“The following letter from our California-Pacific Conference Resident Bishop Grant J. Hagiya and the Conference Council on Finance and Administration was sent to all churches of our Conference in order for our churches to make the best decision on giving faithfully to the Connection. This information serves as a guide as to the connectional giving options available and not as a directive as to which giving decision to make. The California-Pacific Conference continues to embody a spirit of “one church” in all possible ways.” This is how the website for the California-Pacific Conference of the UMC introduces the letter that I wish to talk about. You can find the letter on their website (http://www.calpacumc.org/announcement/information-on-apportionment-giving/?fbclid=IwAR28TFpkF9khaFuJ7L9vdVFHRav9hI39SFaurIkMg8t7V4sjpOZKX-6hCls) and I encourage you to read it so that you are familiar with the contents as a whole. Also keep in mind, this letter is sent by a Bishop of the whole church, as are all Bishops of the UMC are, or at least are supposed to be. Before continuing, I want to reiterate that I do not in any way support the withholding of finds to the UMC no matter who is doing it and believe that faithful giving involves trusting that those charged with the decision making are indeed led by the Spirit and make the [proper choices, even when I disagree with them.
In case some are not clear, the UMC apportioned giving system is designed for a purpose. “The main way we support the ministries of the church is through our apportioned funds, a method of giving that proportionally allocates the churchwide budget to conferences and local churches.For United Methodists this method of giving has become a strong, generous tradition.Together, through our connected congregations, we accomplish what no single church, district or annual conference ever could hope to do alone. In this way, each individual, each family, each congregation gives a fair share for the church’s work. We combine our prayers, presence, gifts and service to make a significant difference in the lives of God’s people.” (http://www.umc.org/how-we-serve/apportioned-funds) The basic idea behind the system of apportioned giving is that the whole is stronger than the sum of it’s parts. When you withhold money from this, just as when you go against the voice of the church, you damage the whole and cause discord.
Let’s begin an examination of the letter however. In doing this, I am going to purposely try to avoid the rhetoric and focus on what is actually said. “In the meantime, one of the ways many individuals and congregations have indicated they want to demonstrate their rejection of what happened at General Conference is through withholding or redirecting their apportionment contributions. We understand that desire as apportionments are one of the ways we live out our connectionalism.” I want to start with the end of this statement. It says that they understand that this type of giving is one of the ways in which we live out the Methodist connection. This is of course true. The beginning of the sentence however states the opposite desire. The basic thing here is simple, some did not agree with the decisions made at the General Conference. Because of that, they will choose to resist and protest it. This all sounds well and good. It is indeed a time honored tradition in America especially to do so. The problem is exactly that however. We, the church, are called to be a people set apart. If our protests and disagreements look the same as the rest of the world, we are not a people set apart, we are a people of this present world and not The Kingdom that has come, and will come in fullness. When we do not give in this way, we have voluntarily removed ourselves from the Methodist connection. The California-Pacific conference has in effect chosen to no longer be a part of the United Methodist connection.The reasoning for this improper decision however is declared in what comes next.
“Signaling to the General Church that congregations will not help sustain an unjust system or broken structure is an important act of resistance and a testimony to the conviction that God’s love is for all people.” Many sincerely believe that the decisions of the church have been unjust. I do not deny this. I even understand that rationale behind it. Personally, I do not want to support apostate churches with the money that I give, meager as the sum is. It is not about what I want however. In here is the admittance that this is an act of resistance toward the church. This is likely the core of our problems in this area, as it illustrates the elevation of the individual and their sense of justice above the church and it’s discernment process. In the case of the special General Conference, an entire day was set aside to invite the Holy Spirit to guide the church. Did the Spirit simply not show up? If that is the belief, then your theology regarding the Spirit is wrong. Is the belief that the majority of the church has actively resisted the moving of the Holy Spirit? If that is true, then the denomination is apostate, and the only decision left is to leave as how can one follow an apostate denomination? We trust that the Spirit is in the decisions or we do not. If we trust, then resistance is against the Spirit, and if we do not, then we should not in good conscience be here. Jesus Christ is the head of the United Methodist Church, or He is not, there is no half way in this. If He is, then the church has spoken with the one voice it has as the best understanding of Christ we know. If you are resisting, know what you are resisting. If this is nothing more than the decisions of humans, then we should all leave and find a place led by the Risen Christ and not imperfect people.