Preacher, make sure those apportionments are paid in full!

"Preacher, make sure those apportionments are paid in full!"

One does not enter the ranks of the United Methodist clergy for very long before you are confronted with the fact that there are financial obligations your churches must meet beyond pastoral support, utility bills, parsonage and church maintenance, insurance, and costs of programming. These “beyond” items happen to be the conference and denominational support monies which are identified in various ways, but often labeled simply as “apportionments.”

The one personality that is high profile in this experience is that individual known as the District Superintendent or “DS” for short. I served under ten DS’s over a 37 year period. This group consisted of individuals who fit in at various points on a scale ranging from 1 to 10, with 1 being at the foul up end and 10 being a superior leader in word and deed. Among those ten there was one who would rate a 10+, seven others who would fall into the 6 to 8 category, one who rated a 2- or a 1+, and then there was one who earned a 1--- rating! Actually in order to be more accurate you should carry those minuses all the rest of the way to the bottom of the page and continue on the other side

Now of these ten, some would go into great detail how the apportioned money was being used and appeal to the people to give their full support toward paying all apportioned amounts. A few would mention the apportionments, express gratitude for what the congregation had done in the past, and if it was a situation where the congregation was in a financial struggle, the DS would usually express sympathy and understanding, and ask that the people do the best that they could in meeting the obligation and leave it go at that. Unfortunately there is that breed of DS with an over inflated ego and hungry for power and domination who elects to employ the “guilt trip” tactic and aggressively reminds pastor and people that those apportionments need to be paid no matter what! And if they aren’t paid in full, we are not “keeping covenant” because we are a “connectional church” system! A DS can really do a number on a pastor and congregation when starting down that trail plus throwing in a few threats here and there to further intimidate them so that they are sure to leave the charge conference session with much fear and trembling!

In the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference there is an interesting wrinkle in this experience and maybe it happens in other conferences as well, although I certainly hope not and that W. Pa. is the only one saddled with this problem! It seems to mainly involve that breed of DS previously mentioned who delights in using that “guilt trip” tactic – you know, the one that harps again and again, whether in a charge conference or in pastors’ gatherings about “keeping covenant” and we’re not being loyal if we don’t make sure those apportionments are paid up each year! One is moved to wonder at times whether that kind of DS even knows the first thing about what covenant is all about! When on a roll about this the DS may even throw in a remark that if you’re not “loyal” you should get out of the United Methodist Church! What that brand of DS fails to realize is that some of us are not in the United Methodist Church because we sat down one day and looked at all the religious isms and spasms in this world, and then decided that the UMC looked like a good deal, and so that is the one we selected. No, what that kind of DS will never understand is the fact that God has called us and placed us in the UMC, and reminds us constantly that we are not to make a “god” out of the institution wherein He has called us to serve Him!

Now then – a question of significance! Does such a DS have any real legitimate grounds for all the pious talk about “keeping covenant” when the record of past years in which that same individual served as a pastor shouts out loud and clear of coming up tens of thousands of dollars SHORT in paying apportioned obligations!* That is one great benefit of the annual conference journal – it spells it all out in black and white – who paid and who didn’t pay and who didn’t even get annual reports in on time!

And this seems to be a problem sometimes in other areas of conference “leadership” – a person appointed as a “leader” in higher levels of the conference but as a pastor there were years of failure to get those apportionments paid – again, we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars over a period of time! And again it seems to be a theme song with these persons – they, like that special breed of DS mentioned earlier, like to stress the matter of “keeping covenant” and the fact that we are a “connectional church!”

Almost as bad is the individual chosen to be a DS by the bishop and that person has had very little, or maybe in a rare case, no previous pastoral experience at all! Very common in background experiences of DS’s is the fact that very few have had appreciable years in serving multi church circuits, especially when you get into the 3 and 4 point circuits and beyond. Consequently, they are quite ignorant about what those situations are and the challenges a pastor has to deal with in getting his/her churches to meet all financial responsibilities! There is a way to obtain DS’s who will be more understanding and sympathetic to the multitude of small congregational churches and the conditions they must deal with, but that’s privileged information to be shared at a later time on the web site, Circuit Rider’s Range, at

Now then, is there a word that comes to mind regarding those in the upper echelons of annual conference leadership who intimidate and forcefully use that “guilt trip” tactic on people about paying those apportionments all the while piously preaching about “keeping covenant” but their own past records clearly indicate they have not “practiced what they preach!” What’s that? Did I just hear someone mention the word, “hypocrite?”

Pastors, it’s a good practice to check out those upper level leaders and how they operate, especially if they are among those who constantly spout expressions such as “keeping covenant” and “we are a connectional church!” Dig out those journals of the past years and see how the track record is – in most cases you will find that the individual in question has done quite well in meeting apportionment responsibilities, but then once in a while it’s like – well, you know, in the apple barrel among all the good apples there is a rotten one! And if the rotten one isn’t removed and is allowed to remain in touch with the good ones, you know what will happen don’t you? The good ones will not make a good one out of the rotten one – it works the other way around

* In the case of the DS with the 1---- scale rating, the record shows that this individual was appointed to one church as a pastor a few years before becoming a DS with that church actually paying above its apportioned askings by as much as 10 per cent! In the year of the change of pastors that church still managed to pay all apportionments, with the future DS only there that year for 6 months. The next full year on the job things went downhill and until appointment to be a DS the church did not pay apportionments in full! Over a period of 10 years in that church and another one prior to that the record shows the apportionment payments were short by $46,872! The total amount apportioned to those churches during that period was $125,915! Percentage paid was 62.77 per cent. Now that leads to another question -- does this not reflect upon a bishop who would appoint such a person to the position of district superintendent? Or did the bishop not check out the record beforehand, or did the bishop simply not care? Or was this simply another "church politics" thing with both the bishop and the newly appointed DS assuming that no one would think to look up some records for a bit of rather eye opening information on whose churches had paid apportionments and whose churches had not paid over the years? Or is it the standard now that those in high profile leadership positions don't have to set any kind of example, and when they served in the pastorate and really screwed things up, it really doesn't matter? Sort of sounds like a crazy, crazy way to "keep covenant" doesn't it?

A "P.S." on this: In the case of one other "leader" in the upper level of conference "leadership" -- $49,808 was apportioned to that person's churches -- $5,502 was paid leaving the churches short by $44,306 over an eight year period -- percentage paid was a very impressive 11.05 per cent! It's all spelled out in the journals of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference folks! This is a nightmare that didn't go away with the rising of the sun -- it's kind of like a hangover that lingers on with an unpleasant "ripple effect!"

Written on February 6, 2001 by
Clayton D. Harriger
Elder in full connection
Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference
The United Methodist Church

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Copyright 2001, Clayton D. Harriger