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General Agencies cutting back

Board of Global Ministries one of agencies making cuts

Faced with an ongoing pandemic and denominational uncertainty, United Methodist general agencies are reducing staff while trying to stay true to their missions.

KATHY L. GILBERT | JIM PATTERSON
UM News

Amid the uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic and potential split in The United Methodist Church in 2021, the 13 general agencies that serve the denomination are cutting budgets, implementing new strategies, and pledging to stay true to their missions.

“We will continue to work to help church leaders and annual conferences make disciples of Jesus Christ,” said the Rev. Junius B. Dotson, top executive of Discipleship Ministries, in a typical response to questions posed by United Methodist News to agency officials.

“We do not plan to waver from that mission.” 

Ten general agencies rely on church giving for their funding. For those agencies, the total planned expenditures for 2021 is $136.5 million, a reduction from $159.4 million in 2020. That’s a 14.3% decrease. There is a wide variance in the amount of cuts at each agency, and some with deep reserve funds are making up part of the difference themselves.

This is the first of two stories covering the following agencies: Church and Society, Discipleship Ministries, Finance and Administration, Global Ministries and UMCOR, Higher Education and Ministry, United Methodist Publishing House, and Wespath. 

Agencies grapple with cuts
Ruby Anderson, United Methodist Women director from the Michigan Conference, participates in a UMW National Program Advisory meeting in March of 2020. According to this UM News feature, “UMW has developed a strategic plan that is helping the 150-year-old organization remain flexible during the economic uncertainty faced by the denomination.”  ~ UMW photo

From developing new revenue sources to sharing office space, the 13 general agencies that serve The United Methodist Church continue to look for creative ways to adapt to denominational budget cuts made worse by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Ten general agencies rely on apportionments — shares of church giving — for their funding.

The General Council on Finance and Administration board is proposing a 2021-2024 general church budget with the bottom line of about $413.4 million — about a 31% decrease from the previous four years. The budget includes bishops and other denomination-wide ministries beyond agencies. Ultimately, General Conference — now postponed to Aug. 29-Sept. 7 — sets the general church budget.

Despite the uncertainty, agency leaders plan to carry out their missions and ministries.

“In every time of great challenge is also a time of great opportunity and responsibility to make a difference,” said Harriett Jane Olson, top executive of United Methodist Women.

This second of two stories covers United Methodist Women and the five commissions created by General Conference to carry out assigned functions for an indefinite time period: Archives and History, United Methodist Communications, Religion and Race, Status and Role of Women, United Methodist Men.

Archives and History one of the agencies cutting back
A historic image of a Methodist circuit rider. The United Methodist Commission on Archives and History serves as the church’s “ministry of memory” to learn from the past and anticipate the future. “We will continue to do the work of helping United Methodists understand our collected past to envision the futures of Methodism,” said top executive Ashley Boggan Dreff. ~ image courtesy of the General Commission on Archives and History at Drew University