From The North Carolina Conference



Key points:

  • General Conference is set for April 23-May 3 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
  • Delegates to the legislative assembly will help chart the future of the denomination, including how inclusive to be of LGBTQ people in the life of the church.
  • United Methodist public relations and news teams are prepared to deliver unbiased, clear information on what transpires.

United Methodist Communications is going to great lengths to make keeping abreast of General Conference, which takes place April 23-May 3 in Charlotte, North Carolina, as easy as possible.

“From the opening gavel on April 23 to the closing sermon on May 3, United Methodist News will be providing comprehensive coverage of the work of General Conference,” said Tim Tanton, director of UM News and chief news officer for United Methodist Communications. “We will be reporting quickly on decisions as they are made, as well as the debates and dialogue.

“But General Conference is more than a legislative assembly, and we will also be covering the uplifting worship moments and special observances, as well as looking for the personal stories that put a human face on the gathering,” he added.

Follow along

Keep up with General Conference through these websites and social media channels:

Those interested in keeping up with General Conference can stay informed via a live video stream, daily reports from UM News delivered in several languages, a special daily edition of the UM News Digest e-newsletter, high-resolution photographs, video recaps, updates on social media, a new United Methodist News Facebook Messenger Bot and a UM News channel on WhatsApp.

The livestream will be available in English, American Sign Language, Spanish, Korean, French and Portuguese. Many of the news stories will be translated into those languages as well, plus German and Kiswahili.

“The General Conference Newsroom will be operating from early in the morning until well after adjournment each day, as communicators from around the church and secular media reporters do their work,” Tanton said.

Ask The UMC, an information ministry of United Methodist Communications, will be on site monitoring the proceedings at General Conference and receiving queries in person and via live chat and email. The volume of questions will determine how quickly the answers will come.

“Along with breaking stories, UM News will be doing a daily wrap-up that will capture the news and other highlights of the day,” Tanton said. “Immediately following General Conference, we will produce a summary of key actions taken — and not taken — and a final wrap-up story of the event.”

UM News also will provide breaking coverage on X (formerly Twitter) and full reports on Facebook. People also can sign up for the UM News RSS feed to see the latest stories.

“In the weeks following, UM News will continue to develop coverage and information resources on the actions of General Conference and what comes next,” Tanton added.

The 862 voting delegates to General Conference will help shape the future of a denomination that has been dealing with division and disaffiliations. About 25% of U.S churches have departed since 2019 over how inclusive to be of LGBTQ people in the life of the church. Delegates will consider legislative petitions related to the debate on human sexualityregionalization, the updated Social Principles, ecumenical relations and the budget. 

In total, there are 1,099 petitions up for consideration, including 352 new petitions submitted since General Conference’s delay in 2020.

Keeping delegates and observers informed is key to the work of United Methodist Communications. 

“What we’re trying to do is to democratize access to information,” said Jennifer Rodia, chief communications officer at United Methodist Communications.

“So leading up to this General Conference, we’ve been working with our technology team — and The Connectional Table who helped sponsor this idea — to build this messenger app that will tie into our news feed and that we’ve pre-loaded with information to help the delegates educate themselves and be informed about legislation and important, key things that are coming up.”

The Facebook Messenger Bot will deliver featured topics in English, French and Portuguese. Those who sign up will receive access to session schedules, key resolutions and event highlights.

There also will be videos that sum up what happens each day. The daily videos will be in English only, but the final wrap-up video will have versions in French and Portuguese.

“On Saturday, May 4, we will have a wrap-up video that covers the entire conference and hits the highlights,” Rodia said. “Our hope is that local churches will be able to share that final wrap-up video in their churches on the following Sunday morning.”

For mainstream media covering General Conference in person or remotely, there has been a proactive public relations effort “putting positive messaging out there,” Rodia said.

“We’ve been helping make sure that they have accurate information,” she said.

The Associated Press, New York Times and Washington Times are among the 118 media outlets that have expressed interest in General Conference, said Brenda Smotherman, associate public relations director at United Methodist Communications.

