Written by Daniel Hazard
As a sign of its support for new and renewing churches, the UCC's Local Church Ministries has transferred $3,675,000 from previously unrestricted reserves to support its board-designated New and Renewing Churches Endowment Fund.
The action by LCM's board of directors came during its April board meeting in Cleveland and increases the endowment fund's principal from $325,000 to $4 million.
Income earned on the endowment is now restricted for the purpose of supporting grants, programs and resources for new and renewing churches, according to the board action.
The decision does not mean that additional grant dollars will be made available immediately to new and renewing churches, but the action does signify a long-term fiduciary commitment by LCM to earmark a portion of its unrestricted dollars for this endowed purpose.
The Rev. David Schoen, who leads the UCC's evangelism ministry in Cleveland, was ecstatic about the decision, especially since his request to the LCM's budget committee was for $2 million less than the budget committee and full board eventually set aside.
"I've never wept for a good reason at a budget meeting," Schoen said. "To see the enthusiasm and encouragement of a financial budget committee, I wish we had taped it. They approached this decision, throughout, by staying focused on the mission of the church."
Schoen said it's his hope that LCM soon will develop training events for renewing churches in much the same way that it provides similar resources for new-church pastors.
"We want to stay focused on new churches, but in a year to two years, I would hope that we would have the same program for redevelopers," Schoen said.
Schoen also hopes LCM's action will leverage individual contributions to support new and renewing efforts. Within the past two years, $129,794 has been given or pledged to the New Church Challenge Fund from more than 330 donors.
At General Synod 26 in Hartford, Conn., a "Tick-Tock Walk" will be held on Sat., June 23, when sponsored walkers will raise awareness and funds for new church development. Information and registration forms are available at www.ucc.org/newchurch.
Schoen said the credit for LCM's commitment to new and renewing churches rests with the Rev. José A. Malayang, LCM's executive minister who is retiring in November.
"Joe is the greatest advocate for this," Schoen said, "and as he is culminating his ministry, this is something that he has been particularly passionate about."