WARC Adopts Slimmer, Decentralized Structure amid Financial Crisis

Facing a serious financial “crisis,” the World Alliance of Reformed Churches adopted a plan to decentralize its structure and cut staff positions – actions, leaders say, that will reduce costs and increase members’ involvement.

“We have tried to build a structure which gives a much better ownership out there in the churches,” said WARC’s president, the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, after the changes were approved by the group’s executive committee on Oct. 11, according to the Ecumenical News Service. “It is a different way of operating that is less costly.”

With the establishment of countless new charity groups and local ministries, large international Christian organizations have been placed under serious financial difficulties over the years. These budgetary problems, coupled with new cultural difficulties, led several of the largest ecumenical bodies to adopt new structures with a slimmed-down staff and de-centralized governance.

The World Evangelical Alliance, the world’s largest body of evangelical Christians spanning over 120 nations, just recently began adopting a network that would create several service and issue-oriented centers around the world, as opposed to the traditional headquarter-oriented, top-down governance structure.

The new plan adopted by the WARC executive committee follows in that pattern; the size of the core staff at the WARC headquarters in Geneva would be reduced and new networks of members around the world will be created to deal with key areas of concerns.

“We are moving away from what some would see as a more bureaucratic department structure,” Kirkpatrick told the Ecumenical News Service. This is a blueprint for a “purpose-driven alliance,” he added.

The plan was adopted during the WARC’s weeklong executive committee meeting, which ends on Oct. 15, in Evian, France.

Earlier, Kirkpatrick and other WARC leaders warned that the alliance would not survive unless “dramatic steps” were taken to reform its financial structure.

“We must face up to the financial crisis facing the alliance,” Kirkpatrick had said. “Unless we take dramatic steps to find new financial resources and to build a new sense of ownership and responsibility for the Alliance in our member churches, we will have no future.”

According to 2004 statistics, only 58 percent of WARC member churches paid an annual contribution, and unpaid membership contributions amounted to $124,000.

The Rev. Setri Nyomi, the general secretary of the Geneva-based alliance, noted that these unpaid dues were the main source of the deficit.

“If every church paid the annual contribution indicated by this scale, there would be no deficit,” Nyomi said. “At current levels of expenditure, we would show a healthy surplus.”

He also blamed the “strength of the Swiss franc against other currencies” for the financial downfall. In his report, he said the WARC had a negative balance of $43,725 as of Dec. 31, 2004.

The WARC is an alliance representing over 75 million Reformed, Presbyterian, Congregational, and United Christians around the world. There are 218 member churches in the alliance. Nearly 90 percent of WARC contributions last year came from just 15 member churches.