From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Executive Committee Addresses 1997 Deficit

Date 04 May 1996 20:55:53


96029       Executive Committee Addresses 1997 Deficit 
                          by Alexa Smith 
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--How to slice more than one million dollars from the 1997 
General Assembly mission program budget is a job facing the General 
Assembly Council (GAC) here Feb. 21-25. 
     Cuts in each of the three ministry divisions will have to cover a 
projected $830,000 budget shortfall and an additional $400,000 in 
anticipated costs to gear up new young adult ministries and to fund the 
creation of spiritual formation centers for Presbyterians. 
     While senior staff presented the Council's Executive Committee with 
$1.135 million in potential cuts during its Jan. 12-13 meeting here, which 
specific programs will be eliminated and which programs will be priorities 
is a question Council members will have to decide. 
     "Will we continue to do everything mandated from 1936 forward? 
Probably not.  But we will sharpen our focus for 1996-98 and beyond," G.A. 
"Pat" Goff, the denomination's chief financial officer, told the 
Presbyterian News Service after the Council's weekend meeting. 
     "We've got to find the long-term base level of funding," he said. 
"And we've got to adjust our program to that long-term base level of 
     What that looks like, according to one potential scenario painted by 
the staff leadership team for the Executive Committee, is cuts of $250,000 
within the National Ministries Division; $325,000 within the Worldwide 
Ministries Division (WMD); $260,000 in the Congregational Ministries 
Division [to be supplemented with $400,000 for youth and spirituality 
programming] (CMD); $200,000 in the Office of Communication; and $100,000 
in Corporate & Administrative Services. 
     The cuts all come out of the unified (unrestricted) portion of the 
budget.  They include, for now, proposals to eliminate currently vacant 
national staff positions and seven or eight others that mission workers are 
already planning to vacate.  Another proposal projects recovering $150,000 
now spent publishing "Monday Morning" magazine, a publication for clergy 
that the Council is considering making self-supporting. 
     The Executive Committee is also clear that 1997 is just a prelude to 
1998, when Bicentennial Fund monies will begin falling off and when 
estimates for dollars from special funds such as the Jarvie Commonweal 
Service Fund are speculative.  Goff insisted that enough money is available 
until then. 
     "Ultimately something has to give," GAC executive director the Rev. 
James D. Brown said, describing upcoming choices as "painful. It's 
difficult for staff ... and we need the insight of elected people.  We 
cannot do everything.  And we cannot do everything we're doing." 
     Pushing for more internal review to determine the effectiveness of 
various programs, Council member DeAun West of Rapid City, S.D., concurred 
with Brown's assessment.  "Everybody's going to be in pain and agony over 
this.  But we have to do it," she said. 
     The budget debate coincided with a discussion of a churchwide planning 
proposal the Executive Committee is readying for the year 2000.  Such 
planning, Council members observed, must address a changing church where 
issue-oriented networking now seems to influence people more than many 
middle governing bodies and where local congregations are less and less 
able to operate on dollars collected in Sunday offering plates. 
     "What this boils down to is we're struggling over a 1 percent 
reduction in our mission budget," said GAC chair the Rev. William McIvor of 
Spokane, Wash., while many Presbyterian businesspeople are struggling with 
deeper cuts in their working lives.  Maintaining that the future holds even 
more change for the church, McIvor said,  "These kinds of cuts are not deep 
enough to really deal with the reality that's happening in church and 
     But, McIvor added, the Council's 71 members will have to come to the 
February meeting prepared to not "champion our own causes -- our causes 
being our [ministry] divisions. ... This is an important conversation. 
It's the Council's budget.  And that debate has to be more than pro forma." 
     What might have further impact on the current budget debate, argued 
CMD director the Rev.  Eunice Poethig, is an action by the 1995 General 
Assembly allowing administrative costs to be charged against special 
offerings.  Poethig said that charge may bring as much as $104,000 more 
into CMD's 1997 budget, since the fund-raising costs of the four major 
offerings are shouldered by CMD.  Others disputed Poethig's argument, 
insisting that if more supplemental money goes into one division's budget, 
then unified money should be disbursed more equitably. 
     Poethig said divisions are going to have to adopt a philosophical 
stance for the future that includes ways to generate revenue, not just 
spend it.  She said WMD has allied itself with outside agencies (such as 
the Outreach Foundation and the Medical Benevolence Foundation) to help 
defray costs to do mission, and CMD has created church resources for sale 
that enable it to be somewhat self-supporting. 
     "Making decisions about rock-bottom values" is how Council member the 
Rev. Blair Monie of Dallas described the task at hand. "We all," he said, 
meaning the whole denomination, "have to take responsibility for these 
     "'Put crassly, 'You get what you pay for.'" 
     General Assembly moderator Marj Carpenter strongly objected to cuts in 
unified dollars to WMD since that impacts mission workers.  Carpenter said 
mission is what the wider church values. Aware that WMD will have a smaller 
recruitment list this year, WMD director the Rev. Cliff Kirkpatrick didn't 
see the cut as "disproportionate" to what other ministries of the church 
are experiencing.  Nor is Kirkpatrick without hope. 
     "Far too many Presbyterians assume this [cuts] is an ongoing thing," 
Kirkpatrick told the Presbyterian News Service.  "We ought to quit assuming 
that and turn it around. 
     "We don't want to make that [assumption] self-fulfilling. ..." 
     Council member and CAS Committee chair Duane Black of Yucaipa, Calif., 
said CAS has cancelled its announced extra February meeting with Brown and 
the staff leadership team because of the cost of an additional meeting. 
Black said Brown will report budget information back to CAS at its regular 
session prior to the February GAC meeting. Black insisted to the Executive 
Committee that the CAS Committee is not "dissatisfied" with staff budget 
planning, despite news reports saying otherwise.  (See "NEWS BRIEFS," Dec. 
29, 1995, #95456.) 
     The churchwide planning proposal will come to the Council in February. 
It is based on a short paper presented by Brown to the Executive Committee 
and on proposals coming out of a possible overture to the 208th General 
Assembly from Central Florida Presbytery calling for congregations and 
governing bodies to spend three years studying and preparing to strengthen 
the denomination for witness in the new millennium.  Working on the 
proposal are McIvor, GAC vice chair Pat Niles of Tustin, Calif., and senior 
GAC staff.  

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


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