May 2, 2014

Mission Support Stabilizes

Financial support from the 159 congregations within the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod was up slightly in 2013, to $2.139 million, allowing for continued support of the new faith communities and programs that are at the core of SEPA’s mission.

After almost a decade of declining giving, Mission Support grew slightly, yet noticeably, last year, drawing praise from Synod Treasurer Janet Huber Neff, CPA, of Grace Lutheran in Royersford.

Neff noted that 81 congregations either maintained or increased their support to the Synod and ELCA. Sixty-eight congregations met or exceeded their intents. “They heard us and gave more,” Neff said. Forty-two gave 9 percent or more of their regular receipts.

Slide06“I’m very excited to tell you that in 2013 Mission Support did not go down,” Neff said to applause. “A lot of hard work has gone into this,” she said. “I’m very grateful to these congregations for this support.”

Even though local mission expenses were down in the last year, for programs such as outreach to the homeless, those in prison and to congregations with members living in poverty, because of smaller grants from ELCA and other sources the Synod had to make up a shortfall, which it did through these increased donations from individual congregations. The Synod has also offset the decrease in grants by slightly reducing the amount sent to the ELCA to 50% of congregations’ Mission Support gifts.

The Synod established a stewardship committee in 2013 to visit various congregations and explain about those in need to whom SEPA makes substantial donations throughout the year.

“It’s a sacrifice many churches incur when they give us a good percentage of their income. It’s so important to the work we do, and our mission to the greater church,” Neff added.

“We spent $450,000 (on local missions) last year because we believe mission work is critical to our Synod,” she said.

The sale of St. Luke’s in Dublin last year positively impacted the budget by allowing funds that had been paid out over the last several years to maintain a number of empty churches to be returned to the general budget. Of the sale price of $802,703, 15 percent was returned to the Synod budget. Money spent to maintain closed churches to date ($245,794) was reimbursed to the budget as well. The balance was deposited into the Mission Investment Fund.

“That gives you an idea of what happens when we sell a church. The same will happen with the sale of any other closed churches in the future,” said Neff. “Looking at all funds, we’re in the positive because of the revenue from that sold church.”

In her brief snapshot of the financial life of the Synod, Neff reported that total assets for the year are at $2,685,810 and are divided into three categories:

Slide21Unrestricted funds, which may be used by the Synod for any general use; temporarily restricted funds, which are those that come in and go back out, such as donations made that are then sent to World Hunger relief; and permanently restricted funds, which are those that are permanently designated for a specific purpose.

Actual expenses by major purpose for 2013 were:
• Partnerships — $1,297,965
• Mission — $449,569
• Office of the Bishop — $618,602
• Synod Administration — $282,498
• Leadership — $71,149

Neff presented a draft auditor’s report, which was unanimously accepted by the membership. Once final statements are received—which Neff assured the group would be the same as what she was presenting—the report would be posted on SEPA’s website along with her Powerpoint presentation. – Brenda Lange