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ASSEMBLY WANTS MORE CHURCHES TO PAY MINIMUM FEE
Liesbeth VanHilten-Matthiesen (Netherlands Reformed Church) praised the smaller member churches that contribute the requested minimum of 1,000 Swiss francs and compared them to Jesus' parable of the widow "who gave a dime in the Temple".
Even so, she said, "we are conscious that there are member churches who want to be represented on the Central Committee but do not express their financial support to the WCC". She suggested that when the next Assembly elects a Central Committee, seats go only to paying churches.
Many delegates applauded the idea, but Bishop Wolfgang Huber (Evangelical Church in Germany), moderator of the Assembly's finance committee, urged caution during the Assembly's business plenary Friday (11 December). "We must not go that way too firmly," he said, "but when 48 per cent of the churches do not make a contribution, it must be a real alarm to us."
The delegates, meeting at Harare, Zimbabwe, approved the committee's recommendation that the new Central Committee decide at its first meeting in 1999 how to deal with churches that make no contributions.
Huber said the Council's financial situation has improved, in part because the staff has been reduced by a third since the Seventh Assembly in Canberra, Australia, in 1991. He cited financial challenges still facing the Council and said there is a "continued need for greater transparency in budgeting process and financial reports" so that member churches have a clearer understanding of how their contributions are being used.
The delegates approved the committee's recommendation that an Ecumenical Commitment Sunday be observed with a worldwide offering for the Council. Other recommendations approved included a call to develop income sources beyond member churches and that "an appropriate and prudent level of reserves be established".
Also approved was a recommendation that the Council's communications teams develop a plan to raise the profile of the WCC. "The finance committee believes that the success of this work is crucial to the establishment of an effective income-development strategy," Huber said.
Contact: John Newbury, WCC Press & Information Officer
The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 339, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the Assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.