Written by Anthony Moujaes
One of the first difficult challenges the United Church of Christ Board and the four national officers of the church are working together to overcome is a budget shortfall for 2014 of more than $2 million.
In its first business meeting, with members gathering Oct. 9-12 at the UCC headquarters in Cleveland, the United Church of Christ Board approved an annual budget for the UCC national offices of $25.3 million for the 2014 calendar year. The $25.3 million in expenses – a reduction of $2.2 million from 2013 levels – still leaves about a $2.3 million deficit. The Rev. Bernard R. Wilson, who chairs the board, said on Thursday night it was his hope that "we leave with a plan for fiscal stability that we all plan and own."
The four UCC national officers presented a plan for fiscal stability to the board the morning of Oct 10 in executive session, details aimed at reducing some of the projected shortfall.
"The stability plan will provide a sustainable future for the national setting of the church," said the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, UCC general minister and president. "We’ll begin work on it immediately for the near- and long-term future of the church."
"I’m pleased to announce that the UCCB unanimously approved the Collegium’s plan on fiscal stability," Wilson said. "I’m also pleased the new board so quickly accepted and understood its role in reducing this deficit, even more so in realizing its responsibility to both address the fiscal concerns and work on moving the church forward in accomplishing its mission."
The national officers will address how and when to share the plan with staff after the board meeting.
"It (implementing the stability plan) is something we’ll do prayerfully and thoughtfully with our stakeholders – be it conference ministers, domestic and international partners, and local churches," said the Rev. James A. Moos, executive minister of Wider Church Ministries.
"The board will continue to work with the Collegium to address how we attain these goals as we move forward into the future together," Wilson added.
The 52-member board governs the office of the UCC general minister and president and each of the UCC’s three covenanted ministries, which previously had their own individual boards.
The dollar amount allocated to each of the three covenanted ministries – Justice and Witness Ministries, Local Church Ministries, and Wider Church Ministries – along with funds allocated to the Office of the General Minister and President was included in the vote on the $25.3 million budget for 2014. The expenses for each ministry were itemized for the board even though they didn’t require individual votes. Those amounts are $7.3 million for OGMP, $3.3 million for JWM, $5.4 million for LCM, and $8.6 million for WCM.
"It was a very tedious job [sorting through all the numbers] I have to say," said Joyce Bathke, chairperson of the Finance and Budget Committee. "I have the trust of the [national officers] and they were on every call and understand how we must move with this."
Going forward, there are two UCCB meetings scheduled for the 2014 calendar year. The first is March 13-15, and the second is Oct. 16-18 – both of which are in Cleveland.