OCWM shortfall impacts real ministries—today
Written by Edith A. Guffey
March 2004

Edith A. Guffey

If you don't like to talk about money, then go directly to another article. This column is about money. For good or bad, I have a reputation for being fairly direct, so let's cut to the chase—mission costs money.

It doesn't matter if you are passionate about youth, starting new churches, addressing homelessness and hunger, impacting life in other countries, becoming a multiracial and multicultural church, supporting seminarians or creating Sunday school curriculum, pick your passion and it costs money. Choose your favorite program, publication or staff portfolio in the national setting, and then remember—it takes money for these programs, it takes money to fund these staff positions, it takes money to implement the mission and ministry to which we are called.

Over the last two years, the portion of Our Church's Wider Mission (OCWM) that ultimately reaches the national setting is $1.5 million less than earlier revised estimates—projections which, by the way, were the leanest in years.

Moreover, mission in the national setting is funded, in part, by endowment income and, while the market has shown some improvement, our investments have taken quite a hit during the last three years.

Please hear me. I realize that many of our local churches are struggling, and I know that many of our 39 conferences are facing difficult financial challenges of their own. But that doesn't change the reality for the national setting.

We are working to address this concern through significant budget cuts—as you have read in previous editions of this newspaper—but we also are working to increase revenue so that the collective mission of the church does not continue to suffer. In this issue of United Church News, you can read about the church's significant investment in identity and stewardship efforts. But that work will take time.

In the meantime, just like any organization must do during difficult times, we must make further adjustments to account for revenue shortfalls. These decisions will be guided by policies implemented by the boards of directors of the Covenanted Ministries, the Executive Council and in consultation with Conference Ministers. But we cannot continue with business as usual.

The tricky part is this: How do we report the truth without sending a message that we are in crisis? Because the fact is—thanks to OCWM gifts and endowment income—we still have $10.8 million for mission! However, you must know that this is significantly less than we have had in years past.

Do I want to alarm you? No. But I do want to be honest with you about the financial challenges ahead of us. So let me try this:

Thank you for every dollar that you entrusted to us to do God's mission, and please know that, as responsible stewards and responsible managers, we will have to do some things differently. Yes, I do encourage you to give more and, yes, I do ask you to encourage your congregation to maintain or increase its support for OCWM. But, in the meantime, please know that difficult decisions must be made.

As much as we love to celebrate the stories of the UCC—the history, the acts of justice, the impact of the church on our lives and the world—it is still true: this ministry and mission costs money.

Edith Guffey is the UCC's associate general minister and a member of the five-person Collegium of Officers.

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