Kairos cuts staff and restructures

Published April 29, 2009

Kairos, a Canadian ecumenical social justice organization, announced Tuesday that it is dealing with major financial challenges by cutting five staff positions and restructuring its program areas.Executive director Mary Corkery said that, according to internal projections, Kairos was headed for a deficit of $500,000 by 2013, “so we made changes that would give us a balanced budget. We may not balance it this year in 2009, but those deficits will be gone,” she said. Kairos is a partnership of 11 churches and church-related organizations including the Anglican Church of Canada. Ms. Corkery said the churches were asked to help prioritize and their representatives on the Kairos board helped shape the restructuring plan. They wanted a program that would be sustainable for the long term and didn’t want to simply take away money and staffing while trying to maintain the same programs, she said.Ms. Corkery said that Kairos has had financial problems before and has been able to solve them without layoffs, but the organization has faced a series of challenges recently, including the closing of Deer Park United Church in Toronto, which meant that it had to move its office. “Market rent, even in a place much smaller than what we had, is well over double what we were paying and we had to renovate the new space,” she said. “Secondly, at the end of November, we got further cuts from two of our member churches,” she said. One of those cuts came from the Anglican Church of Canada’s Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, Ms. Corkery said. “That is just added to the rent, and the increasing costs of program and staffing, then the final blow is the global financial crisis, which meant that revenue we were counting on from our endowment didn’t come in and it won’t be coming in this year, and we don’t know when we’ll get that back, like everybody else,” she said, acknowledging that member churches have been similarly affected by the economic crisis.Ms. Corkery said that Kairos has “actually raised a lot of new revenue in the past few years, but we can’t keep up with the costs and the cuts from member churches.” She also noted that the global economic crisis has made it difficult to raise new funds: “It is a very difficult moment.” On a positive note, she said that the commitment from individual donors has been steady and very helpful, even though it is not a large base.Before the cuts, Kairos had 26 people on staff, including two part-time positions. “We did cut one management position, and that person who will be leaving us, and this is very unfortunate, is Dale Hildebrand,” Ms. Corkery said. Mr. Hildebrand has been a team leader responsible for the work of overseas partnerships, human rights and energy. The names and positions of other staff leaving will be determined according to the rules of a collective agreement in the next few weeks, she said. “We are grieving the loss of valued colleagues and important areas of work,” Ms. Corkery said.Kairos’ work will be organized within two major themes: sustainability, with a primary focus on ecological justice; and rights and dignity, which includes indigenous rights and global human rights. Staff will work in two program teams, one for each theme, along with a small outreach team that will focus on communications, Ms. Corkery said. According to a press release, international development work will be focused on “more support for fewer partners. Education and grassroots advocacy will be integrated with, and inform the work of, each major theme….The Global Partnerships program that supports the work of southern partners will continue.”Kairos will not continue its refugee program and anti-poverty fund grants, and there will no longer be full programs related to international debt, trade or corporate accountability, “although economic justice will inform research, policy and advocacy,” according to the release. “It’s all important, but the priorities that were lifted up were not those,” said Ms. Corkery, who noted that the skills that Kairos staff have in those areas will still inform their work. “It doesn’t mean we’re never going to make a comment on debt or trade,” she said. “There may be many things that the church is already doing, but there are other things that are the churches’ priority to work on ecumenically and to have an ecumenical voice for social justice.” Ms. Corkery said that Kairos, which began in 2001 as an integration of the work of 10 coalitions, needed to refocus. “A crisis has been the moment in which we have really taken that to heart,” she said. “We had no reasonable alternative than to start from square one and say, ‘What do we need to be doing right now? What does God call us to do at this moment in the current context with the resources we have for our churches?'”


  • Leigh Anne Williams

    Leigh Anne Williams joined the Anglican Journal in 2008 as a part-time staff writer. She also works as the Canadian correspondent for Publishers Weekly, a New York-based trade magazine for the book publishing. Prior to this, Williams worked as a reporter for the Canadian bureau of TIME Magazine, news editor of Quill & Quire, and a copy editor at The Halifax Herald, The Globe and Mail and The Bay Street Bull.

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