Wednesday, February 22, 2006
WCC Admits to Rapidly Declining Income; Pledges "Realistic" Budgets
The symbol of liberal ecumenicalism, the World Council of Churches, admits that it has suffered a 30% decrease in total income between 1999 and 2006 according to its finance committee and as reported in its official web site for its 9th Assembly (www.wcc-assembly.info). Like its American affiliate, the National Council of Churches, the WCC has been a frequent target for criticism by evangelicals and more orthodox Christians. Questions about the uniqueness of Jesus Christ in a pluralistic world, the popularity of Marxist versions of liberation theology, and a tendency to uphold radical political positions have accounted for much of the discomfort U.S. evangelicals have with the WCC.
With responsible and realistic budgets and a three-year action plan to be approved later this year, the WCC affirms its decision to focus on its unique role as a global fellowship of churches.
On 21 February, the 9th Assembly passed the report of its finance committee which, while acknowledging a 30% decrease in total income between 1999 and 2006, recommended that the council "continue to set realistic and responsible budgets". The framework budget for 2007 estimates available income at CHF 39 million.
The Assembly finance committee affirmed the central committee recommendation that the "WCC do less, and do it well," and encouraged it to "sharpen its focus and to communicate its unique role and responsibilities as a global fellowship of churches".
This will be spelled out first in a three-year plan (2007-2009) to be presented to the new central committee in September 2006. The plan will include the programme priorities identified by the Assembly as well as the associated staffing considerations. It will also include "responsible conclusion of certain project work in 2006", and "possible options for the transfer to and continuity of other programme projects within church and ecumenical networks".
The finance committee report revised the short-term membership income target, fixing it at CHF 7 million for the period 2007-2009, while retaining the previous CHF 10 million-target for the long term. Churches that fail to pay their membership fee should be "declared non-active after three consecutive years of non-payment," the report proposes to the central committee. "At the end of 2005, 75% of member churches contributed, compared with 55% in 1999," the report states.
The income development strategy will continue working on "maintaining relationships with the principal funding partners". On 2005, 65% of the WCC's total income consisted of contributions to programmatic work, 90% of which came from 20 funding partners. "Although a certain stability was achieved between 2003 and 2005, there is an anticipated decrease of 4% in programme contributions in 2006" and "a further reduction of 6%" in 2007, the report says.
The finance committee report acknowledged the development of "new work methods based on networking". It also affirmed the need to implement a "programme planning, monitoring, evaluation and reporting" process in a way that permeates the councils "working culture".
The finance committee expressed "profound gratitude" to member churches, specialized ministries, congregations and individuals whose contributions made WCC work possible.
The full text of the "Report from the Finance Committee" is available at:www.wcc-assembly.info/en/theme-issues/assembly-documents.html