Members Should Pay their Dues, Lutheran World Treasurer Says

The solution to the deficit in the Lutheran World Federation’s running budget is the strict collection of membership fees, the organization’s treasurer, Peter Stoll, said on Wednesday at the annual LWF Council meeting in Jerusalem.

The running budget of the LWF held a deficit of $162,232 (USD) last year, and the total budget surpassed the $100 million (USD) mark. This deficit would have been much higher if it was not for the higher market value of the Euro against the USD.

And while the 2005-2006 budget did not indicate any deficits, Stoll said a “structural deficit” will likely hit the Federation in the years after 2006 when the USD begins appreciating in value.

“This is why we decided to seek ways to improve our financial sustainability,” said Stoll, during the Treasurer’s Report to the Council.

The best way to balance the future budget is to focus on collecting “fair membership fees” from all constituents.

“We have to ask those member churches that have not been paying the full fair membership fee up to now to increase their attempts to reach the goal of full membership fee,” Stoll said.

The membership fee varies for each church according to the wealth of its country and the number of members it has. Some members pay the full amount of the fair membership fee or even more despite their own financial problems, according to Stoll. If all members would pay their fees, the Federation would have an additional 400,000 Swiss Francs (CHF) each year.

This year, for example, if the members paid their dues, the Federation would have had a positive balance sheet with a $158,358 surplus.

Another way to bring the balance back to positive is the LWF Endowment Fund. The Endowment Fund was set up in 1996 with the primary purpose of providing financial support for the work of the LWF. Since 1999, the fund registered under Swiss law in the Canton of Geneva, and reached CHF 8.9 million in pledges and capital to date. The short-term goal for the Fund is CHF 10 million, and the long-term goal is eventually to reach CHF 50 million.

In regards to the financial priorities set by the LWF in the last year, Stoll reported that the Federation spent about 85 percent ($86.9 million) in the Department for World Services. From the total expenditure of $105 million, $3.9 million was spent for the General Secretariat’s total expenditure, $13.2 million for the Department of Mission and Development, and only $1.1 million for the Department of Theological Studies.

Meanwhile, as part of his report, Stoll referred to an earlier consultation held at Chavannes-de-Bogis near Geneva in June 2005 on “The Future of the LWF in the Context of Ecumenical Reconfiguration.”

During that meeting, which was attended by more than 40 representatives from the LWF member churches, national committees, partner organizations and LWF staff, participants agreed it was important to strive for cooperation and synergy rather than competition with other actors. In other words, the LWF member churches should work together to accomplish goals in missions, theology and development, and in that way save funds for other use.

It was proposed at the consultation that the LWF “should be willing to let go of all that hinders it from doing what the communion of churches is uniquely called to be and do,” Stoll added.

The annual LWF Church Council brought together more than 170 representatives from around the world to Jerusalem beginning Aug. 31. The Council will end on Sept. 6.