“We’re not doing things as we necessarily did in the past on the PR front,” Smotherman said. “We are being very proactive with our contacts and trying to get them information ahead of time and have an online General Conference press center. We want to make sure that people telling the story of The United Methodist Church are able to report accurately and to help mitigate confusion that can lead to misinformation.”

Bishops and other church officials have agreed to be available for interviews during General Conference, which Smotherman’s office can facilitate.

“Though no one speaks for The United Methodist Church except for General Conference, we have people that can speak as topical experts on matters such as regionalization and the Revised Social Principles,” Smotherman said. “For instance, if someone has questions about pensions, we’re able to connect them with Wespath (Benefits and Investments).”

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Among other available commentators will be United Methodist leaders on women’s issues, ethnic ministries and budget matters.

“My goal is to try to equip communicators and reporters and be as transparent as possible about what we’re doing,” Smotherman said.

The Daily Christian Advocate is the official journal of General Conference, and will publish to its website information for delegates on an ongoing basis during the event as well as a daily printed publication. The DCA has already published a bonanza of information online, including new, valid petitions, reports and an updated handbook for delegates.

“Our primary publication is the DCA website,” said its editor Brian Sigmon. “Everything is going to be run through the website first as the primary publication, but we are still going to print the daily DCA.”

The print version, to be circulated each day at General Conference, will contain only the information needed for delegates to have an informed vote: “The daily calendar, the list of petitions, nominations lists and bios, things like that,” Sigmon said.

“This time around, we are translating everything that’s going to be in the daily DCA,” he said. “We’re going to have translators on site who are doing that each day, working to translate the English content into French, Portuguese and Swahili.”

For those wanting to see the action at General Conference, United Methodist News will be posting thousands of high-resolution photos capturing the event, said Mike DuBose, one of three photojournalists who will be covering the event.

“We’ll cover the events of the day, large and small,” DuBose said, “and we’ll post captioned, edited news photos on the website.”

A separate photo album will be posted on Flickr for each day of the conference.

Patterson is a UM News reporter in Nashville, Tennessee. Contact him at 615-742-5470 or To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.


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Major Topics at General Conference


The effort to put The United Methodist Church’s different geographic regions on equal footing crossed a critical threshold in August 2023 when the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters unanimously approved proposed legislation for the denomination’s worldwide regionalization.

The plan’s eight petitions will be considered by General Conference. The standing committee’s vote means the legislation has already made it out of committee.

The standing committee, a permanent committee of General Conference, deals with matters in central conferences — seven church regions in Africa, Europe and the Philippines. The standing committee also acts as a legislative committee during General Conference.

“Regionalization is a way forward to keep the UMC alive and relevant in a worldwide context,” Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco, the standing committee’s co-chair and a retired bishop in the Philippines, said. “It addresses the mandate of Jesus Christ in Matthew 28 (:19), ‘Go and make disciples of all nations.’”

The Connectional Table, a leadership body that coordinates denomination-wide ministries and resources, also unanimously affirmed the regionalization legislation to move forward.

“The shift from central conference to regional conference is a recognition of the maturity of the current central conferences, which were once mission points of the then missionary-sending churches in the U.S.,” Bishop Mande Muyombo, Connectional Table chair, said. “No region can claim to be the center and others the peripheries. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ remains the center of God’s mission.”

Under the plan, the seven current central conferences and the U.S. would become United Methodist regional conferences with the same duties and powers to pass legislation for greater missional impact in their respective regions.

The regionalization proposal aims to address what many United Methodists see as a longstanding problem limiting the denomination’s missional effectiveness — namely, that the church in the U.S. and the central conferences have unequal standing in decision-making. At present, the U.S. tends to be the default to which central conferences must adjust.

The United Methodist Church’s constitution gives central conferences authority to make “such changes and adaptations” to the Book of Discipline as missional needs and differing legal contexts require. No such structure exists to deal with matters solely related to the United States. The result is that General Conference is dominated by U.S. challenges and debates.

Under the regionalization legislation, regional conferences must uphold the denomination’s constitution and the entirety of the Discipline through the current Part V (Social Principles). Remaining parts of the Discipline would be redrafted to clarify which items can or cannot be adapted by each regional conference. The proposal also requires each region to operate in harmony with The United Methodist Church’s policies toward racial justice and ecumenical relations.

