the goal is for South Carolina United Methodist churches to pay 94 percent of apportionments for the $17.5 million budget for 2017, said Beth Westbury, conference treasurer and director of administrative services.
Through Oct. 17, Westbury said, the conference had collected 64.5 percent of apportionments ($11.3 million) compared to 61.5 percent ($10.8 million) during the same period of 2016.
As well, of the 989 churches paying apportionments, 238 of those churches have paid 100 percent apportionments, compared to 212 at the same point in 2016.
“We have seen improvement in all areas of the budget, but especially in those budget items related to the denomination’s apportionments, such General Conference Administration (up 6.6 percentage points) and Africa University (up 5.8 percentage points),” Westbury said. “I am grateful for the churches in our conference and the way they embrace and support the mission and ministry that happens beyond their neighborhoods.”
If the conference reaches 94 percent, it will be the best financial performance since at least 2002 and possibly ever. The 2016 saw 92 percent, and 2015 saw 91 percent.
To reach 94 percent, Westbury said, the conference needs to collect $5.17 million between now and the apportionments due date of Jan. 16, 2018.
“This is a realistic goal since we have collected just over $6 million in the last quarter of the year in both 2015 and 2016,” she said. “And, since the General Council on Finance and Administration has given a couple of extra days to remit our 2017 apportionments, we have been able to pass a few days along to the local churches.”
Last year, the due date was Jan. 10.
Apportionment dollars support a variety of missions and ministries supported by the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church, from congregational development and pastor salaries to campus ministries, retirement homes, camps and youth programming.
As of Oct. 17, the Walterboro District had the highest percentage of paid apportionments, at 72.2 percent.
Westbury said the Anderson District has shown the greatest percentage point gain at 8.5 points. The Columbia District has gained the most in dollars at $111,101. The Marion District has also gained significantly over the prior year with an increase of $107,001.
“I continue to be thankful for the spiritual commitment of the UMCSC,” said the Rev. Mitch Houston, chair of the conference Council on Finance and Administration. “They take seriously being the hands, feet, voice and heart of the Gospel in so many ways.”
The Rev. Chris Lollis, pastor of Trinity UMC, Darlington, said he knows many churches struggle to pay 100 percent of their apportionments, and Trinity struggles with that.
“It isn’t that Trinity doesn’t want to pay, but the decline in the church makes it impossible,” Lollis said. “However, we have made a commitment to increase our apportionment payments each year. This year it has been a challenge, but we continue to stretch ourselves.”
Lollis said it is important for churches to pay apportionments because it allows the UMC to do much more than it could individually.
“There is power in the connection,” Lollis said. “I currently serve on the Commission on Equitable Compensation. In this area I have seen firsthand how apportionment dollars help local churches to be in fruitful ministry. Without the apportionment dollars, some great ministries/churches might not exist.”
Churches must have their final 2017 payment in the treasurer’s office by 4 p.m. Jan. 16 (if the church is paying electronically, the payment must be initiated by 3 p.m. Eastern time Friday, Jan. 12.
For more on church finances or statistics: www.umcsc.org/home/administrative-services