When someone contributes money to the work of the Kingdom of God through a United Methodist congregation, it’s my job to insure that the gift will be administered faithfully. United Methodism has a score of carefully articulated structures and procedures whereby we practice financial accountability and faithfulness.
North Alabama is blessed by the ministry of Scott Selman, our Conference Treasurer, a CPA who has served us for over a decade and who has made us a leader in sound, careful financial management in the UMC.
When the financial crisis hit our beloved Birmingham-Southern College this summer, I asked Scott to review with me our accounting and audit procedures. I am happy to report that we are not only in full compliance with the prescribed procedures of our church, but that we go beyond what is required to insure that a crisis of financial management like BSC has suffered will not strike the North Alabama Conference.
For our $11 million budget, we have fully transparent oversight of our financial operations by a clergy-lay committee, the Council of Finance and Administration. For another thing, we have Scott Selman as our CFO! Our Conference lives within its means, keeps administrative costs to a minimum, and tries to stay focused on our priorities and mission. Because our offices are on the campus of BSC, we have not only watched the BSC crisis with concern but we have also made this as a time for self-examination of our own financial practices.
Speaking of our United Methodist Center building, we opened our beautiful building in April, 2005. The total cost of the building was $4,817,420.25. During the planning phase for the new building, the Conference Trustees authorized a maximum internal indebtedness on the new building of $2.5 million. The building has no outside indebtedness (banks or other financial institutions).
As you know, the major reason for the pain at BSC has been the poorly managed accumulation of a large amount of indebtedness, without adequate debt service plans. I am pleased to announce that as of December 31, 2009, the internal indebtedness on our building was $840,676, having paid off, in the past five years, half of our internal indebtedness. That indebtedness will decrease by $75,000 or more per year until the indebtedness has been completely eliminated, a rather remarkable fiscal achievement.
Scott Selman also reports that the cost of operating our Methodist Center has been reduced in recent years due to our four-day work week schedule and staff out placement into local churches. (Conversations are ongoing with Birmingham-Southern College about our offer to of the College of some of our vacant space.)
As is true of a local congregation, so it is true of our Annual Conference – (1.) all money is held “in trust” as the sacred stewardship of our people and (2.) the reason why the church receives money is faithfully to participate in the mission of Jesus Christ.
One of our slogans in local churches is “mission follows money” – people give when they believe that their money is used in mission. One of the reasons why our Conference can be fiscally responsible is that our people believe that when they give to our church, their gifts will be used faithfully.