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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
“Mission work around the world, whether it be a new university in Africa or bicycles for Cuban pastors, is the work of “the connection,” as opposed to the work of a single congregation.” – UMC.org
“Theologically understood, connectionalism is an expression of ecclesiology and mission.” – Bishop Kenneth L. Carder
The previous posts focused on (a) what is the history of churches that withhold apportionments (b) what is different about this proposal (c) what are the advantages and collateral damages associated with this proposal. We even had Andy Langford himself write a response. This conclusion does not incorporate any of Andy’s comments into it as I wrote it previously and decided to let it stand alone.
What is this really about?
Make no mistake: I don’t believe that Langford is focusing on smaller churches that don’t pay their full apportionment anyway. He is focusing on the big guys, the megachurches and large churches that pay large sums into these funds (apportionments are calculated based on membership and budget and the overall general, conference, and district budgets) and he is offering the laity of those churches a proposed method to defund the General Church without accountability to anyone. Given that many large churches run hot on issues and emotional on populist arguments, it is easy to see how a dozen or so articulate laity could defund these funds rather easily.
Several times in the document, Langford singles out two issues (other than a “lack of making disciples”) as being reasons for denying a church tithe to the general boards.
First, Langford suggests that all is not equal in United Methodism as the church outside the USA reaps all the benefits without paying much:
It is time for congregations within the United States to follow the example of United Methodist congregations outside the United States (over 42% of all United Methodists) who only pay general church apportionments to the Episcopal Fund and none to the other six general church funds. In 2011, 99% of all monies that supported the general church came from the United States.
Langford is not alone in this frustration. During General Conference, while debating a church structure that would give more votes to the Central Conferences, Rev. Adam Hamilton asked the same thing while a particular internet-connected blogger was sitting in the room