The petitions also include the creation of a separate Standing Committee on United States Matters as a General Conference legislative committee. The committee would include all U.S. General Conference delegates, as well as a clergy and lay delegate from each central conference.

The committee would serve a similar role for the U.S. as the current Standing Committee for Central Conference Matters does for central conferences. However, Standing Committee for United States Matters would dissolve upon the establishment of a U.S. Regional Conference.

The creation of regional conferences around the globe requires amending the denomination’s Constitution. For ratification, amendments must receive at least a two-thirds vote at General Conference and at least two-thirds of the total votes from annual conferences. The regional conferences planned under regionalization would each consist of multiple annual conferences.

To become a reality, the proposed Standing Committee on United States Matters needs only a majority vote at General Conference. It also could remain in operation if the regional conference structure goes unratified.

The worldwide regionalization legislation does not address the different ways United Methodists around the globe handle the election of bishops. At present, the seven central conferences hold bishop elections in Africa, Europe and the Philippines, while five jurisdictions in the U.S. hold elections for bishops within their borders. Under the proposed legislation, regional conferences would handle bishop elections except in the U.S. where the jurisdictional structure would remain in effect for now.

The regionalization legislation also would mandate a study to update and perfect the new regional conference structure, including examining whether the U.S. should continue to have jurisdictions. Eliminating jurisdictions would require another large number of constitutional amendments and other changes to the Discipline.


“Thinking about mission and ministry while trying to ensure stewardship for years to come is a delicate balance,” said the Rev. Moses Kumar, top executive of the denomination’s General Council on Finance and Administration.

In May 2023, the GCFA board proposed a 2025-28 denominational budget of approximately $370.5 million to next year’s General Conference. That’s about $3 million less than the budget the finance agency began working on in autumn 2022.

The new bottom line also marks a nearly 40% reduction from the denomination-wide budget that General Conference approved at its last regular meeting in 2016.

The proposal requires significant cuts to all funds that support denomination-wide ministries, including United Methodist general agencies and bishops.

It also will be the lowest budget to come before General Conference since 1984, when the international denomination had far fewer members on the African continent and had yet to establish Africa University, now supported with denominational funds.

In The United Methodist Church, local churches provide a share of church giving — called apportionments — to annual conferences, church regional bodies that in turn pay apportionments to ministries supported through the denominational budget the General Conference adopts.

The U.S. provides the bulk of funding for these denomination-wide ministries. In the U.S., the formula for determining an annual conference’s apportionments is its total local church net expenditures multiplied by a General Conference-approved base percentage.

In 2021, U.S. annual conferences saw an overall 7% reduction in church net expenditures due in part to church disaffiliations but especially from church closures amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With that drop in mind, the finance agency adjusted downward its projections on net expenditures. With the large number of disaffiliations since 2021, GCFA has reduced the budget request further.


In July 2023, the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters heard an update on adding more bishops to the African continent.

Four years earlier, the standing committee had submitted to General Conference a plan to increase the number of African United Methodist bishops from 13 to 18. But given the financial stresses the denomination is facing because of the COVID pandemic and church disaffiliations, the standing committee is discerning whether new realities will require revisions to the original plan.

West Ohio Conference Bishop Gregory V. Palmer told the standing committee that consultation is still ongoing between the General Council on Finance and Administration and African United Methodists. Palmer chairs the task force that has been working on African episcopal leadership.

The standing committee has the legislative authority to revise its previously submitted plan on African bishops when it meets in April 2024. Should it be advisable, the bishop suggested that the standing committee could map out a modified plan.

Establishing a new central conference requires a two-thirds majority vote at General Conference. The delegates, by a simple majority, also determine the number of bishops the denomination will fund.

The African continent currently has three central conferences — Africa, Congo and West Africa. Each includes multiple countries and languages.

The standing committee’s legislation renames the Congo Central Conference as the Central Africa Central Conference and splits in two the Africa Central Conference — so named because it is the oldest on the continent.

Ultimately, the General Conference will determine the boundaries of central conferences and the number of bishops who serve them.

Individual central conferences will decide the boundaries of episcopal areas and where bishops are assigned.



