Written by J. Bennett Guess
April - May 2008
'Encouraging sign' says Thomas
Gifts to the connectional ministries of the UCC increased by more than $1.2 million dollars in 2007.
Voluntary contributions to Our Church's Wider Mission, the denomination's shared fund for connectional ministries, totaled $29,637,048 in 2007, up from $28,409,202 during the previous year, according to year-end financial reports.
Twenty-five of the UCC's 38 regional Conferences posted increased giving to the national church in 2007. In addition, three of the UCC's four national special mission offerings - which support special ministry projects - posted gains during 2007.
The increased support is viewed as a significantly positive sign for the church's national setting, after experiencing several years of declining financial contributions.
"The gains we realized in 2007 are not a cure all, but this is a promising, encouraging sign for many, especially after the somewhat rocky year we experienced in 2006," said the Rev. John H. Thomas, general minister and president.
In 2005, the UCC's General Synod passed a controversial resolution supporting same-gender marriage equality, a decision that was followed by the loss of more than 200 of its 5,900 congregations.
"This good news represents the work of many pastors and lay leaders who have spoken up about the importance of our shared ministries as the United Church of Christ," Thomas said. "It's also proof that our best years, indeed, can be before us."
In the UCC, congregations are not forced to pay apportionments or dues to the national church, but instead remit contributions voluntarily to a regional Conference office. Each Conference retains a portion to support its own ministries before passing along the rest to the UCC's national setting, which oversees the church's national and international efforts.
During the past year, the UCC's Conferences - which retained an average of 67.8 percent - netted $19,996,075 for their ministries, an increase of $873,576 over the previous year. The national offices, in turn, received $9,640,973 or an increase of $354,270.
While members' overall giving to UCC churches has increased each year since the denomination's founding in 1957, local churches - on average - have been retaining more and remitting less, a trend that has been observed by many denominations across the theological spectrum.
"Our members and churches have always been generous," Thomas said. "In communities across this country, the impact of UCC giving is impressive, and we give thanks for that. But we also appreciate the fact that UCC members and churches are increasingly paying attention to the covenantal nature of our faith. When we give locally, it should also reach beyond our own community to touch the lives of those in New Orleans, or in Sudan, or wherever there is need."