8th assembly/50th anniversary

Together on Holy Ground
Mixed News on Finance
Members urged to contribute

The financial crisis that has plagued the World Council of Churches for a number of years is over, delegates were told early in the eighth assembly. WCC finance committee chair Birgitta Rantakari, a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, reported that a series of budget and staff cuts begun in 1991, combined with extraordinarily positive investment results in 1996, had made WCC financial officials "cautiously optimistic".

However, Rantakari added that there is "still more to do" and that the "main goal now is to balance the WCC's budget without reliance on investment income". Depending on such volatile sources of funds, she said, was "an invitation to disaster". For example, although investment income reached 10 million Swiss francs (US$7.29 million) in 1996, it dropped by several million francs in 1997.

WCC operating budgets had showed modest surpluses for the last two years, Rantakari said, adding that she was "much encouraged" by reports that the operating surplus for the first nine months of 1998 was 1.4 million francs.

Rantakari urged WCC member churches to "stand by your commitment to the WCC, which includes the financial security of the Council". She noted that only about half of the WCC's member churches make any financial contribution at all. Figures also showed that member church contributions accounted for only about 10 percent of the WCC's budget.

Delegates were told that both the Ecumenical Centre, the WCC's headquarters in Geneva, and the building housing the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, near Geneva, will "need extensive repair and renovation work". A fund-raising campaign is underway to pay for these projects.

The WCC is also eager to become less financially dependent on the Protestant churches of northern Europe, notably those in Germany, which pay the lion's share of the organization's costs. WCC financial director Robert Christeler told a reporter for the assembly daily newspaper Jubilee: "We must decrease our dependence on traditional Western and Northern European partners who are also feeling the ripple effects of the economic downturn. And the churches in Germany, for example, have to make the difficult decision whether to finance international ecumenism through the WCC or to help meet the local social demand after the reintegration of the former German Democratic Republic."

The WCC should diversify its sources of income, Christeler said. "We are looking at building stronger relationships with North America, because with closer relationships and understanding come a deeper commitment. We hope that will lead to a more generous source of income."

Delegates in Harare approved a recommendation that the new central committee decide at its first meeting in 1999 how to deal with churches that make no contributions to the WCC.

Where does the WCC's money come from?

Western Europe 81.76%
USA & Canada 15.83%
Rest of the world 2.41%

Go to Central Committee, Presidents Elected
Return to Together on Holy Ground contents page
Return to Assembly Archive index

© 1999 world council of churches | remarks to webeditor