|By Holly McCray
For the fourth consecutive year, total Apportionment income lingered just above 94 percent for the Oklahoma Conference.
"Flat" is the word Treasurer Brian Bakeman used in his report to the Council on Finance & Administration (CF&A). His office calculated that 2012 giving to the Apportionments reached 94.30 percent, he said in an interview Feb. 5.
Three years of record giving seem long ago, when Apportionment support surpassed 97 percent (2005-07). Rev. Bakeman, however, pointed out some exciting financial news in 2012.
"Several of our largest churches had the best year ever," he said. They reported December giving was especially strong.
Lawton District reported the largest growth in Apportionment giving — from 95.27 percent in 2011 to 97.31 percent last year. Contributions also increased in Enid, McAlester, North OKC, Stillwater, Tulsa, and Woodward Districts.
Overall treasury receipts grew to $16,780,301 in 2012. That figure includes all Apportionments and special funds.
Two funds received more than 100 percent support: Cookson Hills Center and Lydia Patterson Institute.
"We are one of the highest percentage-paid Apportionment conferences in our jurisdiction." Bakeman explained Oklahoma’s numbers are based on actual money given for actual amounts assigned.
"I think our askings are very transparent. I’m always on the side of openness," the treasurer said. He disagrees with practices by some U.S. conferences that draw funds from reserves or "overcharge" churches to achieve 100 percent giving.
The General Council on Finance & Administration reported overall payouts by the U.S. annual conferences to the denomination’s seven apportioned funds reached 90 percent for the first time since 2001.
In Oklahoma, Bakeman said, some of Oklahoma’s churches "clearly are struggling." He sees general economic woes and population shifts put tremendous stress on churches. "We have no control over that."
He said the Clinton District, in the state’s drought-stricken southwest, reported its lowest percentage of Apportionment support in more than 10 years.
Challenging times affect the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, too. A 2012 Judicial Council ruling caused revision of that group’s General Church Apportionment assessment from $12,789 to $51,158.
The Oklahoma Conference consists of about 530 churches. Last year, 108 congregations gave less than 100 percent to the Apportionment (compared to 103 in 2011). Among those, 26 churches did not pay the required Ministerial Support items; their overall giving was about 50 percent.
Five congregations did not contribute any funds.
"It’s not about just giving a dollar amount," Bakeman said. "It’s all about being the Church, and we’re called to function outside the walls of our buildings.
"The Apportionments are still a mystery to most people in the pews, and a lot of our clergy don’t understand. We need to talk about giving."
The Conference Strategic Plan emphasizes starting new churches, growing new leaders, and creating mission partnerships. Bakeman especially looks to the Conference corporate board, chaired by Judy Benson, and consultant Lovett Weems for leadership to connect giving with achieving those specific goals.
With their help, "we can refocus the financial resources," he said. "We get excited about starting new faith communities, training young people to go into ministry, being in mission. I’ve got to trust that’s going to help us move to where we need to be."