I am happy to report to the North Alabama Conference that we received 82.86% of the 2011 Conference budget through connectional giving this past year. This is our highest collection rate over the last 19 years (from 1993 – 2011)! Personally I am thrilled that my last year as bishop I got to witness this wonderful result. This rate of giving is particularly noteworthy considering our huge response to the Easter week storms of 2011. (By my conservative estimate, our churches gave about two million dollars in relief for victims of the storms, which makes our nearly 83% participation remarkable.)
Congratulations to the Southeast District for the highest collection rate of 89.54%. The Northwest District finished with 89.39% and the Northeast District finished with 88.07%. (These were three of the most storm-devastated districts.) The vast majority our congregations participate fully in Connectional Giving, a testimony to their pastoral leadership and our attempts to contain Conference costs, particularly administrative costs.
Connectional giving accounts for only about 11% of a congregation’s income. If fewer than twenty of our larger churches that failed to participate in mission giving had participated, we would have received nearly a million dollars more. Any church that does not participate in connectional giving at 100% invariably shows a deficit in its spiritual life and clerical leadership. We will continue to work with these pastors and churches in the coming year, reminding them of the mandate under which we work – a vital church participates in Christ’s mission in the world.
A pastor’s leadership is the key to connectional giving, so as I mention our faithful congregations, I want to note their faithful pastors. Peter Hawker and Minnie Stovall are leading a dramatic turnaround at Anniston First, putting them at 100% for the first time in years.
Some of our churches that were heavily damaged by the storms like Canaan (Ted Bryson), Lakeview (John Purifoy), Hackleburg (George Gravitte) were, despite their loss, full participants in connectional giving!
There are many pastors and churches who deserve to be recognized but I’ll highlight a few of the many that made remarkable progress over previous years’ giving: Wesley Memorial (Sherry Harris), Edgemont (Chris Montgomery), Morgan (Eddie Bolen), Christ (Paul Lawler), St. James (James Fields), Camp Branch (Frankie Jones), Hoover First (Rachael Gonia), Cullman First (Mitchell Williams), and Spring Hill (Clauzell Williams).
Obviously, there were many more who deserve accolades for this great year in connectional giving. Alabama, according to surveys, has some of the most generous givers in the nation. We have been determined to improve our Conference’s rate of participation in connectional giving and, with the hard work of our pastors and churches, we have!
William H. Willimon