By: Christa Meland
At the virtual 2020 Minnesota Annual Conference session on Aug. 29, more than 500 members in attendance approved all pieces of legislation before them (access all legislation here, including everything on the consent calendar that was approved). Here’s a look at three key items, along with the impact they will have and the reasoning behind them:
Reduced 2021 budget: By a vote of 406-14, members approved a 2021 apportioned budget totaling $5,629,157. This represents a reduction of $698,000, or 11 percent, from the 2020 approved budget. With an “uncollectible contingency” of $725,000, the total to be apportioned is $6,354,157. The uncollectible contingency accommodates anticipated shortfalls in some churches’ apportionment payments.
While the Council on Finance and Administration continues to support an “all-in” approach—investing in key initiatives to share the gospel and reach new people—the 2021 budget also reflects budget constraints at local churches in this difficult season.
Through the 2021 budget, the Minnesota Conference will continue to invest in these strategic areas:
• Reaching new people by continued focus on church planting, church revitalization, and multiplication initiatives
• Recruiting and raising up new leaders through our ELI Project and lay servant ministries
• Equipping and supporting clergy for leadership over a lifetime through initiatives such as the Clergy Leadership Academy and Shmita
• Reaching the next generation through Camp Minnesota, youth and young adult ministries, and campus ministries
• Providing resources to our congregations such as Safe Gatherings, Mission Insite (demographic analysis tools), and workers’ compensation
• Healing a broken world through our efforts in disaster relief, Hopeful EarthKeepers, and OC Ministries
Separately incorporating the Minnesota Conference Board of Pensions and Health Benefits: Members voted by a margin of 415-2 to authorize the Minnesota Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits to separately incorporate as a subsidiary of the Minnesota Annual Conference. Last year, new financial accounting standards were released that change the way we report our reserves. As an entity within the Minnesota Conference, the multi-year, board-designated pension and health benefit reserves are currently blended together with annual conference general operating funds for financial reporting purposes. Given that clergy pension plan liabilities often extend 20 to 30 or more years from the time a pastor retires, it’s critical to safeguard funds to meet those obligations. The Board of Pension and Health Benefits determined the best way to do that is through a subsidiary that will separate benefit assets and administration from the general operations and administration of the annual conference. Seventeen other United Methodist annual conferences, including the Dakotas, already have separately incorporated pension boards. For pension and health benefit participants, day-to-day operations will remain the same—as will the board’s relationship with the Minnesota Conference and Wespath, The United Methodist Church’s benefits and investment arm. Following conference approval for separate incorporation, several legal steps will occur, and then the subsidiary will hold an organizing meeting to elect directors and officers and formally hire staff. The hope is that the Minnesota Conference Board of Pensions, Inc. will be up and running before the end of 2020.
Affirming amendments to Hamline University Articles of Incorporation: Members voted 410-15 to affirm several amendments to the articles of incorporation for Hamline University in St. Paul, which is a United Methodist-affiliated institution. One gives the Hamline University Board of Trustees sole authority to nominate and elect its Board of Trustees without requiring ratification from the Minnesota Conference. Another allows the Hamline University Board of Trustees to determine the location of the university without annual conference approval. The legislation was submitted by Revs. Cindy Gregorson, Minnesota Conference director of ministries, and Rachel McIver Morey, chair of the Minnesota Conference Board of Trustees, who pointed out that it is common practice for colleges and universities to elect their own trustees, and given our denominational uncertainty about the continuance of The United Methodist Church in its current form, it seems prudent for Hamline University to ensure its autonomy over its governance. The university’s commitment to its affiliation with The United Methodist Church remains strong.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church