ELCA NEWS SERVICE
August 4, 2010
ELCA Council Reduces 2010 Churchwide Spending, Acts on Pensions Resolutions
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) revised the 2010 current fund spending authorization for the ELCA churchwide organization to $65.1 million, a mid-year reduction of $4.2 million or 6.1 percent from the previously authorized $69.3 million for 2010.
The council made the decision in open session during a rare conference call meeting Aug. 4. Much of the meeting was held in executive session to discuss background information on finances and personnel, plus an organizational design process and legal matters, said Carlos Peña, Galveston, Texas, ELCA vice president and chair of the council.
The council also formed an ad hoc committee to report to it about reductions in the ELCA Board of Pensions' annuity payments to retired church workers.
The current fund spending reduction for the remainder of 2010 did not result in position or personnel losses, said the Rev. M. Wyvetta Bullock, ELCA executive for administration. Most churchwide unit budgets were reduced between about 1 and 8 percent, according to figures supplied by the ELCA treasurer.
Bullock explained that contingency plans previously developed were used to reduce the 2010 spending authorization. Officers worked with ELCA partner organizations, the executive committee of the council and liaison bishops to the council to finalize the reductions. She said the church wants to maintain its commitment to such things as missionaries and new-start congregations, but the reductions "limit our capacity to increase these numbers."
Nearly all of the $4.2 million reduction was taken from anticipated mission support income provided to the churchwide organization by congregations through the church's 65 synods, said Christina Jackson-Skelton, ELCA treasurer. Through June 30, mission support income declined about $3.7 million or about 15 percent from the same period in 2009, she said.
Sixty synods have remitted 2010 mission support income "unfavorable" to the same period in 2009, according to information supplied to the council.
Mission support income has been in a period of decline since December 2008 after five years of relative stability, according to the council information. Though it is difficult to project mission support income accurately during such periods of economic volatility, the council was told that mission support income by the end of the 2010 fiscal year is expected to be about $51 million. In 2009 actual mission support to the churchwide organization was $59.7 million.
Decreases in mission support income have been caused by the economic instability that continues to affect all parts of the church, compounded by "some unfavorable responses to the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly actions on sexuality," the background materials stated.
Leaders of the ELCA churchwide organization have been spending below approved levels, and have engaged in ongoing financial contingency planning. The contingency planning process "will also continue to identify further reductions, if required," the background information said.
Council discusses redesign, forms ad hoc committee, hears update on congregations
Related to the churchwide organization's financial situation is an organizational redesign process announced by Bullock in a June 21 e-mail to staff. At that time Bullock wrote that the organization will create a plan to restructure the churchwide organization to align its work with anticipated income. The council discussed the plan's progress in executive session.
The council's other action established a representative ad hoc committee to respond to concerns raised by several synods this spring about reductions in annuity payments to retirees.
In 2009 the ELCA Board of Pensions informed some 12,500 plan members receiving benefits from the Participating Annuity and Bridge Fund that it would reduce monthly annuity payments by 9 percent annually over a three-year period. The fund suffered significant losses due to the financial downturn in late 2008 and early 2009, necessitating the reductions.
In response to resolutions from nine synods, the council asked the ad hoc committee to consult with the Board of Pensions to learn more about the decisions it made regarding the annuity and bridge fund. It also asked the committee to explore ways to restore fund losses and increase payments to annuitants and explore ways to mitigate the adverse effects of fund losses. The council asked for a report and possible recommendations at its November meeting.
ELCA Secretary David D. Swartling told the council that, as of Aug. 3, his office had been advised that 504 of 10,239 congregations have taken first votes to terminate their relationships with the ELCA. Of those, 348 passed and 156 failed. Synods have also reported that 212 congregations took second votes to leave the ELCA, of which 199 passed and 13 failed, he said.
Swartling added that of those congregations that have voted to leave, about 75 percent have said they will join Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org