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NCC Governing Board approves budget
and a resolution on environmental health

Elgin, Ill., May 21, 2009 -- The National Council of Churches Governing Board, meeting here in the national offices of the Church of the Brethren, approved a balanced budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year and adopted a resolution on environmental health.

The FY 2009-10 budget of $5,475,500 was approved by unanimous voice vote following a detailed discussion led by the Rev. Dr. Cheryl H. Wade, an NCC vice president and chair of the board's Administration and Finance Committee.

Wade, an American Baptist, noted that the Council and its member communions are facing significant financial pressures in an worldwide economic downturn "of the sort we have not seen for 80 years."

The General Secretary, the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, said the budget had been balanced through a combination of planned revenue enhancements and expense cuts and other cost curtailments, including reduced travel and fewer meetings.

In addition, Kinnamon pointed out, the Governing Board had ordered sharp reductions in the NCC budget in 2007 to reduce a budget shortfall anticipated in 2008. The board ordered a major reduction of staff and a reorganization of NCC programs.

The current fiscal restraints, Kinnamon said in his report to the board, are "primarily attributable to lean times." He expressed confidence that the "combination of expense reductions and revenue increases through changes in development staffing and planning" will keep the budget balanced in the next fiscal year.

"I don't much like to speak of silver linings in situations where people are hurting, but there may be one here," Kinnamon said. "Lean times may be an opportunity to go beyond cooperation to a genuine sharing of resources, a sharing of life through an intentional deepening of relationships."

Financial crises may generally be fixed through program and personnel adjustments until times improve, Kinnamon said, but he called for more practical solutions.

"Councils of churches, we have said, are valuable forms of common witness," Kinnamon said. "But what shape should conciliar life take in an age when networking is replacing large, centralized structures? Even as we act decisively in response to the problems caused by lean times, can we risk learning new ways of being ecumenical in the face of changing conditions?"

Kinnamon called upon the churches to emphasize "the spiritual foundation" of ecumenism.

"Prayer gives us hope when confronted with inevitable setback," he said. "Prayer reminds us of our connectedness to others in the name of Christ. Prayer opens us to the reality of God's grace and thus invites us 'to offer our differences' in common service. Prayer involves a 'humbling of ourselves' in order to recognize our shared identity as the children of God."

The meetings of the Governing Board were presided over by the President, Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, and by the President Elect, the Rev. Peg Chemberlin, a Moravian clergywoman and executive director of the Minnesota Council of Churches.

The board began its meeting in worship in the chapel of the Brethren offices and heard reports on the program work of the NCC Commissions.

The Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ, who is retiring in September, was honored by the board in a special session led by Archbishop Aykazian and Dr. Kinnamon.

Special guests included the Rev. Lowell Almen, retired Secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, who had represented his church in discussions with the Roman Catholic Church on the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification; and the Rev. Derek Hill, director of the British and Foreign Bible Society, who reported on the society's work.

A Resolution on Environmental Health was amended to stress the importance of protecting children of vulnerable populations and approved by a unanimous voice vote.

The resolution calls on member churches to "promote educational materials and practical solutions for church bodies to promote healthy, less-toxic spaces for worship and sacred living."

The National Council of Churches "will work to protect the most vulnerable members of society from exposure to harmful chemicals -- pregnant women, children, communities of color, low-income communities, older adults and others with compromised immune systems, and people exposed to these chemicals in the workplace," the resolution states.

In addition, the NCC "will share a prophetic witness to empower legislators and federal agencies to ban toxic chemicals of concern, repair the system we use to regulate chemicals, and ensure that the products we use are safe for all."

NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell) ,

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