Conference approves 2011 budget with less than 1 percent increase


PEORIA -- Members of the annual conference approved a budget for 2011, created a committee to address disability concerns, amended a resolution concerning immigration reform prior to its approval and while voting not to recommend shortening the annual conference session by a day, recommended that budgetary matters be put on the front burner and dealt with earlier.

2011 budget
The 2011 conference budget (LI 103) approved by the 2010 Annual Conference will have a different impact for different churches within in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.
Lay and clergy members added an additional $95,500 into the $11.6 million budget – additional spending that amounts to less than 1 percent on a budget proposal that was revenue neutral.
“The bottom line is that we will apportion $95,500 more than what had been projected,” said Conference Treasurer and Director of Administrative Services Rick Van Giesen.
For churches that have pastors covered by the pension program, the increase of 0.6 percent when factoring in the additional $45 in pension payments that are directly billed to the churches.
For churches that do not have pastors participating in the pension program, the overall budget was 1.53 percent less than the 2010 budget, so the decrease would be a similar amount.
Conference members restored $42,000 in benevolent care to seven of the conference Golden Cross agencies – The Baby Fold, Chaddock, Evenglow, Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House, Sunset Home, United Methodist Children’s Home, United Methodist Village and Wesley Village.
Bill Hammitt of Normal Calvary UMC proposed the amendment, noting that the state of Illinois’ delay in paying providers for care has created additional burdens on these agencies. The amendment passed 508-260.
The amended amount holds the benevolent care line-item at $21,000 for each agency – the same as the 2010 level.
Conference members also restored $10,000 in the youth ministry line-items for Marked Leadership Camp and $43,500 to the conference Camping budget. These funds will be directed toward camping scholarships for persons unable to pay all or part of the camp registration fees.
In other action, the conference approved 753-74 a measure to enable camping to hold over unspent funds from one year to the next for capital improvements (LI 113). The original resolution was amended to enable those funds to be tapped when the Camping ministry overspends in a given year in order to balance the budget.
Committee on Disability Concerns
On a vote of 777-34, the conference session approved the formation of a committee on disability concerns (LI 206) comprised of nine to 12 persons with its mission outlined in ¶653.1 and 2a-h. of The Book of Discipline (2008).
Ministry with Migrant Neighbors
Conference members amended a resolution dealing with immigration reform (LI 112) before passing it, 466-352.
Rev. Jonathan Dixon, one of the proponents, noted that the resolution was not in response to the recent passage of legislation in Arizona, but came as a profound concern for persons who are “aliens in a foreign land.”
However, an amendment offered by Steve Schonert of Olney First UMC, was approved 475-328, striking support for churches that choose to provide sanctuary to migrants facing deportation
"While we need to be compassionate,we need to work within the system to enact the desired change we seek,” Schonert said.
Those opposing the amendment cited the church’s long-standing efforts of providing sanctuary as well as using civil disobedience as a means to enacting change.
Two additional amendments were offered by Rev. Stephen King and strengthen the language dealing with respect for law and order as opposed to civil disobendiece. They passed on votes of 655-166 and 606-221.
Shortening annual conference
A proposal to recommend shortening annual conference by a day (LI 202) was defeated following a lengthy discussion during Friday’s session of the 2010 annual conference.
The measure, offered by Sangamon River District Lay Leader Pete Paulson, sought to make it easier for younger persons and persons who are actively employed to attend by requiring less time away from home.
But others, such as retired pastor Stan Haxton noted that clergy have their only membership in the annual conference.
“When a lay member comes to annual conference, they leave their home congregation,” Haxton said. “But for the pastor, annual conference is coming home. It is that once a year, Shangri-la like moment that feeds our spirit."
The measure failed by a vote of 396-513.
 A proposal to consolidate the legislative business of the annual conference (LI 201) into a single day went down to defeat in the closest vote of the session – 484-499.
Paulson said his motivation for the legislation was to make it possible for more persons to attend annual conference and participate in the legislative process without major sacrifices of time currently needed in order to attend. He offered the legislation as a recommendation since the authority for setting the agenda rests with the bishop working in collaboration with the Annual Conference Sessions Committee.
But others cited the need for the integration of formational parts of conference that inform the legislative process. To separate the two would create a situation where folks may “pick and choose” which parts to attend and therefore not experience the total annual conference experience.
Budgetary matters
A resolution from the floor on Saturday was approved that would ask that the budget be presented on Thursday and that all resolutions with financial implications be dealt with on Friday with final passage of the budget following.
Other resolutions
A resolution affirming that clergy shall admit to membership in The United Methodist Chruch any baptized person who desires admission to the church, who avows the faith and who is a member in good standing of any Christian denomination was approved 580-254 (LI 205).
A resolution seeking an exemption with the apportionment formula (LI 203) failed in a final vote 427-474. The legislation was brought by the Fithian-Oakwood-Hebron charge which had experienced a bat problem in its church bell tower. Because of the $15,000 expense which was reported as a maintenance expense, the church’s 2011 apportionments would rise because maintenance is one of the line-items that figures into the final apportionment while capital expenses are not.
Although the matter failed, Council on Finance and Administration chair David Hood offered to work with the congregation’s pastor to resolve the matter in an equitable way even without new legislation.
Members of the annual conference also voted the discontinuance of eight congregations:
·             Sibley UMC, Iroquois River District (LI 114)
·             Quincy Grace UMC, LaMoine River District (LI 115)
·             Basco UMC, LaMoine River District (LI 116)
·             Christopher UMC, Cache River District (LI 117)
·             Mt. Etna UMC, Cache River District (LI 118)
·             Marlow UMC, Kaskaskia River District (LI 119)
·             Mt. Gilead UMC, Iroquois River District (LI 121)
·             Mattoon Faith UMC, Embarras River District (LI 122)
Minimum salary levels for full-time pastors for 2011 were set on the recommendation of the Committee on Equitable Compensation 708-57 (LI 107). Pastors in full connection, associate members and provisional elders’ salaries will be a minimum of $34,500 – an increase of $1,268; and $31,600 for full-time local pastors – an increase of $1,250.
The conference also approved a Pension Funding Plan (LI 108), that utilizes two years of a premium holiday offered by the General Board of Pensions to address $1.6 million of the additional $2.9 million sought to address loss in investments due to the downturn in the stock market in 2008 and 2009.
 The Board of Pensions report also was adopted (LI 109). The passage means there will be no increase in the health insurance assessments paid by individuals or local churches. This will be the fourth in five years that there has been no increase. Pension rates for pre-1982 years of service will be $660.94 per service year – an increase of 2 percent.
 The conference also approved resolutions from the Conference Commission on Archives and History, recognizing Bishop Hill as a historic site (LI 110) by a vote of 883-18. The annual conference also approved the transfer of oversight for the Prentice Memorial Sermon from the Conference Trustees to the Commission on Archives and History (LI 111) 887-40.
A covenant agreement between Wesley Village and the conference (LI 120) were also approved 873-16.
The conference also approved a letter being sent to the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits (LI 204), expressing concern for the change of their policy regarding in-service transfers and asking that the change in policy be reconsidered on a 364-305 vote.