The Conference Committee on Finance and Administration (CCFA) presented the proposed budget following months of collaborative conversations across conference leadership, program areas and staff, acknowledging the financial challenges and realities facing the church in the 21st century. (Click here for PowerPoint slide presentation and explanations.)
“It’s getting harder to be the church. We are working against the trends,” said NIC treasurer Lonnie Chafin. “Average attendance and giving continue to drop and our aging buildings are costing us in maintenance and utilities. But I believe we can work together to figure out how we can use our talents, resources and gifts in the conference to help our churches be vital in the 21st century.”
CCFA leaders say the budget numbers are especially difficult to report because current projections show the conference may fall $478,177 short to pay the General Church apportionments in full in 2016.
“We come with heavy hearts because this is the first time we come before you with already the expectation of a reduction in our General Church apportionment payment and it doesn’t feel right,” said CCFA member Rev. Luis Reyes during the special session presentation. “The reality is we are no longer a $7 million dollar conference but a $6 million dollar conference and 2016 will be a year of transition.”
The reductions were made across the board impacting programs, ministries, staff and local church support. The cabinet cut its budget by 25% reducing funding for leadership support, local church grants, Harvest 2.0 and congregational development.
“In order to meet this budget, we will no longer be able to fund a local church’s building crisis for instance,” said Rockford District Superintendent Rev. Lisa Kruse-Safford who was representing the Cabinet. “We will instead use a more deliberate discernment process for how and what we allocate monies.”
Rev. Kruse-Safford said the conference saved money on the rent of the Rockford/DeKalb regional office in Rochelle after it moved into a smaller space, but incurred the cost of the mortgage payment for the Hilltop Ministry Center in Machesney Park, a conference-owned building designed to be a community center.
“A child-care program, which its rent paid a large portion of the mortgage, moved out last year, said Kruse-Safford. “I’ve been in talks and have been working on ways to fill that 11,000 square feet of space. Stay tuned, we hope to have something to report soon.”
The Program Council reduced its budget by $195,000 since 2014, which will impact nurture, outreach and witness/advocacy ministries in the conference.
“In the midst of the budget reductions, there still is life changing and community transforming work still going on,” said Program Council Chair Rev. Chris Winkler. “Our mission is to always be in ministry with those who are on the margins. We need to look at how do we continue to create ministries which are collaborative and sustainable while being good stewards of the money God’s given to us.”
The results from the Landscape Survey, which was sent out in September to help gather data and information about the health, well-being and effectiveness of the work of the annual conference, show clergy and laity care deeply about the future of the conference and that there’s a readiness for change.
“Our theme at our June session was Replenish! We’re called to replenish our spirits and our local churches,” said Bishop Sally Dyck. “The work before us is to replenish our annual conference to give us inner strength for greater outreach going into the future.”
In order to make informed decisions about what to change in the Conference’s structure, staffing, and resources, several Landscape follow-up sessions will take place in 2016 beginning with a “Purpose Summit” for all conference elected leadership on Feb. 20. Laity and Clergy gatherings will be held in each region in February and March. Click here for dates and details.
New Annual Conference Secretary
In other business, the Annual Conference members elected the Rev. Deborah Tinsley Taylor, senior pastor at Fourth Street UMC as the new conference secretary. She succeeds the Rev. Lora Zink who served as annual conference secretary for 7 years. We thank Rev. Zink for her years of faithful service and welcome Rev. Tinsley Taylor to her new role.
Episcopal Nominee Endorsement
The conference also unanimously approved the General/Jurisdictional delegation’s recommendation for the Episcopacy – the Rev. Dr. Tracy Smith Malone who said she was truly honored by the endorsement.
The annual conference voted and approved the Standing Rules Amendment regarding journal production to allow for “on demand” printing in 2016. The amendment will cut down on the bulk printing and mailing of the Journal and instead make it available online with the option to print and send directly to your address for an affordable fee. The Journal would still be available to download for free from the conference website. A slight amendment was made to clarify that the conference will still print some Journals for archives and to fulfill Disciplinary requirements. Conference Treasurer Lonnie Chafin says the move could save the conference $15,000+ dollars each year.