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Image Credit: “Clean Money” by flahertyb on Flickr, shared under Creative Commons License
The following is an entry in the “Holding the UMC Hostage” series regarding a manifesto that encourages discontented laity in our largest churches to defund the work of the global United Methodist Church. Read the full series: 01 – The Setting | 02 – The Blueprint | 03 – The Effects | 04 – The Conclusion
“By combining several smaller gifts into a larger amount, we can effect change across the world. Individual churches can minister to a small area; however, as a connectional church, we can do big things, all in the name of Jesus Christ.” – UMCgiving.org
“Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” – James 3:16
Previously in this series we’ve examined (a) the history of churches that withhold their church tithes (“Apportionments”) and (b) the rationale and proposal of a blueprint for churches to do this same thing today.
Has this been done before?
In reality, Langford is only articulating what other churches and perhaps conferences operate under already. The truth is that this theory has been put into practice in many different places, with disturbing reasons. For example:
- A few years back, the Southwest Texas Annual Conference had a large church that objected to spending any money on campus ministries and redirected those apportionment funds to another line item.
- About five years ago, a large Oklahoma congregation objected to spending any money on the “Interdenominational Cooperation Fund” (their primary objection was to the National/World Council of Churches, I suspect) and instead overpaid on some other apportionments. I don’t know if that is their current practice.
- Some churches contest paying the ethnic causes funds because their congregations do not reflect that racial diversity and they don’t see the benefit “to them” of it. I know of one District Superintendent who would bring a $20bill to every rural charge conference (sad but true, folks!), that had paid 99%, and when it would be obvious that the congregation was not going to pay the $17 Black Church fund line item, he would hand them a $20 bill in an envelope designated to that fund. Boom!
So while this is not an original idea, it is the first to come with some instructions and a rabble-rousing call for defunding without accountability to the effects.
Advantages: Possibly higher tithes paid!
Some people whom I spoke with about this type of Apportionment said it could actually be a good thing:
- For churches opposed to General Church initiatives and who cannot see the good things done because of resentment towards the GBCS and UMW and GBGM, such a proposal gives them the opportunity to pay apportionments because they believe their money isn’t going towards those entities. Shifting payments allows pastors to encourage churches to pay the full apportionment by promising that their money won’t go to those bastions of homo-liberal agendas General Agencies. As one conference leader said: