Cuts totaling $4.9 million are largest in UCC's 47-year history
During four consecutive weeks of independent meetings, the boards of directors of the UCC's four Covenanted Ministries voted to eliminate 28 national staff positions—either through layoffs, attrition or by allowing some vacant positions to remain unfilled.
The staff reductions, along with some program cuts, are expected to realize $4.9 million in savings for the national setting and, hopefully, will provide at least two years of staffing stabilization. Church leaders say they want to create a more stable work environment, because morale has been adversely affected by significant, periodic cutbacks since 2002.
"These are difficult days for us in the national setting," said Edith Guffey, the UCC's associate general minister, in her report to the board of directors of the Office of General Ministries (OGM), "but not days that are devoid of hope."
The significant reductions will enable the church to better comply with a common budgeting caveat that says organizations should rely on little more than 5 percent annually from invested income in order to fund current operating expenses. Prior to the cuts, the Covenanted Ministries had been relying on heavier-than-customary draws from unrestricted endowment funds.
The Rev. John H. Thomas, speaking on behalf of the five-person Collegium of Officers to the 76-member Executive Council on Oct. 15, characterized the cuts as "the largest in [the UCC's] 47-year history."
On Oct. 20, OGM eliminated three-and-a-half positions in the proclamation, identity and communication ministry and five "covenantal relations" positions that had served as the general minister and president's staff liaisons to the church's racial/ethnic constituencies.
"The Collegium is in conversation with the racial/ethnic constituency groups about a proposal to provide some financial resources to the groups to enable them to hire part-time staff to support their work," wrote Thomas in a staff memo about the personnel changes.
On Oct. 26, Local Church Ministries (LCM) took steps to cut the equivalent of 13 full-time positions, including, among others, the elimination of capital campaign services and LCM's internal resource design team.
"The 2005 budget É called for a $1.4-million reduction from 2004, hence our significant reduction in work force, not to mention program dollars," wrote the Rev. JosZ A. Malayang, LCM's executive minister, in a memo announcing the cutbacks. Justice and Witness Ministries (JWM) eliminated the equivalent of four full-time positions—three of which had been vacant since summer.
"Our board voted a 2005 budget with significant cuts, which brings our draw from investment income down to 5.56 percent," wrote Bernice Powell Jackson, JWM's executive minister.
On Nov. 8, Wider Church Ministries' executive minister Olivia Masih White announced that the boards of directors of WCM and Common Global Ministries (UCC/Disciples) had approved budgets that required no additional staff cuts, even though the budget took into account cuts made earlier this year that were the equivalent of eliminating two-and-a-half positions. In addition, Global Ministries will continue its temporary hold on the appointment of new missionaries.
Approximately 191 persons are now employed by the Covenanted Ministries—down 71 from three years ago, a 37 percent decrease.
The Covenanted Ministries' combined budgets for 2005 stand at about $32 million, down from $37 million last year. In 2001, shortly after the debut of the UCC's national restructure, the budgets stood at more than $50 million and 262 were employed at offices in Cleveland, Washington, D.C., New York and Whitakers, N.