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Methodist giving gap continues to grow


(RNS) - The United Methodist Church said giving for this year continues to drop - down 5 percent, or about $3 million - after church officials first noticed a looming deficit three months ago.

Church officials said spending on some programs will need to be cut unless parishioners are able to make up the difference by the end of the year. The 2003 budget is part of a four-year spending plan approved in 2000.

As of Oct. 1, the church had received $59.5 million, down from $62.6 million at the same point last year. The 5 percent lag is more severe than a 3.3 percent drop reported at the end of June.

Money from local churches is funneled through regional conferences to seven different accounts that fund most operations in the nation's second-largest Protestant denomination.

Sandra Kelley Lackore, head of the Evanston, Ill.-based General Council on Finance and Administration, blamed the decline on rising health care costs and a sagging economy, including low returns on investments.