NCC Executive Board OKs Separate CWSW Financial Management
May 23, 2000, WASHINGTON, D.C. - In and of itself, decentralizing financial management within an organization is hardly news. But approval today of a plan for separating financial management for Church World Service and Witness from that for the rest of the National Council of Churches is noteworthy for its effect and its context.
According to the plan, voted by the NCC Executive Board, CWSW will begin immediately to set up its own administration and finance offices, to reach full autonomy by fall. At the same time, CWSW has reaffirmed a common ministry with the NCC's other ministries and a common accountability to the NCC General Assembly, whose 250 delegates from the Council's 35 Protestant and Orthodox member communions meet each November.
Communications and public policy work will continue to be joint functions, and the NCC General Secretary continues to serve as the chief ecumenical spokesperson. And the whole Council will initiate "a process of reflecting on the ecumenical mission in the United States," inviting others to join in discussing "a new vision in the new millennium."
Church World Service and Witness is the National Council of Churches' humanitarian response ministry. CWSW raises and spends about 80 percent of the ecumenical body's total annual budget of around $70 million.
Up to now, the NCC has assessed CWSW a percentage of its income for administration and financial management - a point of tension over the cost and efficiency of the services provided that should now ease.
"For far too long the council has expended energy and goodwill in addressing the kinds of contentious issues that are inevitable when one part of a structure so overwhelmingly dominates the budget," commented Episcopal Church Canon Patrick Mauney, Chair of Church World Service and Witness.
He expressed his belief that the plan approved today "will remove the principal contentious issues and allow the NCC to place itself at the service of a larger calling - a truly inclusive ecumenical entity in the United States" and will strengthen the entire NCC as clearer and tighter financial reports make funding sources and uses more transparent. A six-member Financial Transition Task Force will carry forward implementation.
This separation of financial management takes place in the context of an intensive effort to bring overall expenditures under control and to begin to rebuild the Council's badly eroded financial reserves. A cash flow crisis - expected to continue through the summer - is being addressed through staff travel restrictions and request for early payment of fiscal commitments from communions, governmental agencies and other donors that ordinarily would come in later in the year.
"We are monitoring cash flow on a daily, sometimes hourly basis," reported Barbara Ellen Black, the NCC's Interim General Manager. "We've renegotiated contracts for equipment, maintenance and delivery services and for property insurance, at substantial savings. We are consolidating space to reduce occupancy costs."
The 1999 audit is expected to be completed within the next few days. The NCC is moving to a July 1-June 30 fiscal year, effective this July 1, with an audit of the first six months of 2000 to be completed by October.
$3.8 million has been pledged for reduction of 1999 year-end debt, leaving an accumulated deficit of about $2.7 million - none of it owed to external creditors, said the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, NCC General Secretary. Research is beginning to determine what reserves will need to be replenished as the Council rebuilds financially.
As a special committee and staffed worked over the past several months on these immediate financial and structural issues, attention also turned to a larger issue - longer-term questions of basic mission and purpose.
Today, the NCC Executive Board took the first step
toward a new vision in the new millennium for ecumenical ministry in the United States,
and asked an eight-member "Vision Team" to bring a "protocol" on how
to proceed to the Board's next meeting, in October.
The NCC and its member communions will invite others to be part of the
process from the start.
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