Finances force program cuts by WCC

Published October 1, 2002


In an emotional annual meeting Aug. 26 to Sept. 3, the World Council of Churches? central committee contended with differing view of ecumenical worship and decision-making and approved major program cuts to help alleviate a severe financial crisis.

It also urged the United States and its allies to refrain from a ?rush to war? with Iraq.

In a news release, the WCC said it expected a shortfall in 2002 of 5.6 million Swiss francs ($5.8 million), out of a total budget of 52.5 million Swiss francs ($55 million.)

In a news conference, Michiel Hardon, director of WCC income monitoring and development, said the shortfall is due to stock market declines, which have eroded the value of the WCC?s investment portfolio and the portfolios of the member churches.

Member church contributions to the WCC also have declined due to other factors, noted Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, director of faith, worship and ministry for the Anglican Church of Canada, who attended the program committee?s meeting.

?The Nordic churches have moved from being the state churches toward disestablishment,? she said. The summer?s devastating floods in Europe didn?t help, she added.

In addition, although every member church is supposed to contribute, only 53 per cent actually do and the WCC has no mechanism to enforce the paying of contributions.

Among the programs that might be cut are visits to churches in conflict, theological studies, programs of solidarity with women struggling to overcome violence, she said.

The central committee also approved a statement calling on the United States ?to desist from any military threats against Iraq? and urged U.S. allies ?to resist pressures to join in pre-emptive military strikes against a sovereign state under the pretext of the ?war on terrorism?.?

The committee also called on Iraq to comply with United Nations demands to destroy weapons of mass destruction and ?guarantee full respect of the civil and political, economic, social and cultural human rights for all its citizens.?

The WCC, with 342 member churches from more than 100 countries, is the largest Protestant and Orthodox ecumenical body. Roman Catholic representatives also attend as observers.

?It?s the only place where Christians from the Protestant and Orthodox churches meet from around the world,? said Ms. Barnett-Cowan, director of faith, worship and ministry for the Anglican Church of Canada.

?We support each other, we learn from each other. We do huge amounts of solidarity work in the Third World. We talk about what we believe,? she said.

The committee also accepted a final report from a special commission on Orthodox participation in the WCC. The commission had proposed that the WCC reach crucial decisions by consensus rather than majority vote, a move supported by the Orthodox churches who ?don?t want to be dictated to by the majority,? said Ms. Barnett-Cowan.

However, Dr. Fernando Enns of the Mennonite church in Germany, said: ?Some of us are afraid (that consensus) can be misused as another way of playing the power game. We are afraid, some of us Protestants, of you Orthodox and we need some time for trust-building.? Among the Orthodox churches represented in the WCC are the Russian, Greek, Armenian and Syrian churches.

On the subject of worship, a report on ecumenical prayer was accepted after referral to a committee

The WCC also began the process of finding a successor to Dr. Konrad Raiser, who has said he will retire next year after 10 years as general secretary.


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