The United Methodist Board of Church and Society will bring legislation for a full revision of the Social Principles — the first such overhaul in nearly 50 years. The goal is for the statements that guide United Methodist public witness to be more succinct, more theologically grounded and more globally relevant.

The proposed changes are more than eight years in coming. The 2012 General Conference referred legislation from the denomination’s three central conferences in Europe to revise the Social Principles.

Church and Society held listening sessions around the globe to learn from United Methodists what they thought of the social teachings and how they might be improved. Six international writing teams, assigned to the six sections of the Social Principles, worked on an original draft, which Church and Society then made available to the church for comment. The version submitted reflects the work of both the writing teams and the international feedback received.


Over the past four years, the denomination has been grappling with disaffiliations amid the denomination’s ongoing debates about homosexuality.

About a quarter of U.S. churches have disaffiliated from The United Methodist Church under a policy approved by the 2019 special General Conference that expired at the end of 2023.

That policy, the Discipline’s Paragraph 2553, allowed churches to leave with property “for reasons of conscience” related to homosexuality, if they met certain financial and procedural obligations. Many that disaffiliated had conservative views on homosexuality and Scripture.

The coming General Conference faces a handful of petitions to extend Paragraph 2553, so that it can continue to apply in the U.S. and expand to churches in the central conferences. Another petition set forth a process for churches that seek to reaffiliate with The United Methodist Church.


In all of their 2023 jurisdictional conferences and many of their annual conferences, U.S. United Methodists signaled their desire for the denomination to become more LGBTQ-welcoming. As they expressed openness to change some denominational policies, several annual conferences also reaffirmed that United Methodists remain steadfast in their commitment to core Christian doctrines.

In 2023, several conferences began their sessions by approving requested church exits. But after completing that painful work, many of the U.S. annual conferences showed an eagerness to move toward a more inclusive future focused on the good that United Methodists can do together in the name of Christ.

The Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book, prohibits United Methodist clergy from officiating at same-sex marriage or union ceremonies, and prohibits United Methodist bishops from licensing, commissioning, ordaining, appointing, or consecrating as a bishop anyone who is found to be a “self-avowed practicing homosexual.” Only General Conference can alter these bans.

However, annual conference votes do indicate growing energy in the U.S. portion of the denomination to reverse these policies as General Conference approaches.

Altogether, 22 U.S. annual conferences passed resolutions supporting the removal of anti-LGBTQ language in the Discipline. That total does not include conferences that passed similar resolutions in 2022, but it does include several conferences in the U.S. where the restrictions have received little pushback before.

The annual conference resolutions follow all five U.S. jurisdictions’ approval in 2022 of similarly worded petitions that aspire to a future United Methodist Church “where LGBTQIA+ people will be protected, affirmed, and empowered in the life and ministry of the church.”

Even those working to amend the Discipline’s language on homosexuality recognize that no matter what happens at General Conference, the denomination will be home to members with differing views and differing legal and cultural contexts on matters of human sexuality.

Conferences also made clear that The United Methodist Church remains committed to the doctrines found in the denomination’s Articles of Religion and Confession of Faith. Those core beliefs are not up for General Conference debate. These reaffirmations came as United Methodists have been contending with false accusations that the church is abandoning basic Christian tenets.


The Council of Bishops is asking General Conference to agree to full communion with a denomination that, like The United Methodist Church, has historic ties to John Wesley’s Church of England. Also, like The United Methodist Church, The Episcopal Church has experienced its own divisions around the role of LGBTQ Christians in church life.

Full communion means each church acknowledges the other rightly proclaims the gospel, duly administers the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion, and properly orders its ordained ministries. Agreements on these three points (word, sacrament, order) permit greater levels of partnership in ministry including, but not limited to, the ability for each to share at least some of its clergy with the other.

The Council of Bishops is recommending a change in Paragraph 442 of the Discipline to reflect a wider range of The United Methodist Church’s full-communion partnerships and to bring the terminology into harmony with that used by our ecumenical partners. The petition changes the name of full-communion consulting bodies from “joint commissions” to “coordinating committees,” introduces changes in the way such bodies are populated, and creates options for such committees to combine with others or suspend meeting for a season.

