The Production Cost for the 2004 General Conference : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread

A report was given today by one of my church members at our monthly Lay Meeting and she shared a remarkaable stastitic based on a recent AME meeting held in Orlando, FL last month. She indicated that the CFO for the AMEC, Richard Lewis, estimated that the production cost for this year's 47th Gemeral Conference Quadrennial is approximately $20 million dollars. Now, this is important because on page 299 of the 2000 Discipline the amount budgeted for the G.C. is only $300,000. Furthermore, the summary budget for the entire Connectional Church for 2000-2004 (page 300) is only $46.4 million dollars. So, this begs the obvious painful question: How can we "find" an additional $17.7 million to fund the G.C. if we have only allocated $46 million for four years???!!! The estimated production cost of this year's G.C. exceeds every major expenditure item listed on pages 295-299. The G.C. cost is nearly twice what we will spend on AME supported educational institutions, 22 times more than church growth and development, 20 times more than Christian Education and 20 times more than Global Missions. This is not good for our spiritual and ethical health. I've said it more than once that fiscal reform is the number one priority of this Zion. If we do not address these mega imbalances of our fiscal resources our collective witness is greatly diminished and the noble 8 point Mission Statement is rendered null and void. QED

-- Anonymous, June 05, 2004


That's simple. Divide $17 million by the number of presiding elder districts; those presiding elders will then tack on an additional assessment to cover the overage. It is very simple. This happens just about every 4 years. However, I thought the $75 "observers fees" would cover these costs.

-- Anonymous, June 05, 2004

One more thing...why does it cost $20 million to "produce" a General Conference? Why was only $300,000 budgeted and then an additional 19 million spent? I would love to see a detailed analysis of these production costs to determine why it is so expensive. What is the most expensive part of the General Conference?

-- Anonymous, June 05, 2004


Amen Brother. The same thing can be said on a smaller scale for our Episcopal District and Presiding Elder District meetings. We are going to the meetings and staying as long as we did when we were traveling by Horse and Buggy. In those days, we had not seen each other for four years; we have jet aircraft, the internet, and information technology now. There is no need to spend so much time and money traveling to and from meetings. Consider this: There are just as many Alternate Delegates as there are delegates, why? I submitted legislation to reduce the ratio of Alternate to Delegate to One alternate for every 3 or 4 delegates, but I have no idea if it was received or considered.

BE Blessed

-- Anonymous, June 05, 2004

Realizing that this is only hear-say at this point, I will hold my more visceral opinions until the facts are known. However, should the number come in anywhere near $20 million, I will call for - no - demand a full audit and investigation.

In His Service,

-- Anonymous, June 05, 2004

Here are some points that may help to frame the discussion.

Elements of cost:

sources of income:

-- Anonymous, June 06, 2004

Dear Brother This is indeed the most sobering news I have read in a long time. Something is quite concerning if our budget planning was based on questionable information. We should not be this far off the mark. Common sense thinking people are going to have problems with this. I am gravely concerned about the implications of this news.

I will pray and I pray we all will join together to pray.

-- Anonymous, June 06, 2004

Something is definitely askew if $300,000.00 was budgeted and the projected costs are $20,000,000.00 If this is how the church's financial planning is being handled then we're in bigger trouble than I thought.

Kirk Wheeler

-- Anonymous, June 06, 2004

I am going to join Bro. Ron on this one. First, I think it is inflamatory to repeat information on the BB without at least understanding the source of the information. $20 million is a substanial sum of money and while I am sure the cost exceeds $300,000 $20 million sounds more like the economic impact for the host city. Also in Jeryl's post he highlighted expenses that would not be a part of the connectional budget. Delegate and Alternate Travel are Episcopal District Expenses. I hope someone with concrete information would post it.

-- Anonymous, June 06, 2004

AJ, my dear you may have just solved the ridicule. The PE Districts have borne the cost in the past and it is not unreasonable to believe we will not be asked to do so in the future. Thanks for the insight. I appreciate Ron & Harold's concerns about hearsay and checking for the veracity of information. That being said, all hearsay is not far from the truth. I too was initially skeptical with the reported figure of $20 million dollars which is why I refered to it as a "remarkable statistic". However, after questioning my local member who attended the meeting more than once about this figure she remains steadfast to the number attributed to Richard Lewis. Now how does my reporting of this newsworthy development make it "inflamatory to repeat information on the BB without at least understanding the source of the information."? I have worked in the field of economics and finace long enough to intelligently decipher data of this type.

