From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Budget Builders Seek More Information

Date 04 May 1996 20:51:51


95456         Budget Builders Seek More Information 
               from Senior GAC Staff on 1997 Budget 
                      by Jerry L. Van Marter 
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--Dissatisfied with what it said was an unwillingness on the 
part of senior General Assembly Council (GAC) staff to plan for inevitable 
budget cuts, the Corporate and Administrative Services (CAS) committee 
concluded its Dec. 8-9 budget meeting by scheduling an additional meeting 
in early February to continue work on  the 1997 General Assembly mission 
     And the committee insisted that GAC executive director the Rev. James 
D. Brown come to that meeting with plans to 
       * balance the 1997 mission budget 
       * balance the proliferation of new mission programs with 
corresponding cuts in existing programs 
       * evaluate which existing programs are effective and which are not. 
                    Budget projections worsen 
     The extra meeting was slated after the committee was presented a 
preliminary 1997 budget that is now more than $2 million out of balance. 
The 1995 General Assembly approved a 1997 "planning budget" of almost $115 
million, which at that time was $800,000 out of balance.   
     Though CAS director G. A. (Pat) Goff described the projected shortfall 
as "a manageable problem," the committee was sharply critical of the GAC 
Staff Leadership Team (Brown, Goff and the three division directors) for 
what CAS member Diane Wheeler of Palmyra, N.Y., called "not being prepared 
to cut their programs." 
     After a full day of budget "consultations" with Brown, Goff and the 
three division directors -- the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick of Worldwide 
Ministries (WMD), the Rev. Eunice Poethig of Congregational Ministries 
(CMD) and the Rev. Curtis Kearns of National Ministries (NMD) -- and 
elected representatives from each of the division committees, CAS member 
John A. Rodgers of McMurrayville, Pa., said, "I'm not very encouraged. 
Staff heard each other but they don't get it -- it doesn't take much genius 
to see the trends and realize the need to prioritize and cut back." 
            Brown describes 1998 as a "watershed year" 
     During the consultation, Brown characterized 1998 as a "watershed year 
-- a dramatic, shaping moment in which we will have to do some deep 
directional work."  He did not attach a dollar figure to his description. 
     The Rev. Gary Skinner, executive of the Synod of the Southwest, said, 
"This needs to be a focus of conversation now, so there is not a massive 
adjustment the last three months of 1997 but a careful, long look at 
long-term adjustments that will be needed." 
     CAS member David Greer of Omaha, Neb., responded, "The time has come 
to examine every program and eliminate some."  Noting that the workload at 
the Presbyterian Center in Louisville has not diminished though staff has 
been cut by some 20 percent, Greer said, "We can't do this to staff any 
more -- we have to whittle the pile of work down.." 
     Brown admitted that  "we're still not very good at letting go." 
     Reversing income trends advocated as alternative to cuts 
     The Rev. Blair Monie, pastor of Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church in 
Dallas and chair of CMD, urged greater efforts to increase income.  "Coming 
as a pastor and hearing this message of decline, I am reminded of sessions 
that spend all their time figuring out how to spend less while not 
thinking about increasing income," he said.   
     "There has not been a lot of pressure on my session to increase its 
funding of mission, he continued.  "And by cutting program, we cut off the 
means by which we can turn it around." 
     The Rev. Walter Ungerer of Kokomo, Ind., and a representative of WMD 
to the consultation, agreed.  "Unfortunately, financial implications too 
often speak louder than the Holy Spirit," he said. "The bottom line should 
be: what is God in Christ calling us to do?" 
     Kirkpatrick, after describing a host of WMD programs, said, "Don't 
confuse loss of resources with a loss of vision or opportunity." 
     At the budget meeting which followed the consultation, CAS chair Duane 
Black of Yucaipa, Calif., said, "One message we want to send forward [to 
senior staff] is  accelerate your efforts to increase income.'" 
                    GAC leadership questioned 
     CAS member Al Warren of Grosse Pointe, Mich., said he "didn't sense 
anyone was extending themselves to cut programs" from the General Assembly 
budget.  "I sense a lot of things have been in the budget for years and 
years and I can't believe there aren't a number of ineffective programs 
that could be cut." 
     Wheeler agreed.  "We can't delay this any longer.  I come from a rural 
area and rising per capita plus a proliferation of new programs increases 
mistrust in areas like mine where people are hurting [economically]." 
     Al Puryear of the Bronx, N.Y., said, "I don't see much evaluation of 
effectiveness of programs...everything we do can't be successful.  There is 
a void there somewhere -- a lot of this should be handled by senior 
     Black responded that "we tend to dump this stuff on staff -- let's 
meet again to finalize this" [1997 budget]. 
     "Fine," replied Puryear, "but let's make sure senior staff are here -- 
the fact they're not here today (for the budget meeting) means they are too 
     Fred Denson of Webster, N.Y., said, "We want the information to come 
from Jim Brown, not piecemeal from the directors." 
     "Yes," said Puryear, "We want the leader to tell us." 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
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