His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy steward; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”
I want to echo the gospel writers, my faithful sisters and brothers, “Well done, good and trustworthy stewards!” We have so much to celebrate as the Wisconsin Conference. I am inspired and excited by your faithfulness in moving together through a challenging and often difficult year financially. As the cabinet, Council on Finance and Administration, Personnel Committee, and the leadership of our boards and agencies pulled together to make significant financial decisions, we were able to make appropriate adjustments to both finish with our budget in the black AND to pay our general church apportionments 100%!
This was not easy, and at times felt almost impossible, but we walked by faith, rather than by sight, and pulled together in amazing ways to do excellent ministry with fewer resources. One reason for this is that our leaders collaborated in significant ways. Instead of protecting budgets and competing for resources, we worked together as one conference, helping all to do the best way possible. In the biblical tradition of the church in Corinth, those in our conference with more resources shared abundantly with those who had less, and we were able to cover our missional needs.
And our local congregations stepped up as well, supporting our Mission churches and critical ministries not fully funded this past year. There were painful cuts to staffing, and some of our important ministries were deferred, but the way we worked together to find creative solutions was miraculous. We offer great thanks to our Wisconsin United Methodist Foundation for their guidance and support through this time. Much appreciation goes to our Council on Finance and Administration for the new and improved accountability processes for our budgeting and spending.
To every church that paid their apportionments in full, thank you for your leadership and witness; and to those who faithfully paid as much as they could, we express appreciation as well. If every church will work toward 100% payment, we will see amazing things happen in the Wisconsin Conference.
All of this excellent news lays a firm foundation upon which we build our Launch Out! campaign. I want to share with you the excitement and passion people are beginning to express about our faith-raising campaign. And I emphasize FAITH-raising, not just fund-raising. People are not responding because of financial need but due to a transformative vision for vital, life-giving, life-saving, disciple-making ministry in Wisconsin’s future. People are catching the vision and making substantial investments in the future ministry of our Conference. While a few voices question the timing of this campaign – given short-term financial challenges and the uncertainty of the upcoming special session of General Conference – the vast majority want to stay focused on exciting ministry and the ways we can honor and glorify God through our stewardship and service. Many say that regardless of what happens in February, the work of God must go on.
In times of anxiety and uncertainty, our faith is put to the test. I am proud and excited to say that Wisconsin Conference is passing this test with flying colors. We are preparing to Launch Out! in faith, to do God’s will, to share in God’s work, and to bring God’s realm to fruition in each and every one of our faith communities. Blessings to you all. Well done, good and faithful stewards!
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).