The council also recommends an amendment that would give further expression to the ecumenical and interreligious responsibilities of United Methodist bishops, adding the following sentence: “Bishops are to model a spirit of ecumenical and interreligious cooperation and lead their areas in establishing relationships of peace, reconciliation and understanding across lines of denominational and religious differences.”

An amendment to Paragraph 419.1 would clarify the ecumenical and interreligious role and responsibilities of district superintendents as extensions of the general superintending office of the bishop.

The council also recommends the following:

  • Renew the teaching statement “By Water and the Spirit: A United Methodist Understanding of Baptism” in the Book of Resolutions;
  • Renew the teaching statement “This Holy Mystery: A United Methodist Understanding of Holy communion” in the Book of Resolutions;
  • Revise and readopt Resolution 3125, “Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom HaShoah);
  • Adopt the report from the Committee on Faith and Order, “Sent in Love: A United Methodist Understanding of the Church,” as an official doctrinal teaching statement of The United Methodist Church;
  • Update policies related to the Interdenominational Cooperation Fund to reflect the full range of ministries; and
  • Update the name of the “Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships” to the “Advisory Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relationships.”


The Commission on the Study of Ministry, in consultation with the Committee on Faith and Order, is submitting a report on a theological framework for ordained ministry in The United Methodist Church. The commission proposes leading a churchwide conversation about the meaning of ordination and other questions about the tradition and practice of ministry addressed in the report, then offering legislation to the General Conference that will bring the church’s polity related to licensed and ordained clergy into alignment with the church’s understanding of a theology of ordained ministry.

The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry is introducing several pieces of legislation related to ministry to the General Conference. That legislation includes two petitions that for the first time allow associate members to serve in a conference other than their home conference and to transfer to a different conference.


The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women is introducing a resolution calling for an “Apology from General Conference to the Victims/Survivors of Sexual Misconduct in The United Methodist Church.” Many victims/survivors of sexual misconduct, the commission noted, do not receive an apology from any person with authority in the denomination or from the institution itself. An apology is the first step to the process of healing, especially for victims/survivors who cannot file a complaint due to time limits. The resolution is being submitted as more attention is being focused on this issue through the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements.

The commission is also requesting an update to an existing resolution on “Sexual Misconduct Within Ministerial Relationships.” The resolution would note that “sexual abuse, misconduct, and harassment in ministerial roles cause great harm to all parties involved and the witness of the Church. It is critical that The United Methodist Church has proper accountability when sexual abuse, misconduct, or harassment occur and has committees and structures to prevent and address such behaviors.”


Under legislation proposed by the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, United Methodist Student Day would be observed on any Sunday in May, instead of the traditional observance on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The move allows churches to coordinate observation of the Special Sunday with offerings with student graduation celebrations. The offerings support scholarships for United Methodist students.

The board also proposed legislation that would allow offerings for Native American Ministries Sunday to support Native Americans pursuing licensed ministry through Course of Study.


Three general agencies have submitted legislation on topics ranging from discrimination against women, sexual misconduct and support for clergywomen, to treatment of women as objects, advocacy for the girl child and global equality for women.

The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women is introducing legislation that would add the word “gender” to the list of categories that cannot be used to discriminate against individuals by denying them membership in The United Methodist Church.

United Methodist Men is asking delegates to update a resolution supporting clergywomen. The statement acknowledges that United Methodist congregations “have not always welcomed the appointment of clergywomen and provided them with support following their appointment.” The resolution urges UMM organizations to welcome women to the pulpit and to participate in the studies and activities of local UM Men organizations.

UMM worked with the YWCA of Middle Tennessee to create “Amending through Faith,” an eight-week study designed to help men understand how their attitudes have created an environment that treats women as objects and tolerates abusive actions. Commission members asked General Conference to include this resource in a listing of actions designed to “engage men and boys as allies in the promotion of gender equality.”

In legislation titled “The Girl Child,” United Methodist Women (now known as United Women in Faith) calls the church to engage in advocacy to rectify conditions that limit girls from reaching their fullest potential in healthy environments.

A second piece of UWF legislation, “The Status of Women: Towards Realizing Human Rights for All Women,” urges the church to work for women’s global equality in education and health care access and to reduce violence against women, among other issues.


