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NCC Board Hears "Brief" On NCC Finances, Reorganization
Moves Plans Ahead for Mobilization to Overcome Poverty, Expanding Ecumenical Vision 

            October 4, 2000, NEW YORK CITY – Celebration of “remarkable” achievements in financial and organizational management along with work to advance planning for two major new program initiatives marked the Oct. 2-3 meeting of the National Council of Churches’ Executive Board. 

            While the Board necessarily spent significant time on matters related to the Council’s financial health, that work was carried out in a forward-looking context of attention to ecumenical witness in the 21st century. 

            “None of us is here simply to ‘fine tune’ the National Council of Churches,” said the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, NCC General Secretary.  “We are here to be part of the ecumenical commitment, called by Christ to be one and to invest in those areas where we have a common purpose.” 

Of top priority are a projected 10-year “Mobilization to Overcome Poverty” and exploration of an expanded “ecumenical vision” that could bring Roman Catholics, evangelicals, Pentecostals, mainline Protestants, Orthodox, historic African American and other churches into closer relationship. 

            The NCC Executive Board refined and “pilot tested” plans for bringing those two major new initiatives to the Council’s Nov. 14-17 annual General Assembly, in Atlanta.  

The first updates churches’ ages-old commitment to ending poverty and seeks specific goals against which to measure achievements of the decade-long effort.   

The second anticipates a “fully collaborative meeting” in 2001 that would bring together leaders of major U.S. Christian “families” to begin “a process of discernment to ascertain what new national expression of Christian life, faith and action the Holy Spirit may enable us to bring into being in which we may be and act together.” 

Dr. Edgar reflected appreciatively on the Executive Board’s careful consideration of both the substance of the two initiatives and the process for moving them forward.  “The Board is building ownership of these initiatives, which represent a sharpening of the Council’s vision and mission,” he said, adding, “I sense a new level of excitement among our member communions that wasn’t there a year ago.” 

“STATE OF THE NCC” 

Launching of both initiatives is contingent on securing the necessary funding.  Over the past several years, the NCC has “spent down” most of its financial reserves in order to balance over-spent program budgets and to cover extraordinary expenses related to retooling of the Council’s administrative and financial management systems. 

            “Over the past 11 months, with your help, we’ve done an incredible job of bringing order to the NCC’s finances,” Dr. Edgar told the Board. 

            While the audit for January-June 2000 is not yet completed, all indications are that the NCC has brought current operating expenditures into line with current income for the first time in years, reported Dr. Barbara Ellen Black, the NCC’s General Manager. 

            In fact, a small operating surplus appears likely both for that six-month period and for July-December 2000, she said.  “The financial hemorrhaging that was occurring has been stopped,” affirmed Dr. Edgar.  “We know what our current revenue is going to be and we are committed to living within in it.” 

            Alluding to the frequent representation of the ecumenical movement as a ship, Philip Young, Esq., of San Rafael, Calif., the NCC’s Treasurer, put it this way, “We are in the process of bringing some ‘nautical reality’ to the NCC.  We are trimming the sails, clearing the decks, scraping barnacles and finding ways to get to where you want us to go.   As we journey through very difficult times, we promise not just balanced budgets but also a seaworthy ship to take us to where you want us to go.” 

            The NCC is committed to protecting – indeed, rebuilding – its investments, which currently total about $3 million.  “We aren’t touching the principal,” Dr. Edgar confirmed.  

            The Executive Board literally applauded the news and expressed its appreciation for the difficult steps that have been taken over the past 11 months.  These have included reductions in staff, reshaping of program and service budgets in accordance with available resources and changing needs, implementation of stringent financial controls and accountabilities, and achievement of numerous economies.  

            “The news that we balanced the first half of 2000 is remarkable,” commented the Rev. Dr. Richard L. Hamm, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Indianapolis, Ind. 

Said the Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, Ky., “This is the most encouraging and hopeful financial report we’ve heard, and also the most painful.   We are extraordinarily grateful for your achievements on the formidable task of bringing us into balance.  Very difficult and painful decisions have had to be made.” 

Complicating – but also clarifying – the task has been concurrent work to separate the financial management for Church World Service and Witness from that for the rest of the Council.  Previously, one office was charged with providing those services for the whole of the Council. 

            More hard work lies ahead.  The NCC exclusive of Church World Service expects to end 2000 with a very small cash balance – something like $137,000, Dr. Black said.  And current projected income and expenses are $1.7 million out of balance for the first six months of 2001. 

Dr. Black promised to bring a balanced budget to the Executive Board when it next meets, in conjunction with the NCC’s General Assembly in November.   

            “We’re at a critical time,” affirmed Bishop Melvin Talbert, Nashville, Ten., Ecumenical Officer for the United Methodist Church’s Council of Bishops.  “We have hard decisions to make about our future.  As you struggle to do that during these next few weeks, know that we want you to help us live within our means.  Lead us!   How do we use our resources in the best interest of us all?” 

            As the Board meeting concluded, Dr. Edgar challenged all the NCC’s 35 member communions to commit their support to the level of their ability.  “These are not easy days,” he said.  “Your participation keeps us moving in the right direction.” 

-end-

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