The Canadian Council of Churches, a major ecumenical organization, recently adopted a deficit budget for 2005 and is considering looking for additional sources of funding beyond its member churches.
The Anglican Church of Canada contributes about $96,000 to the council. The council’s 2005 budget of about $326,000 includes a projected deficit of $8,000, said general secretary Rev. Karen Hamilton.
“We are working on addressing the deficit. We are exploring fundraising and looking at other sources, such as foundations and governments,” she said.
The council has been operating under deficit budgets for several years and drawing from a reserve fund of about $100,000, said Ms. Hamilton. “Including me, we have two full-time staff and two three-fifths staff. We’ve cut to the bare bones in terms of staff and rent,” she added. As of July 1, 2005, the council will move to the Toronto School of Theology, a property already used by several ecumenical organizations.
Some of the council’s member churches have suffered fiscal strains and “when churches have financial issues in their own houses, it can affect us profoundly,” Ms. Hamilton noted. The Anglican church has in recent years been affected by lawsuits over native residential schools, but many churches are feeling the effects of declining membership.
The council is one of the most broadly-based ecumenical organizations in the world. Its 20 members include Anglican, Roman Catholic, Protestant and Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches. The Roman Catholic participation, through the membership of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, is particularly significant since the Catholic church is not a full member of either the World Council of Churches or the National Council of Churches in the United States.
Ms. Hamilton spoke with the Anglican Journal after a two-day retreat attended by the heads of the various churches, including the primate of the Anglican church, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison. Ms. Hamilton said that bringing faith leaders together in such an annual forum is an essential part of the council’s work. “There is an informal agenda, but it is about conversations, relationships and prayer. There are not many places that can happen,” she said, declining to specify which issues were raised.
The council believes its consensus model of decision-making and forum model of discussion allows faith traditions with widely-varying viewpoints to come together. “Churches come to the table as who they are, with their theology and their polity,” said Ms. Hamilton.