Faced with a predicted financial shortfall of more than six million Swiss francs ($6.44 million Cdn) in 2003, the World Council of Churches – the world’s biggest church grouping – has said it will reduce its staff by 15 per cent to a total of 141 posts by the end of next year.
“The reorganization reflects the WCC’s need to reduce planned expenses for 2003, and new thinking on how to fulfil the council’s mandate of seeking unity and co-operation among its 342 member churches world-wide,” the WCC said in a November statement.
The WCC currently has the equivalent of 165 full-time positions.
The council did not, however, say how many people would be affected by its measures, but said in its statement it was cutting the equivalent of 16 full-time posts. Measures to achieve this will include termination of contracts, reduction in working time and relocating activities to partners in other parts of the world.
“The council, through this reorganization, has manifested its will and its ability to respond constructively to a critical situation,” said the WCC’s general secretary, Konrad Raiser.
The announcement came at the end of months of speculation about possible layoffs after a September meeting of the council’s main governing body, the central committee, revealed a critical financial situation for the ecumenical body.
The WCC’s budget reductions this year will mean a 1.1 million franc ($1.18 million Cdn) surplus which will “allow the council to begin replenishing its general reserves and … provide a cushion for contingencies,” the WCC added.
The WCC said the financial pressure was due to a combination of reduced contributions from donors and losses in the value of its investment portfolio.
The situation faced by the WCC is similar to that of other churches and church organizations throughout the world.
Meeting just before the WCC announced its cutbacks, the National Council of Churches in the United States, which has also been facing severe financial problems, announced it had balanced its budget and paid off its debt.