United Methodist Church leaders have recommended a cut of $12 million from the recent budget proposed in February for the next four years, which puts its expenditures at the lowest level in 16 years, according to a UMC press release.
The executives of the church met together in Nashville and suggested reducing the February budget for 2017-2020 from $611 million to $599 million, which is lower than the $603.1 million budget approved for 2013-2016. The budget cut came as the leadership considered "the ministries, challenges, and careful stewardship of congregations and annual conferences, along with global economic uncertainty and trends in church attendance in the United States," the General Secretaries Table of the UMC said in a statement.
The proposed budget formula would "roll back the general church appointments to the lowest percentage since the current apportionment formula was introduced in 2001," the statement says.
"A reduction to $599 million will impose hardships and require reworking ministry plans," the statement continues. "But with appreciation for the creative strategies undertaken by annual conferences and congregations, and in accord with church-wide efforts to reach and serve more people in more places, [the general secretaries] agreed that reducing the base rate percentage used to determine annual conference apportionments is timely and appropriate."
The church's General Council on Finance and Administration (UMCGCFA) and the Connectional Table will vote for the budget cuts in early April, and a final decision will be taken by May.
The budget set aside the expenditures on UMC's education funds and affiliated universities and support of the clergy of the church. The largest portions of the budget are reserved for the church's general agencies including media and news service.
The leaders of the church hope to support the struggling churches in the new budget.
"As local churches and annual conferences continue to cut budgets or hold them flat, we believe that all of the general funds must adjust as we stand in solidarity with United Methodists across the connection," Gilbert Hanke, convener of the General Secretaries Table said in a statement.
Erin Hawkins, General Secretary of UMC General Commission on Religion and Race, said: "We are one body, and the strength and health of every part of the church is vitally important for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."
"Leaders in every part of the body should be proactive and mindful of each other. Today's action demonstrates our commitment to attend to the whole of our mission as we bear witness locally and globally," she said.
General secretary and treasurer at UMCGCFA, Moses Kumar, told the Christian Post that "all organizations receiving general Church funds will be impacted by these reductions equally."
"The ultimate decision on the general Church budget for the next four years will be determined by the delegates of the General Conference held in Portland, Oregon, in May," he said.