WCC Announces Measures to Save Costs and Enhance Effectiveness

The World Council of Churches (WCC) announced plans today to reorganize its Geneva- and New York-based staff around the five "historic" themes of the Council's work.

The five themes are:

- faith and order;
- mission and ecumenical formation;
- justice, peace and creation;
- international affairs, peace and human security; and
- diakonia and solidarity.

The reorganization reflects the WCC's need to reduce planned expenses for 2003, and new thinking on how to fulfil the Council's mandate of seeking unity and cooperation among its 342 member churches worldwide.

According to WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, "The Council, through this reorganization, has manifested its will and its ability to respond constructively to a critical situation. The adjustment of the internal organization and leadership structure will result in a clearer profile of the WCC's programmes and strengthen its cooperation with ecumenical partners."

Via the reorganization, and faced with a predicted shortfall of income against planned expenses of CHF 6.3 million, the WCC has reduced its budget for 2003 by CHF 7.4 million. This amount includes a CHF 1.1 million surplus which will allow the Council to begin replenishing its general reserves and to provide a cushion for contingencies.

The reduction in budgeted expenses for 2003 is to be accompanied by an income-generating strategy that will focus on assuring the ongoing support of current donors, and then seek to establish relations with new donors. WCC Income Monitoring and Development director Michiel Hardon says "The reorganization and related cuts in expenditures are an essential element in the WCC income generation policy. A more effective organization is key for the quality of our work and will increase the confidence and, as a consequence, hopefully, the support of our main funding partners".

Financial pressure on the WCC is due to a combination of reduced contributions from donors and losses in the value of its investment portfolio. This led to a large draw-down on the organization's reserves over the last three years. The WCC's policy decision-making body, the Central Committee, at its meeting in Geneva in September 2002, called for the creation of a task group of four Central Committee members to review the situation and advise staff on the steps needed to reduce expenses. Their report was received by the WCC officers and other assigned Central Committee members who met in Geneva from 14-15 November.

As a result of the announced expense budget cuts for 2003, WCC staff will be reduced by 16 full-time equivalent positions to a level of 141 FTE's. This reduction will be achieved in part due to retirements, relocation of activities and staff positions in cooperation with regional partners, reductions of working time, and termination of contracts.

"We hope that these changes in the organization will lead to a period of stability in which the staff, member churches and other supporters of the WCC are able to devote themselves to meeting the global ecumenical challenges before us," says WCC vice-moderator Dr Marion Best.

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By Linda Green