If the number is inflated that is the responsibility of the CFO not the attendees of that particular meeting and least of all not me. Furthermore, you may recall last year about this same time I posed a related question about the cost required to underwrite a campaign for an AME Bishop. Parson Harper provided a conservative figure of $250,000. I don't recall anyone accusing Parson Harper of engaging in either hearsay or making remarks about his figure as being "inflammatory". If anything some members actually believed the "walking around figure" Harper quoted was too low! Since there are approximately 60 candidates this translates into a total of $15 million dollars to support the campaigns of the candidates. Since only $2 million dollars (8 seats are open) will be "spent" by the winning candidates this means that $13 million dollars will be spent by the "losers". As I explained last year this expenditure of $13 million dollars represents economic waste and inefficiency. Our entire Connectional Budget for FY2004 is less than $12 million dollars. I suppose this analysis is inflammatory also. There are clearly more highly valued activities where this money could have been used.

Now a word or two about Jerryl's expenditure/income statement. The 2004 GC will be renting three huge halls (Halls A-C) in the Convention Center for 7-8 days. Let's use a low rental figure of $5,000 per day for these rooms. That means it will cost nearly $120,000 for eight days not including the special banquets where food will be served. The biggest ticket of course will be the cost of the 1,800 delegates. Let's say the average hotel costs are $125.00 per night for 7 nights. Assuming some folks will be room sharing maybe 1,500 rooms will be reserved just for the delegates so for 7 nights at $125 per room the hotel bill will be $1.3 million and this does not include the alternates, Bishops, General Officers and the subsidy needed to help our overseas brothers and sisters from the continent of Africa.

When you throw in printing costs (Kinko's won't be available), airfare and other GC related expenses this figure quickly mushrooms into double-digit multi-million levels. I am simply amazed at how the Compilation Committee did not question the budgeted expense for the 2004 GC on page 299 at $300,000. Even if the Lewis production cost figure is off by 5-7 million dollars it is still far exceeds what was budgeted and I'm sure the oberver fees will not cover for all expected expenditures. QED

-- Anonymous, June 07, 2004

Bill here is the problem with your overwrought analysis. Simply stated if the CFO stated a $20 million figure and for the sake of argument I will agree, he was not referring to a hit on the Connectional Books. Your analysis on the costs of the RCA Dome are probably more on target with what the connectional church will be charged exclusively. The other costs you outline are the costs borne by the Episcopal Districts and the costs may approach that $20 million figure. If anything your member probably misinterpreted the CFO's remarks because the souvenir book you refer to is actually a project of the 4th District Lay Organization as the host district. I really do not care to get into one your ridiculous bombastic name calling debates. I just want us to be clear that the total cost of the General Conference is NOT a line item in the Connectional Budget.

If we were serious about cutting costs we would reduce the number of delegates by 70%. We have as many if not more delegates than the United Methodist Church which is much much larger both numerically and geographically.

It does make one wonder though because doesn't refer to a direct correlation betweent the location of our treasure and our hearts?

-- Anonymous, June 08, 2004

I didn't see anything wrong with the $20M figure; but I must confess I've never dealt with a project such as the General Conference. Also, I assume that some of the costs must be subsidised by the Corporate World.

Someone said that the Episcopal Districts bore some of the costs; din't forget that most of any money the Episcopal Districts or Presiding Elder District has came from the Lay members of our church. Let us pray that the well does not run dry.

-- Anonymous, June 08, 2004

Harold opines -

"I really do not care to get into one your ridiculous bombastic name calling debates."

Please point to where I have engaged in bombastic name calling. My comments in this thread, similar to other topics, have emphasized only the material facts of the issue.

"I just want us to be clear that the total cost of the General Conference is NOT a line item in the Connectional Budget".

I have no disagreement with this point. That's precisely why I made reference for all to consult page 299 of the Discipline. Episcopal Districts will be responsible for their delegates but what about the delegates for our overseas AME members? We know they are unable to pay the cost of travel and lodging. Who do you think will pick up this tab? Even with the Episcopal Districts doing their parts, it has been communicated to me (not on this BB) that the AMEC incurs substantial debt resulting from the G.C. Now your point about reducing the number of delegates is an interesting but unfortunately politically suicidal proposal. I attended the Lay Biennial last year and key Lay leaders I spoke with are diammetrically opposed to delegate downsizing. I actually support delgate downsizing iff (if and only if) the size of our Bishops is reduced as well. I simply find it incredulous that we are looking at spending $30 million or more (Cost of G.C. and Cost for Bishop Campaigns) yet our ecclesiastical priorities like church growth, missions and Christian Ed are practically on life support. People are grwoing impatient about whether the GC expenditures are coming from the Connectional, Episcopal, Conference or local church budget. When you have staggering numbers such as these in light of other more pressing needs, it is simply a hard sell. QED

-- Anonymous, June 08, 2004


To the first point of your last post "what-ev-er!"

