|By Holly McCray
The Council on Finance & Administration (CF&A) has voted to allocate money to help start five new churches in Oklahoma—and the sooner they launch, the better.
The unexpected decision came during the group’s first meeting of the year, on Jan. 26 in Oklahoma City.
The session began with an end-of-year Conference budget assessment by Treasurer Brian Bakeman. He reported total Apportionment contributions of 94 percent in 2009, a decline from 96 percent in 2008. He identified some of the ways Conference ministries adjusted for that drop in churches’ support.
Then Craig Stinson, director of Connectional Ministries, shared his initial assessment of 2011 budget proposals by those ministries. One goal of the Conference’s Strategic Plan is to start new churches for new people. The denomination has named an overall goal of starting 650 new U.S. congregations by 2012.
Rev. Stinson said five such projects are solidly advancing. He compared starting a new church to baking a cake: Mixing the right ingredients creates sweet success. He pointed out more than 20 clergy have been trained as potential church planters and demographics have been studied.
Stinson said he dreams of having the financing to trigger specific action. Aware of budget constraints, he outlined a three-year plan. About $150,000 from the Conference is needed to start a church, he said.
"The newest churches in Oklahoma are paying back in Apportionments more than we invested in them," Stinson said.
The January meeting shifted to other topics. Then Wade Paschal, pastor of Tulsa-First UMC, returned to the subject. "I can’t think of anything I’d rather do in 2011 than start five churches," he said, "for the future of our Church."
Bill Junk, president of Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation, said, "I think we have to come up with this money." Other council members agreed, and the vote was taken.
Stinson later said, "I’m heartened because others in the Conference are making these leaps of faith. When we start new churches, the world is being transformed."