From the Desk of Pastor Asher: What are Apportionments and Why Do United Methodist Churches Pay Them?
31 January 2015
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Occasionally I am asked to explain what apportionments are and why all United Methodist churches pay them.
The United Methodist Church is involved in a remarkable ministry around the world. While this sentence sounds correct and looks good on paper, it is not quite correct. I think that the right way to say it is, “The PEOPLE of the United Methodist Church are involved and do remarkable ministry around the world.” The truth is that organizations do not have a personal relationship with God, and organizations do not get involved in mission and outreach. It is the members of individual church communities who are inspired by God’s grace in their own lives to come together, nurture their relationship with God and with each other, acknowledge their differences, and unite in order to be tools in God’s hands in every corner of God’s Creation, with the aim to make disciples for Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:16-20) for the transformation of the world.
Together, we can extend a helping hand so that our neighbors can overcome formidable obstacles in times of crisis. Together, we can reach children, families and communities who have experienced devastation in the wake of disaster. Together, we can spread the gospel of peace and encourage cooperation locally, in our country and around the world. Together we can help survivors of natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes. Together we can invest in vulnerable communities, helping them to become self-sustaining. Although we cannot cure diseases like malaria, together we can implement the most effective solutions known at this time to prevent these diseases from claiming lives. Together we can equip the next generation of Christians to lead the Church and society.
There is energizing synergy in being united and focused by a common mission. By combining and focusing our efforts, each dollar spent goes further, reaches more people, and does more good.
Apportionments are the mechanism that allows the PEOPLE of the United Methodist Church to do together what we cannot do as individual communities. “Apportionments” is the amount that each individual church community is asked to pay in order to support the ministry of the people of the United Methodist Church as a whole; in other words, the apportionments that our church pays helps support regional, national, and international missions. Apportionments is one of many ways that the United Methodist Church comes together to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Apportionments remind us that our faith and devotion to God is bigger than our immediate area. Apportionments remind us that all of us share the same planet and are tasked with taking care of our living environment (Genesis 2:15). Apportionments remind us that all Methodists are connected to God and to each other whether they are down the road a piece or on the other side of the globe.
I think of apportionments as our share of the global ministry of the United Methodist Church. I also think of apportionments as the fuel for connectional ministry. Apportionments are one of the ways that we work together as neighbors and God’s children united by the blood of Jesus; it is a vehicle that brings God’s Love and Grace into every corner of the known world (Acts 1:8).
As a seminarian, one of my graduation requirements was to go on a cross-cultural trip. I ended up going to Nicaragua and Costa Rica. During that trip we witnessed first-hand the plight of the Christians in these countries, we heard their stories and we saw their challenges. When our delegation came back to the USA, we made a joint decision to start raising money for Christians in Nicaragua. I did several presentations around our conference; one student painted a poster and was selling prints; another student made and sold jewelry. After we finished our fund-raising efforts, all the money was sent to our hosting church in Nicaragua. Our hosts used the money to buy a dairy farm. The church sold milk and milk-products on the open markets and used the proceeds to fund free schools for orphans in the country where a majority of children did not have parents or resources to attend public school. In addition to free education, these children were also provided with breakfast and lunch; for most of them it was their only source of nutrition. While these efforts were done outside of the United Methodist Church’s Apportionment system, it is an illustration of how apportionments work; we put our efforts together and the results were bigger than the sum of what we could do individually.