To the meat of the issue, why are the lay diametrically opposed to reducing the number of delegates? This is an expensive proposition and if we are going to be fiscally responsible we need to cut costs. I also agree with you that we need to slash the number of bishops especially in the United States and especially if we are going with Jurisdictional Superintendents in Africa.

But I also think we need to re-visit the number of layers we have. Connectional Lay Organization--Why? Additional meetings and additional costs considering that we also have Episcopal District, and Annual Conference meetings as well. We need to substanially reduce meeting expense. Connectional WMS and Connectional YPD why? How is this structure beneficial to our zion. This is a question and not an argument.

We merged some General Officers during the last quad let's combine some more this time around.

-- Anonymous, June 08, 2004

At one time, only preachers were members of the Annual Conference. I wonder when and why did we decide to have parallel Lay and Clergy Organizations?

-- Anonymous, June 08, 2004

I agree that we need to reduce the number of delegates. Perhaps go to a base of 3 for eaach AC, with increments on 5000 instead of 4000.

I believe we are positioned for some strengthening of the US districts, that a restructuring may bring balance to the economic disparities. For example, three districts may recombine into two (8, 10, 12? 3, 8, 13?).

It's definetly time to live within our means.

By the way, Bill, have you seen something confirming 8 seats to be filled? I see only 6 active bishops retiring, and we have the opportunity to eliminate the Ecumenical seat.

-- Anonymous, June 08, 2004

Once you read about and understand the Lay Movement and how it began, you will also understand why we presently cannot afford to reduce the number of Lay Delegates.

We first have to understand that the "Conference" is what governs a Methodist Church, not any Bishop, Pastor or any other member of the clergy or lay. When this fact is clearly understood and respected by all, (perhaps in Bill's lifetime but probably not in mine not in mine) then we may consider reducing conference delegates.

-- Anonymous, June 08, 2004

Sadly it appears to be more important to shoot and insult the messenger and not carefully study the message. Our Church went through great pains with historic increases assessed against Episcopal Districts to prevent this type of issue occuring at the last GC (2000). Fiscal and budgeting accountability is paramount in industry and should be no less for the Church.

If we have mis-calculated by an amount of 10% or less I say this is unfortunate. The cost is apparantly much higher. Are we still following the analogy of my associate (Rev. Dr. Santucci) who has lamented for years(through his Church Polity Classes) that "While we fight and kill each other over nickels and dimes the dollars still walk out the door?"

I appreciate the information provided by Bill Dickens. If he is out by a few thousand or even a few hundred thousand dollars that is no comparison to a few million. We will never right the finances of this Church if we cannot deal with the truth of our situation. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but can we or worse, should we afford to make multi-million dollar mistakes. Bill has consistantly raised the issue of fiscal and financial management of our Church and while we may want to talk politics or wars in Iraq or WMD, we will continue to fail God in keeping his charge of saving and feeding his sheep.

If there are holes in the store house let us at least fix them. We cannot fix them if we are not prepared to look where someone may find them.This is not a message to speak for Professor QED as he can stand quite well on his own feet. Thank you Brother for your imput!

Truely we are in need of visionaries and leaders for a time such as this.

-- Anonymous, June 08, 2004

Nalton this is not an attack on Bill in fact I agree with him. I was simply pointing out that the connectional budget was not out of whack by the number he quoted. There may be a deficit but it won't approach $20 million.

It is important that we READ everyone's point of view rather than just accusing others of not being concerned with the state of the church simply because they question our "icons."

Robert: if we reduced the delegations equally why would that have a deterimental impact on the lay? Aren't the number of delegates equally split between lay and clergy?

-- Anonymous, June 08, 2004

Brothers and Sisters,

Thank you for this constructive and informative conversation. Brother Dickens, I wasn't challenging the veracity of your information as much as I was being cautious as not to jump too quickly to an indictment. With respect to this $20M figure, I am disgusted and outraged. I find it obscene and irresponsible and someone needs to be brought to account. Don't get me wrong, I realize we're a big church and that the GC is no small feat. However - this raises serious questions in my mind about who's watching the store and setting our priorities. Lord have Mercy.

-- Anonymous, June 09, 2004


Consider those persons who have permanent seats at the General Conference and are lifetime members of it. Consider also the power and persuasion those persons have. Then it becomes apparent that the scale is already heavily unbalance on one side before we even begin.

-- Anonymous, June 09, 2004

Thank You Bro. Harold It is indeed gratifying to see the manner by which we have discussion on this Board. As I am of a different culture (which I am told is too polite for its own good) I may appear soft. I appreciate very much the strong emotions on this as I too have very strong emotions on how we are, or are not doing the Lord's work. You are an asset to both this Church and our Zion. May God Bless You and all of you who have posted thus far.

Blessings from Bermuda

-- Anonymous, June 09, 2004

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