Editor's Notebook: Some churches should be embarrassed


By Woody Woodrick
Advocate Editor

Last month, the Mississippi United Methodist Advocate published a list of all the churches in the Mississippi Conference and what percentage of their apportionments each paid.

The special four-page section was printed at the request of the conference Council on Finance and Administration to celebrate how well churches in the Seashore District did in paying apportionments despite the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. I was more than happy to provide CF&A that opportunity and applaud them for showing that kind of support. While still digging out of the rubble and muck of Katrina, 60 churches paid 100 percent of their “fair share” askings. That’s a remarkable figure. Of those 60 churches, 45 paid 100 percent on their own. Some churches reached the 100-percent mark with assistance from outside sources. That’s great, too. Hopefully that means one church reached 100 percent, and then donated to a sister church so it, too, could reach 100 percent, or at least make a strong attempt. Some churches in Mississippi even paid more than 100 percent to help churches on the Coast. Some paid as much as 136 percent.

All of this is worth celebrating.

On the other side of the coin, however, are churches outside the Seashore District that didn’t pay 100 percent or anywhere close to it. Some paid zero percent, nothing, nada, zip. Why in the world not?

Churches sometimes have legitimate reasons for not paying 100 percent apportionments. It appears in looking over the list that many small churches didn’t pay 100 percent. Maybe they are in areas that are struggling economically. Maybe the major employer shut down and many members lost their jobs. That’s a fair issue. In most years. Not in 2005.

Frankly, if I were a member of a church outside the Seashore District that paid little or nothing toward apportionments in 2005, I’d be embarrassed. I’d be embarrassed that a church that was wiped off the face of the Earth – such as Biloxi Leggett Memorial – managed to pay 78 percent while my church paid less.

What happened in the last quarter of 2005 is that United Methodists hit with the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, in the midst of their worst fears, found it in their hearts to give to God and His ministry.

Some churches don’t pay apportionments to protest actions taken by the general church with which they disagree. However, consider that only about 10 cents on the dollar paid to apportionments leaves the Mississippi Conference. In fact, even much of the money that does leave the conference comes back in a variety of ministry programs funded by the general church.

So just exactly who are these protests impacting by withholding funds? They’re impacting the community centers around Mississippi that offer after-school programs so children have a safe, nurturing place to go each day. They’re impacting Wesley Foundation groups on Mississippi college campuses that work to keep students on the right track at a time when it’s so easy to wander. They impact Mississippi camps that offer fun, fellowship and Christ in year-round programs. They impact Mississippi senior ministries and scholarships for seminary students.

I wonder how many of these low-paying churches make use of these facilities and programs. It’s OK if they do; that’s why the 100 percent churches pay their full share, so all can benefit from the ministry. But it’s something to think about.

What they don’t really impact are those “out of state” groups with which they disagree. (By the way, withholding apportioned funds also doesn’t impact the Advocate. It doesn’t receive apportioned funds for operations.)

Yes, a very few fair and acceptable reasons for not paying 100 percent apportionments exist, but most churches not paying apportionments only offer excuses. And that’s embarrassing.