From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Assembly Reviews 2004-2005 Budget

Date Wed, 13 Aug 2003 15:41:30 -0500


August 13, 2003

ELCA Assembly Reviews 2004-2005 Budget

     MILWAUKEE (ELCA) -- Voting members of the 2003 Churchwide
Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) had
their first opportunity to discuss the proposed 2004-2005 budget
Aug. 12. The Church Council recommended that the 2003 ELCA
Churchwide Assembly approve a 2004 current fund fiscal year
income proposal of $84,310,000 and a 2004 World Hunger income
proposal of $16,250,000. The 2005 current fund fiscal year income
proposal is for $85,140,000 and the 2005 World Hunger income
proposal is $16,500,000. The vote on this proposal will be Aug.
     The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of
the ELCA, is meeting here Aug. 11-17 at the Midwest Airlines
Center. There are about 2,100 people participating, including
1,031 ELCA voting members. The theme for the biennial assembly is
"Making Christ Known: For the Healing of the World."
     Income estimates changed modestly from 2003 to 2004
according to Christina Jackson-Skelton, ELCA Treasurer. Overall,
the proposal increased by approximately $1 million -- $736,000 of
which is unrestricted and $250,000 restricted to World Hunger
     On the expense side, Jackson-Skelton said changes are
relatively small. Two notable proposed increases in operating
costs were $1.4 million for a pool of funds for churchwide staff
salary and benefits and $250,000 for the obligation to support
health care and benefits for retirees.
     The three major purposes to which funds are directed are
24.2 percent to vocation and leadership; 23.9 percent to worship
and evangelism outreach; and 19.3 percent to service and justice
     Significant expenses in the proposal are $37 million toward
financial support grants to congregations, seminaries, global
companion ministries, and many other entities; $29.1 million
toward staff compensation; and $6.7 million to retiree health
     Some 83 percent of the ELCA's income, excluding funds
designated for World Hunger, come from mission support -- money
from congregations sent through synods to the churchwide
organization. "Mission support is the engine that keeps us
running," said Jackson-Skelton, at a level "unmatched by other
     Over time, distribution patterns of congregational dollars
have gradually shifted. The percentage of funds filtering from
congregations to support churchwide ministries has declined from
approximately 74 percent in 1963 to 52 percent in 2001.
     A budget is "a blueprint that expresses your understanding
of faithful stewardship of what God has first given you,"
according to the Rev. Charles S. Miller, ELCA executive for
administration and executive assistant to the presiding bishop.
Miller emphasized the faces of ministry in the ELCA behind these
figures. Five individuals present at the assembly were
highlighted for their activities. "Their ministries so splendidly
illustrate the essence of what we seek to achieve throughout this
church in each of the five strategic areas," Miller said.
     Through an emphasis on work with older adults, Ruthann
Stemler, ELCA Indiana-Kentucky Synod, illustrated the first
strategic direction for congregations to be faithful, welcoming
and generous. Ministering as a mission developer of Bridge of
Peace Community Church, Camden, N.J., a congregation striving to
join a racially divided community, the Rev. Wolfgang Herz-Lane
was highlighted for living out the strategic goal of growth in
evangelical outreach. In the ELCA's Southwestern Minnesota Synod,
Mary Page's faith-centered involvement in employment,
congregational and churchwide work was praised as expressing the
strategic goal of stepping forward as a public church. Grace El-
Yateem, ELCA Metropolitan New York Synod, with her husband, the
Rev. Khader El-Yateem, is working to build a thriving worship
community and expand the expression of Lutherans of Arab and
Middle Eastern Heritage, thereby deepening and extending global,
ecumenical and interfaith relationships for the sake of God's
mission as stated by the strategic goals. Lastly, the efforts of
Emanuel Valdez, ELCA Southwest California Synod, to help bridge
the gap between Latinos and the Lutheran church were praised for
encouraging faithful, wise and courageous leaders whose vocations
serve God's mission in a pluralistic world, the fifth strategic
     As the strategic directions of the ELCA are clarified,
budget elements will need to be reevaluated by the church council
in accord with ELCA guidelines. "When this [budget] material was
proposed, the strategic planning was not far enough along for
this to be reflected. It will need to be adjusted. By November,
the [church] council will see a budget proposal reflecting these
elements," said Miller.
     Another element to be included in the November 2003 update
to the church council will be "a wholesale examination of the
churchwide structure and patterns of governance" currently
underway, Miller said.
     During a hearing, members of the churchwide assembly
expressed concern that a leadership shortage in the church could
jeopardize any ministry initiative of the ELCA. Voting members
expressed concern that funding reductions for seminary education,
higher education and schools, and multicultural commissions could
jeopardize the development of leaders for the future of the ELCA.
Miller pointed out reductions to unit budgets of approximately $4
million from 2002 to 2003, and said, "In that entire list, our
support of grants to seminaries has not faltered. But to be
blunt, there is no money to increase it."
-- -- --
Information on the 2003 ELCA Churchwide Assembly is available at on the Web.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or

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