Lutherans Report $3.5 Million Surplus

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America reported a $3.5 million surplus for the fiscal year that ended Jan. 31, 2006 and experienced a growth in both targeted and unrestricted giving from its churches.

Christina Jackson-Skelton, the treasurer of the ELCA, told the positive news to the denomination’s Conference of Bishops during their Mar. 2-7 meeting in Lake Geneva, Wis.

According to her report, $81.8 million were given to the denomination’s operational body in fiscal year 2005 – a $600,000 increase from the previous year. In addition, the 2005 expenses were below the planned level by $2.6 million.

The strong financial report sharply contrasts with figures released by most other large mainline denominations and ecumenical bodies, many of which reduced their operational budgets and cut staff to account for the loss.

However nearly all denominations, including the ELCA, reported increases in contributions last year for disaster response.

"Disaster response once again dominated both the world and church news last year, with ELCA members contributing $36.8 million in 2005 compared to $10.5 million in 2004," Jackson-Skelton wrote in her report, adding that an additional $900,000 was provided through external grants. The vast majority ($26 million) of the offerings was designated for hurricane relief, and $6.2 million was earmarked for the 2004 South Asian tsunami.

Meanwhile, Jackson-Skelton reported that mission support funds – funds that come from congregations through synods to churchwide organizations – were down $200,000 from the previous year.