UMC's finances decline with attendance, morality

Thursday, February 20, 2020
Michael F. Haverluck (

Church offeringWith the pending split of United Methodism into traditional and liberal denominations, its funding for denominational structures has seen a dramatic decline while its membership and resources continue to dwindle.

The plummet in finances was confirmed by a recent memo produced by the UMC's General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA), which submitted its quadrennial $494 million budget for United Methodist Church structures to the General Conference 2020 – and a drop of 18% from the 2017–2020 budget was divulged.

Money, morality, membership drop

Institute on Religion & Democracy (IRD) president Mark Tooley noted from the memo that the cutbacks were seen in virtually every area … resulting from the liberal division's insistence on adhering to a worldly – instead of a biblical – worldview on human sexuality and marriage.

"These cuts include 35% for United Methodist Communications (UMCOM), 20% for General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) and General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), 20% for General Board of Higher Education, 15.5% for Discipleship Ministries (DM), 30% for Central Conference (overseas) Theological Education Fund, 0.5% for Commissions on the Status and Role of Women and Religion and Race, plus 87% for Interdenominational Fund, which contributes to National and World Councils of Churches," Tooley explained in his Juicy Ecumenism blog.

Another source revealed a 33% decline of funding for 13 official seminaries run by United Methodism.

Tooley, Mark (IRD)"[The drop] should spur a needed conversation about whether or not we can continue to support 13 seminaries and all of our current licensing schools given declining resources," one Methodist church admitted, according to [PDF].

On top of that, more cuts are in store.

"If 20% of USA membership joins a new traditional Methodist denomination, there would be a 20% decline for denominational structures, or an additional $99 million," Tooley pointed out. "Every 1% drop in membership potentially means a $5 million quadrennial drop in funding for the denomination."

Besides plummeting finances, church membership is also on a downward spiral, with Tooley predicting at least two million USA United Methodists joining the traditional side of the split.

"Every year United Methodism loses nearly 100,000 members in the USA. During the chaos of the division, this decline will at least double, meaning at least 800,000 likely quit Methodism altogether over the next four years," he added.

"These combined loses could equal or surpass over 40% of United Methodism's current 6.7 million USA members, so by 2024 United Methodism's national bureaucracy could face funding cuts of 60%."

UMC logoThe split, he predicts, could cost more money than many expect.

"GCFA notes that the proposed Protocol for division calls for United Methodism to pay $25 million to a new traditional denomination, and potentially $2 million to a new progressive denomination," the head of IRD informed.

"Since GCFA's proposed budget entails no cuts for the bishops and Africa University – among other projects – the cumulative cut for remaining church structures could be as much as $241 (49%) reduction, assuming a 20% membership drop. A 40% membership drop could ultimately entail a 70% funding drop for denominational structures."

And with many other financial maneuverings incurred by the traditional-liberal split, a number of unexpected additional financial dilemmas could likely be on the near horizon for Methodists.

"My prediction is that GCFA likely underestimates the sharp drop in funding for United Methodist structures over the next four years, with dramatic consequences for the United Methodist bureaucracy," Tooley forecasted.


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