Understanding Mountain Sky Conference Mission Shares for 2020

August 26, 2019
Photo by Lukas/Canva
Submitted by the Rev. C. Dennis Shaw
Mountain Sky Conference Council on Finance and Administration

Jesus spoke a lot about money. It was a topic he returned to repeatedly. Sometimes Jesus spoke about money helping with illustration: Luke 15: 8-10, the Parable of the Lost Coin is such an example. This parable is less about money than it is about what was once lost now being found, and the joy associated with that. Other times money carries a central focus to Jesus’ message. In Luke 19: 11-27, money, and how it is invested by various servants, plays a vital component in the parable. The familiar quote for many of us on rendering unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar (Luke 20: 20-26) uses money as the illustrative and, arguably, key point in the establishment of priorities and values. My take on that passage is the Reign of God and the Reign of Caesar are not equals: the Reign of God is the more important.

One of the means we use as the people called United Methodists to support the Reign of God beyond the local church is the apportionment. In the Mountain Sky Conference we give the apportionment a symbolic name: Mission Shares. This Legacy Yellowstone term communicates quite well: we are asking local churches to use money to help share in the mission of the connectional church. That connectional church is the conference as well as the general boards and agencies that support the transformational mission of The United Methodist Church nationally and internationally.

Our shared history on Mission Shares based on local church income is brief. The “new thing” God has created in the Mountain Sky Conference drew upon the process familiar to Legacy Rocky Mountain, but decidedly different than previous experience within Legacy Yellowstone. The model the Annual Conference agreed to use this year was asking local churches to share 13 percent of selected income for the mission of the church beyond the local church.

Our 2019 Mountain Sky budget allocated about 32 percent of the total $6.655 million to the general and jurisdictional needs. This meant that $2.0 million was budgeted to share with the rest of the connection, and about $4.655 million would have been used to support Mountain Sky ministries. I want to focus here on how the way we fund both Mountain Sky and the rest of the connection is changing in 2020.

Our 2019 budget funds both Mountain Sky and the rest of the connection. Our 2020 budget will be only Mountain Sky. The local church will be asked to record its priorities and values with two apportionments.

In 2020, the Mountain Sky Conference will be funded from the same income-based model we are using in 2019. This budget totals $4.364 million. Because we have removed the general and jurisdictional portion from the budget, the percentage of the share of local church income to support Conference missions is 10 percent, down from 13 percent in 2019. Other than the rate change, the means of calculation is unchanged. The 10 percent rate will begin with the remittance in February 2020 for January 2020 local church income.

The general and jurisdictional amounts will be separately apportioned. Each local church will be given a number as its fair share of the expense-based national apportionment model. The $2.0 million our conference is asked to pay in 2020 is based on our fair share of selected expenses reported in earlier years. We have replicated that system using expenses from our annual statistical reporting.

The report shared by your Council on Finance and Administration with our proposed changes for vote at Annual Conference in June is found online. This represents the 2020 general and jurisdictional apportionment for each church. Systems are being designed in order to allow this payment to be made through our online system come February 2020.

Why are we making this change? The answer is a function of the times. Amid the deep divisions facing The United Methodist Church, we have heard that our local churches want more choice in deciding which ministries of the conference, general church, and jurisdiction they support. The 2020 proposal allows the local church to make those choices.

Here is a quick Q&A based on feedback we have received to date. This topic will be discussed during a webinar on Oct. 8 at 11 a.m. sponsored by the Conference Committee on Responsible Stewardship. 
  • Question 1: Can we do this in 2019? Answer: No. We do not have the systems set up to handle this yet.
  • Question 2: We want to support local ministries like Family Promise or the Salvation Army. Can we support the local ministries and substitute our general or jurisdictional obligation for what we pay to them? Answer: You won’t receive credit for the general or jurisdictional obligation by support of local ministries. 
  • Question 3: Can we pay more to the general or jurisdictional church than we are billed? Answer: Yes, you may. 
  • Question 4: There are seven general funds plus one jurisdictional fund. You are allowing us to decide how to allocate our apportionment between them. If we do not care which individual fund we support, what do we do? Answer: You would, once the system is developed, pay your single number and not worry about the eight parts that make up that single number. The Council on Finance and Administration will use payments to that line to prioritize and support the connection consistent with Mountain Sky values. 
  • Question 5: If we only pay all of one, either conference or general/jurisdictional, but not the other, do we receive credit? Answer: It is our plan to have three levels of recognition. The highest will be to those churches that support 100 percent of both apportionments. The next level of recognition will be 100 percent support of the conference but less than 100 percent of the connection above the conference. Finally, there will be recognition of those who support the general and jurisdictional number at 100 percent but not the conference.  
  • Question 6: I have heard some describe this new approach as 10 percent to Mountain Sky and 3 percent of income to meet the general and jurisdictional apportionment. Your article does not read that way. Why? Answer: Every time I have heard someone use a 10 percent and 3 percent logic, I have said it might work that way but if it does, it will be a coincidence. The conference will be supported by 10 percent of selected income. The general and jurisdictional church will be supported by your fair share based on selected expenses.

The entire petition as voted on at the 2019 Mountain Sky Annual Conference in Billings can be found online

We welcome your questions and feedback. Please contact me at revdennisshaw@gmail.com or Conference Treasurer Noreen Keleshian at nkeleshian@mtnskyumc.org or 303-325-7051.