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Nashville Agencies Host Nordic-Baltic Area Cabinet

On January 5, the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) was one of several agencies that hosted the Nordic and Baltic Area Cabinets.  The group, headed by Bishop Christian  Alsted, visited with the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM), Discipleship Ministries (GBOD), the United Methodist Publishing House (UMPH) and United Methodist Communications (UMCom).

Bishop Alsted, citing the need for the connection to be in conversation about our work together, thanked the staff for hosting the Tuesday afternoon session at GCFA.  He said, “The idea for this trip – which could be considered a contemporary pilgrimage – was to continue to build our connections and look at the possibilities of extending the United Methodist connections throughout the world. It is always very good to learn about the connection and meet the people who are in ministry with you.  Having personal, face-to-face interactions makes it easier to be in conversation about our ministries.”  During his remarks, Moses Kumar, chief executive of GCFA, thanked the group for their efforts and offered that GCFA is committed to expanding the global nature of the Church through its administrative resources.

The group heard from department leaders and learned about the work of all of the GCFA departments, including:

1.  The Legal Services Department and its three areas of primary focus to serve as legal counsel to GCFA, fulfill the denominational responsibilities for GCFA and provide legal resources for the denomination. The Legal Department works to address the legal issues that face the Church and does so through being connectional, vs. hierarchal concerning governance. 

2.  Financial Services – and their accounting functions for all general agencies, we provide an accounting center for all agencies to reduce redundancy.  The group learned about the process of developing the quadrennial budget for the church, and the joint effort involving all the general agencies and the Connectional Table. They also learned of the work of GCFA, the Connectional table, and the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters about the work to develop the Central Conferences Apportionment Formula related to the Episcopal and General Administration funds.  This is a starting point for future discussion and seemed fair and the best place to move to at this point.  Bishop Alsted commented that the process is being discussed more in the Nordic/Baltic area and the consensus is to apportionment will remain the same.  It was noted that conferences in the area pay 100% of their apportionments.

3.  Human Resource and its work throughout the connection with annual conferences and agencies in this area.

4.  Episcopal Services, and Shared Services.  The Cabinet heard more about the focus of Shared Services to provide customer service contact and relationship management within the United Methodist connection; sponsorships and its focus on non-traditional revenue to support General Conference; and Travel and Meeting Planning and the introduction of etouches – the online event management software being used by GCFA that has the capability of being used globally because of the varied languages and currencies it effectively uses.  From the IT and Data Services Departments, the group learned of the expanding capabilities for IT backup and infrastructure systems, EZRA – the database management system  and the department’s work with other agencies and Great Plains, the dynamic software popular with annual conferences being used as a cost effective way to use a web-based financial system. 

This group of Central Conference leaders gave good input to the Data Services department about statistics for local church statistics from Central Conferences. They were told of the plans for the Central Conference statistics module being developed in Ezra and will be tested in 2016, allowing statistics to be entered electronically, vs. paper submissions.

Each GCFA department asked the group for their input on other ways to work together throughout the global connection of United Methodists. 

Both groups thought the personal interaction was a positive move for the United Methodist connection.