The Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference is one of 27 conferences in the United States that have paid 100 percent of their 2016 apportionments to the seven General United Methodist Church funds, according to the denomination's Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA). This is a slight increase over the previous year during which 26 of the 56 annual conferences in the U.S. reached this milestone. The 2016 payout rate of 91.8% is the highest it has been.
In addition to Western Pennsylvania, the annual conferences paying 100% are: Alaska, Baltimore-Washington, Central Texas, Desert Southwest, East Ohio, Eastern Pennsylvania, Greater New Jersey, Illinois Great Rivers, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, New England, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma Indian Missionary, Oregon-Idaho, Pacific Northwest, Peninsula-Delaware, Red Bird Missionary, Rocky Mountain, Susquehanna, Tennessee, Upper New York, West Ohio, and West Virginia. The list includes all 10 of the annual conferences in the Northeastern Jurisdiction of the UMC.
Bishop Michael McKee, the President of GCFA, said “We are always honored to work with the people of all annual conferences and are pleased to make this announcement this year. This is one more indication that United Methodists are most generous people and that connectional giving in our denomination remains strong. We thank not only those conferences able to pay 100% of their general Church apportionment – but also all those conferences who did not attain the 100% level but who continue to strongly support the connection.
"Several conferences significantly increased their percentage paid, and these increases helped to create the favorable payout rate for 2016. All segments of the connection are important to fulfilling the ministries of the Church, and we look forward to working with the Central Conferences as they expand their general Church apportionment giving in 2017,” he added.
Together, United Methodists last year gave about $131.4 million to support the general church’s national and international ministries, nearly 92 percent of the requested apportionments. That’s also the highest payout rate on record.
The robust giving comes at a time when church leaders worry that intensifying debate about the status of LGBTQ individuals has put the denomination in an “extremely fragile” state. United Methodist bishops have convened the Commission on a Way Forward to foster church unity amid these divisions around ministry and biblical interpretation.
The Rev. Steve Wood, a member of the finance agency’s board, acknowledged that the situation seems counterintuitive. He is chair of the board’s committee on General Agency and Episcopal Matters as well as lead pastor of Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church in Johns Creek, Georgia.
“The church has divisions primarily focused around interpretation, and yet we have unity and synergy around living out the mission,” he said.
“This may be a beacon of hope for the Commission on a Way Forward and the entire denomination to focus on what matters most. That is continuing our heritage of living out the gospel in real and effective ways in a lost world of people who need light, hope and redemption.”