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Group proposes how to divide slashed budget

The United Methodist group responsible for allocating most of the general church's budget has recommended how to slice up a much smaller financial pie.

Under the proposal, not all ministries will bear the brunt equally of planned budget cuts scheduled to start in 2021, and one fund will see a substantial increase.

The Connectional Table Allocations Team released a 76-page report on Jan. 29 outlining its recommendations for how to divide $361.6 million — about a 23 percent drop from the current budget.

Your support of The General Administration Fund apportionment supports the executive decision of the Connectional Table which is an administrative body of the denomination.

The team's report is not the final word. In April, the recommendations will next go before the full Connectional Table and the board of the General Council on Finance and Administration, the denomination's finance agency. Those two bodies, which jointly develop the general church budget, may alter the recommendations.

Ultimately, General Conference — the denomination's multinational legislative assembly — will decide the size and allocation of the 2021-24 denominational budget when it meets in 2020.

A big concern for the allocations team, the report said, was making sure cuts were not so deep to stop the work of the denomination's smallest agencies and six national plans for ethnic ministries.

With that in mind, the team recommends that allocations for the Commissions on the Status and Role of Women, Religion and Race and United Methodist Men and the national plans remain fairly stable.

The most dramatic change the team recommends is cutting the allocation for the Interdenominational Cooperation Fund by 88 percent — reducing its apportionment from about $8 million currently to $1 million in 2021-24.

The next biggest cut recommended is a 37 percent decrease for United Methodist Communications — dropping its allocation from about $71.6 million to $45 million. The agency includes United Methodist News Service.

Under the team's recommendations, all of the denomination's education funds will see cuts. The recommendations decrease the Ministerial Education Fund by 31 percent, the Black College Fund by 15 percent and the pan-African Africa University Fund by 15 percent.

The one area where the Connectional Table team plans a substantial increase is the World Service Contingency Fund, which is used for new programs that address unanticipated needs. For instance, the contingency fund in recent years has helped support work of the denomination's Immigration Task Force.

The team recommends boosting the fund from less than $500,000 currently to more than $8.9 million in the 2021-24 budget — a jump of more than 1,800 percent. The team had originally proposed a 3,000 percent increase, but revised it after receiving feedback during the budget process.

The team's report acknowledged the tough times ahead.

"Each of us on the allocations team has been painfully aware of the significant changes that are ahead, of the important ministry that could be lost, the lives that could be upended and the anxiety that this very process is causing."

Heather Hahn, multimedia news reporter, UMNS.

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