Can we talk about apportionments...

Each United Methodist Church congregation is asked by the larger United Methodist Church to support the Church by paying apportionments.

Some might call apportionments a "Church tax".  The larger body is given money from each "franchise" and the larger body distributes that money in a broad number of ways.  Each year, every church I have been a part of except one (Grace UMC in Fort Worth), struggles each year to make sure they "pay out" 100% of their apportionments.

Some are frustrated that apportionments are really just what churches pay to give pensions and health care to clergy and UMC staff.  And to be true, a portion of apportionments goes to such "less sexy" things.

Some are annoyed that members of a UMC congregation cannot determine what their money can go toward.  Some see large non-denomination churches sprout up, without much debt, and are able to decide where their money goes.  If the church wants to support a missionary, they do. If they do not, they do not.  If they want to give to clean water, they do.  If not, then they do not.

Others say the apportionments are what makes the UMC "connectional".  It is what binds the church together and so we pay the apportionments because we are the UMC and we are connectional.

However I would like to submit we reconsider how we think of the apportionments.

When we give apportionments we do not have control on how that money is allocated and spent.  We cannot chose to pay some and not others.  Apportionments are a way for the members of the UMC to be God-centered with our giving and not self-centered.

This is not to say other churches or organizations are self-centered in their giving.  It is to say, however, that the UMC believes that giving to only things we "like" puts the individual community at the center of the decision on how money is given.

So if the community takes issue with HIV/AIDS then that community might not choose to give to HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention.  But the UMC understands that God cares about those infected with HIV/AIDS and part of the apportionments goes to the care of those people.

Apportionments are a way for the members of the UMC to hold at bay the idolatry of the self.  When we get to decide where all our money goes we fuel the myth that it is "our money" and we are in charge of things.

Apportionments are a way for members of the UMC to keep God as the protagonist in our giving.