Discipleship Ministries recently completed a rigorous, three-year process to create a more holistic, integrated and focused approach in assisting United Methodist leaders in their disciple-making efforts.

Included in the agency’s General Conference legislation is a petition that updates and simplifies the language and structure of the Division on Ministries with Young People by renaming it the “Young People’s Connectional Network.”

The petition calls jurisdictions to develop creative partnerships to network youth, young adults and young people’s ministries; support young people’s ministries in the annual conferences; and provide a more inclusive process by which representatives are chosen for the Young People’s Connectional Network.

Jurisdictional young people’s ministries also initiate and support camps, conferences and workshops; recommend priorities, concerns and policies to the Young People’s Connectional Network; promote awareness of the concerns of racial and ethnic individuals through caucuses, camps and consultations; and promote the spiritual growth of participants in young people’s ministry events and activities. Other responsibilities include promoting evangelistic outreach with and through young people by providing educational opportunities and resources that increase awareness, exposure and engagement in mission, social justice, discipleship, leadership development and spiritual formation; providing training and supportive experiences for conference young people’s ministries personnel; and enabling communication between general and conference levels of young people’s ministries.


The U.S. population age 65 and over grew nearly five times faster than the total population over the 100 years from 1920 to 2020, according to the 2020 U.S. census. The older population reached 55.8 million, or 16.8% of the U.S. population, in 2020. In 2020, about one in six people in the United States were age 65 and over. In 1920, this proportion was less than one in 20.

Two resolutions from Discipleship Ministries focus on older adult concerns.

Faith communities are “graying” rapidly. The resolution notes, “Being old today is not easy, in either the church or society. If the situation of older persons is to be improved, the church must act. … The response of the church begins with a theological understanding of aging concerned with the whole life process rather than with only its final stages. The meaning of life, rather than death, is the central point from which to theologize about aging.

“Concern for older persons in the church is theologically grounded in the doctrine of Creation, in the meaning of God’s work in Christ, in the response to grace that leads us into service, in the continuing value of older persons in the larger mission, and in the nature of the church as an agent of redemption and defender of justice for all.

“The aging process is part of God’s plan for life, with the good news of Christ’s redemption giving hope and purpose. United Methodists are called to live this message through words and deeds in the church and in society.”

The resolution titled “Abuse of Older Adults” notes the increasing numbers of older adults abused in the U.S. and around the world. “Elder abuse and neglect,” it says, “take many forms.” The resolution calls on The United Methodist Church “to break the silence and to address this social ill through education and awareness, information, counseling and referral services, support systems, and reports to the proper authorities when abuse is suspected,” and it calls on the Committee on Older Adult Ministries and appropriate general agencies to provide resources and materials to address the issue.


In 2018, Wespath Benefits and Investments announced that in response to the denomination’s ongoing decline in U.S. membership, the agency was taking steps to make sure conferences could meet their pension obligations without disruption.

Among its responsibilities, the agency manages investments for pensions and other retirement-plan assets on behalf of conferences, which are plan sponsors and legally responsible for paying benefits. In addition, the agency manages assets for more than 150 United Methodist-related institutions.

Wespath has submitted a petition to the General Conference that would create a new clergy retirement plan called “Compass.” Under the new plan, active clergy would move from a retirement plan with both defined-benefit (DB) and defined-contribution (DC) components to an account-based, entirely DC plan.

A DB plan provides a monthly pension payment for life, with the employer (in this case, annual conferences) assuming the investment risk and long-term financial obligation. Pension payments end when the clergyperson (and their surviving spouse) dies.

A DC plan — like the 401(k) plans most U.S. corporate employees now have — provides an account balance to use during retirement, with the clergyperson assuming the risk of sustaining the money through the end of their lifetime. The DC account balance remaining after the clergyperson’s death can go to a designated beneficiary(ies).

Compass would offer optional features that mimic the monthly payments of a DB plan to help assure the individual’s account balance lasts throughout their life in retirement. It would also contain elements that benefit lower-paid clergy that include providing a higher value (relative to pay) for lower-paid clergy than for higher-paid clergy and matching contributions for student loan payments.