Written by J. Bennett Guess
The UCC's 5,850 congregations contributed about $1.5 million less last year in Basic Support for Our Church's Wider Mission, the common purse that funds the UCC's ministries at the Association, Conference, national and international settings.
Year-end financial statements indicate that about $31.4 million was received in 2003, compared to about $32.9 million in 2002.
In addition to the dip in overall revenues, the amount retained by the UCC's 39 Conferences climbed to its highest level since the UCC's founding in 1957, meaning that the national setting of the church received 34.5 percent or $10.8 million of the total amount contributed (or roughly $775,000 less than in 2002), according to William P. Morgan, the UCC's chief financial officer.
Last year at this time, Morgan says, when the 2002 tally showed that National Basic Support would amount to only $11.6 million of the $12.3 million budgeted, significant cuts were implemented in each of the UCC's four national covenanted ministries. In addition, church leaders conservatively estimated that the national setting's 2003 revenues would reach only $11.5 million. However, that estimate was still $631,195 higher than the amount actually realized.
"Obviously, the spending patterns that were established for 2004 [based on the $11.5 million estimate] will have to be changed," Morgan says.
Out of the UCC's 39 Conferences, only 12 reported increases in congregational giving to OCWM Basic Support: Hawaii, Illinois South, Iowa, Kansas-Oklahoma, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana-Northern Wyoming, Nebraska, South Central, Southeastern and Southwestern.
Nine of these Conferences passed on slight increases to the national setting. However, it was not enough to offset smaller amounts contributed by the remaining 30 Conferences.
The UCC's financial crisis, a topic of much conversation at denominational meetings in recent months, will again top the agenda at the UCC's "Annual Consultation," a gathering of the UCC's Collegium of Officers, Conference Ministers, and Mission Planning Council, among others, scheduled for Feb. 19-21 in Cleveland.
A United Church News' report on that meeting will be made available on the UCC's website by March 1 and will appear in the newspaper's April edition.