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NCC Board Celebrates Council's Continuing Fiscal Recovery

October 1, 2003, NEW YORK CITY - Celebration of the National Council of Churches’ continuing fiscal recovery and a sharpening of organization and focus marked the fall meeting of the Council’s Executive Board here Sept. 29-30.

The Board received the audited financial statements for the year ending June 30, 2003, which show not only a balanced operating budget for the second year in a row, but also a more than $7 million increase in the Council’s long-term reserves. The financial turnaround was achieved not only through cuts in staff and expenditures but also through greater program focus, NCC leaders said.

In 2002-2003, the Council’s work for peaceful solutions to the Iraq crisis attracted grants from several foundations and individual donors - including an anonymous individual’s donation of stock whose sale netted the NCC just over $7 million. Work in such areas as environmental justice, globalization and biotechnology also attracted grants.

In contrast, the Council’s finances in the 1980s and 1990s were marked by slow attrition of staff and program and a drawing down of long-term reserves from $24 million to about $2.5 million in order to compensate for deficit program spending.

The NCC’s audited financial statements for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2003, showed total income of $12,474,125 and total operating expenditures of $5,664,651. The surplus increased the Council’s total assets from $6,309,200 as of June 30, 2002, to $12,651,535 as of June 30, 2003.

"The NCC’s ‘salvage quadrennium’ is over," said National Council of Churches General Secretary Bob Edgar, who along with the Council’s officers has led the financial recovery over the past four years. "Financially, we are healthy and we are beginning a new phase."

The new phase includes focusing the Council’s work through five "commissions" - Faith and Order, Education and Leadership Ministries, Interfaith Relations, Communication and a new Advocacy and Justice Commission, to be constituted at the Council’s November 2003 annual General Assembly. Relating to all of the commissions are the Office of the General Secretary along with offices for International Affairs and Peace, Research and Planning, Development, and Administration and Finance.

Also at the Sept. 29-30 meeting, two key staff positions were filled by the Executive Board:

The Rev. Dr. Shanta D. Premawardhana, an Alliance of Baptists pastor and a leader in interfaith work in Chicago, was elected to serve as the Council’s Associate General Secretary for Interfaith Relations. He succeeds the Rev. Dr. Jay Rock, who had been seconded to the NCC by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for 16 years. On Sept. 1, Dr. Rock became interfaith relations coordinator in the PCUSA’s Worldwide Ministries Division in Louisville, Ky.

Ms. Leora E. Landmesser, a United Methodist who is a seasoned financial officer with experience in a wide range of organizations, was elected to serve as the Council’s Associate General Secretary for Administration and Finance. She succeeds Spencer Bates, who has returned to retirement after serving in that position on an interim basis.

In addition, it was announced that the Rev. Dr. Paul H. Sherry, former President of the United Church of Christ, has agreed to donate a year of his retirement to lead the NCC’s Mobilization to Overcome Poverty.

"This is a wonderful opportunity," commented the NCC’s President, Elenie Huszagh. "Those of us who know Paul are delighted at his offer of service."

The NCC Executive Board also approved changes in the Council’s Constitution, Bylaws and Standing Rules to bring them in line with the reorganization in the Council’s program structure, and forwarded the revised documents to the NCC’s November 2003 General Assembly for action.

Further, the Board commended a proposed new policy - "The Church and Children: Visions and Goals for the 21st Century" - to the November Assembly for "first reading." And the Board forwarded for the Assembly’s action:

A resolution urging churches to give increased attention to work for quality public education, as detailed in the NCC policy "The Churches and Public Schools at the End of the Twentieth Century," adopted in 1999.

A recommendation that the General Assembly approve a resolution to endorse the Taco Bell Boycott, as called for by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. The vote was unanimous with six abstentions; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Richard L. Hamm, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), asked that their abstentions be registered.

A resolution that the General Assembly endorse a boycott of the Mount Olive Pickle Company, effective "as soon after January 1, 2004, as determined by the NCC Executive Board," unless there is "substantial movement" by then toward better working conditions of the farm workers who pick the cucumbers used in the company’s products. The vote was unanimous with three abstentions; the ELCA asked that its abstention be registered.

A resolution supporting re-importation of prescription drugs from Canada "as one means of making lower cost prescription drugs available to those who need them."

The Executive Board meets quarterly to attend to NCC business between annual meetings of the Council’s 280-member General Assembly, which next meets Nov. 4-6 in Jackson, Miss. Both the Board and Assembly are composed of official delegates from the NCC’s 36 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican member churches. Those churches comprise 50 million adherents in 140,000 local congregations across the nation.

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