General Secretary Sam Kobia
The World Council of Churches (WCC) is in a healthier financial position and is on the road to overcoming the difficulties it has faced over the past two years, its leader told a recent meeting of its governing body.
Forecasts are “modestly encouraging,” according to WCC general secretary Rev. Konrad Raiser’s report to the Central Committee, which met in Geneva, Aug. 26-Sept. 2. The meeting also marked the organization’s election of its first African general secretary.
Indications are that measures taken by its finance committee have set the council’s financial management on the right course, said the general secretary. “However,” Mr. Raiser warned, “We have not yet reached the point of financial equilibrium, and the decline of contributions income has not been halted.”
The WCC made adjustments in three areas: a reduction of activities, achieved without destabilizing the WCC’s core programs, a reduction and reorganization of personnel, and reduction of operational costs.
Earlier this year, the WCC said it would reduce its staff by 15 per cent to a total of 141 posts by the end of next year.
In 2002, the WCC faced a deficit of $6.5 million (all figures Canadian). In the preceding year, the deficit was $10.8 million, including a reduction in reserves of $4.95 million, which sounded alarm bells.
Although total WCC income decreased in the last two years, church membership income rose slightly in comparison with 2001. In 2001, 53 per cent of the churches made contributions to the WCC; last year the percentage increased to 66 per cent.
There are 46 individual Anglican member churches in the WCC; together, they paid $623,700 in contributions last year.
The WCC is launching a campaign to increase its income from affiliated churches. At the same time, it will continue efforts to maintain the level of contributions from agencies and other sources.
By 2005, the finance committee hopes that all WCC member churches will be contributing to the council, bringing total contributions income to nearly $10 million from about $6 million. Contributions now represent 15 per cent of the WCC’s budget.
The gathering also saw the election of Rev. Sam Kobia, of the Methodist Church in Kenya, as general secretary.
Mr. Kobia, who will take office in January, succeeds Mr. Raiser, who has served for 11 years.
The election, which was not open to the public, had 134 voting members considered two candidates presented by a search committee: Mr. Kobia and Canon Trond Bakkevig of the (Lutheran) Church of Norway.
“ The WCC is first and foremost a fellowship of churches whose primary purpose is to call one another to visible unity,” Mr. Kobia said in his acceptance speech. “We must work together and be seen to be working together.”
Mr. Kobia is currently director and special representative for Africa on the staff of the WCC. From 1999 to 2002 he was director of WCC programs dealing with theological and social issues.
The WCC was founded in 1948 and has 342 member churches from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic church is not a member but has representatives on some WCC bodies.
(with files from WCC and ENI)