Living Local, Giving Local…….

It is the time of year when many churches set their budgets for the following year and conduct their stewardship campaigns. Among Methodist friends I am hearing more and more people (of the ones who have chosen to remain in a local UMC congregations) expressing their concern over continued news reports : same sex marriages and homosexual clergy ordination in The UMC, over-representation in General Conference of small liberal conferences, under-representation of conferences in more traditional and orthodox areas like Africa and elsewhere, liberal seminary teaching, heretical episcopal pronouncements that attack the nature of Christ, violations of the Discipline…..all in opposition to one’s own conscience and commitment to the authority of Scripture. The growing decision that I am hearing among others and which my family has decided to do is designate our pledge to the local Methodist congregation for local use only- pastor salary, facility maintenance, utilities, and local church council approved missions. Other support will go to Asbury Seminary (because of how many evangelical churches in the U.S. are led by Asbury graduates) and the Wesleyan Covenant Association. We will not give in such a way that any support can go to the episcopacy of The UMC (which continues to support Karen Oliveto and appears impotent to deal with the rebellion by various conferences and jurisdictions that continue to support rebellion against the doctrinal standards and Disicpline of UMC), UMC agencies, or liberal seminaries. When it comes to one’s priorities in life it comes down to these questions: What do you think about? How do you spend your time? How do you spend your money? While it is hoped one would have confidence in her local congregation’s leadership and be supportive of her own and other local congregations that are striving to faithfully follow Christ, when the leadership of the larger UMC has failed to lead, it is unconscionable to many people to continue to provide financial support.

To support global missions there are partnerships developing between local UMC congregations/districts in the U.S. and local UMC congregations/districts across the globe. Such people to people initiatives accomplish more than can be accomplished through the expensive hierarchical agencies of The UMC. There are also some excellent local indigenous programs in mission field geographies that are serving the needs of their people that we can support.

According to The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, members make covenant to do the following:
1. To renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of the world, and repent of their sin; 2. To accept the freedom and power God gives them to resist evil, injustice, and oppression; 3. To confess Jesus Christ as Savior, put their whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as their Lord; 4. To remain faithful members of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world; 5. To be loyal to Christ through The United Methodist Church and do all in their power to strengthen its ministries; 6. To faithfully participate in its ministries by their prayers, their presence, their gifts, their service, and their witness; 7. To receive and profess the Christian faith as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

I have observed in receiving members into our own local congregation that the pastor says, “will you support this congregation of The UMC with your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.” Members can conscientiously choose NOT to support the broader episcopal structures that are violating personal and biblical standards. Yesterday I heard a member of an extended family explain to someone else present that she, her husband and children, her parents (and possibly others in their family) had moved from a local UMC congregation because of dissatisfaction with The UMC’s direction to another church that more closely matches their personal beliefs. It’s getting harder and harder for the local congregations to avoid the stink arising from the larger episcopal leadership.

We are not without voice in the UMC. The episcopacy listens to money….and that seems to be about all. Use your financial voice to speak what is important to you. Designate your giving and keep it out of the hands of those who are responsible for the mess The UMC is in. IRS requires that designated gifts be honored at the risk of losing tax exempt status. Churches are generally scrupulous about honoring designated gifts. That, too, I believe, is one reason The UMC has so many designated giving Sundays… attract followers and money to issues and assure that every social issue gets it 15 minutes of fame and appeals to a prospective constituency for such social campaigns. Give through your local church to concerns your local church has done due diligence on and affirmed as in keeping with the will of its congregation. Designate your giving by line item on your church’s budget and make it clear none can be used to pay apportionments to the Conference and The UMC’s national agenda. Support the local congregation and pastor. Starve the funding for the problematic individuals, groups, and agencies in the corrupt system.