By John Lomperis (@JohnLomperis)
Over the years, IRD/UMAction has documented many of the immature, attention-grabbing antics of the militantly secularized faction that has a church-killing stranglehold over the Western Jurisdiction of United Methodism. Such activities range from shrill, inaccuracy-laden ad hominem attacks against less heterodox United Methodists to brazen public expressions of unilaterally shattering the agreements for how we United Methodists covenant before God and each other to live our lives together. The sanctimonious rhetoric one often hears from Western Jurisdiction leaders about their alleged commitment to “inclusion,” “love for the marginalized,” and “opposing oppression” rings hollow in light of their all-too-frequent, unloving marginalization and exclusion of United Methodists who actually believe in our tradition’s historic, core, official doctrine.
We have also documented how the Western Jurisdiction enjoys a unique level of privilege in the UMC, being harmfully over-represented in denominational leadership, despite accounting for less than three percent of global United Methodist membership. Perhaps the jurisdiction would not be the fastest-declining region of United Methodism in America if Western Jurisdiction leaders redirected their energies to making repentant, biblically grounded disciples of Jesus Christ, rather than trying to remake the rest of United Methodism in their image.
But the destructive, childish, headache-causing temper tantrums are not the only way the region’s leaders selfishly impose difficulties on the rest of our global denomination.
Data distributed at last week’s meeting of the United Methodist missions agency, the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), reveals that the bloated leadership of the Western Jurisdiction, remains a financial drain on the rest of the church.
For quite a while, the Western third of the United States has had the dubious distinction of being the only one of the U.S. jurisdictions to be generously granted more bishops (and thus more influence in the Council of Bishops and in general denominational agencies) than its own members pay for. In other words, not only does the Western Jurisdiction have a disproportionately much larger number of bishops than its tiny and shriveling membership warrants, but it has for years had its bishops – and the unique, unjust privilege the jurisdiction enjoys as a result – subsidized by the other four U.S. jurisdictions.
According to the GBGM data, in 2012 and 2011, the Western Jurisdiction paid only 83.8 percent and 75.5 percent, respectively, of its assigned share of general-church (i.e, beyond the jurisdiction) apportionments. All other jurisdictions paid more of their respective shares, ranging from 86.3 percent to 95.8 percent in 2012 and from 84.6 percent to 89.8 percent in 2011.
The difference is even more dramatic if we focus on the Episcopal Fund, which pays for all of our bishops around the world. The Western Jurisdiction only ponied up 81.5 and 77.1 percent of its assigned share of the Episcopal Fund in 2012 and 2011, respectively. In those same two years, the other four jurisdictions paid between 89.8 and 98.6 percent of their own assigned shares of the Episcopal Fund.
For next year, according to data from our denomination’s General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA), even if the Western Jurisdiction made history by paying 100% of its assigned share of the Episcopal Fund, this would still not quite cover the costs for the jurisdiction’s own five bishops (based on the General Council on Finance and Administration’s estimated average cost of $1.25 million per active U.S. bishop over the 2012-2016 quadrennium).
Thus the Western Jurisdiction is by far the least committed to the doctrine, covenant, and financial support of the United Methodist Church. And yet in our denominational structure, it is singled out for a special degree of privilege and power for which the rest of us pay dearly, in more ways than just financial.