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$500,000 Lilly Endowment Development Grant
Caps National Council of Churches' Financial Turnaround

NEW YORK, August 1, 2002 - Lilly Endowment of Indianapolis, Ind., has awarded the National Council of Churches a three-year, $500,000 grant to help the Council develop resources for new programs.

The gift caps a remarkable financial turnaround for the NCC.

In January 2000, when Bob Edgar became General Secretary, the half-century-old Christian organization was financially on the ropes after a decade of deficit spending. Many feared the venerable NCC wouldn’t make it through the year.

Today, after a major reorganization of staff, facilities and budget, the NCC is back in the black, with not only a balanced operating budget achieved for 2001-2002, but long-term investments that are growing instead of hemorrhaging. New partnerships with groups like Habitat for Humanity and Children’s Defense Fund are flourishing, and donor support is up for the second year, by double- and triple-digit percentages.

The new grant Lilly Endowment logofrom the respected Lilly Endowment will boost the Council into the next phase of its renewal.

"The Lilly grant is crucial venture capital, assisting us where we need it most, in reaching out to those who believe in the kind of work we are doing and who, given appropriate information, will help underwrite its expansion," said Edgar, a former seminary president who also spent six terms as a member of Congress.

The Council’s programs are wide ranging. They include Bible translation (which produced the highly successful Revised and New Revised Standard Versions), 14 Christian education programs, a Washington-based public policy office, economic and environmental justice efforts, "faith and order" discussions among scholars, extensive interfaith relationships, and a mobilization to reduce poverty in America.

From its founding in 1950, the NCC was largely dependent on the contributions of its member denominations - currently 36 "mainline" Protestant, African-American and Orthodox communions with 140,000 local congregations - but as those national bodies faced steadily tightening budgets, their investment in cooperative work through the NCC slowly declined.

The Council spent much of its long-term investments to avoid eliminating important programs and, by 2000, the budget was in a crisis.

The turnaround was steep but successful. Now, with a streamlined administrative structure and a balanced operating budget for the first time in more than 10 years - and armed with the Lilly grant - the NCC will seek to underwrite programs that will address the most critical issues facing its members in the second half of its first century.

Beyond the NCC’s own work, its member churches are helping launch a new movement provisionally called "Christian Churches Together in the USA," which hopes to enlarge the nation’s ecumenical family by including many Christian bodies - particularly Roman Catholics and evangelicals - who have not been active in the NCC.

Founded in 1937, the Lilly Endowment is a private foundation that follows its founders’ wishes in supporting the causes of religion, community development, and education.

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