From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Executive Committee Addresses 1997 Deficit
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
"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
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 PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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