A $13.2 million budget – a 3.5% increase from the current year, despite losing 67 churches to disaffiliation – for 2023 was approved for recommendation to the Great Plains Annual Conference for its upcoming special session by the Connecting Council at its online meeting Aug. 20.
The council brings together conference staff, district superintendents, and clergy and lay committee leaders at least twice a year to make recommendations to the annual conference session and to handle business that cannot be delayed for various reasons until the next annual conference gathering.
A budget would normally be voted upon during the annual conference session but is instead a part of the agenda for the special called online session scheduled for Sept. 10. Scott Brewer, treasurer and director of administrative services, said the delay was for the conference Council on Finance & Administration (CFA) to see how many churches would disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church in the conference. Twelve churches were approved for disaffiliation at the conference in June, and another 55 are on the agenda for the special session. The anticipated departure of 67 disaffiliating churches reduces the total proposed budget by just over $480,000, or 3.3%, Brewer said.
Even with those reductions, the 2023 budget is still an increase over the current year reflecting increased giving to local church operating budgets in 2021 and gains of investments experienced through the end of that year.
Brewer said that detailed information on the budget including a slide presentation would be made available on the annual conference session website. Questions or concerns regarding the budget proposal can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Connecting Council also approved $31,400 for the Clergy Excellence team to develop the Great Plains Preachers Tool Kit to equip clergy and lay preachers with resources to draw diverse people into the worship experience.
It includes a third phase of “Preaching in the Purple Zone,” including returning Rev. Dr. Leah Schade to train clergy in deliberative dialogue with their parishioners; a Short Story Sandbox, developed by the Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence at Southern Methodist University; and Humor Us! The Positive Power of Humor in the Pulpit, another SMU resource.
Also approved was $15,000 for the Congregational Excellence team and Omaha Saint Paul Benson UMC to conduct a workshop in spring 2023 on how churches can develop and support new faith communities responsive to the needs of refugees. Rev. Jeff Clinger, director of congregational excellence, said churches from the Iowa and Oklahoma annual conferences are also seeking guidance on working with refugees and that the workshop would be open to them.
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