Member churches of the World Council of Churches - the world's biggest ecumenical organisation, which is facing severe financial constraints - must assume greater financial responsibility for its activities, the WCC general secretary, Dr Konrad Raiser said at the annual meeting of the WCC's central committee, which met in Geneva last week.
Dr Raiser called on the gathering to tackle the fact that "almost 50 per cent" of the WCC's 330 member churches "do not contribute anything to the financial resources of the council".
"Membership contributions can no longer be treated as optional and voluntary; they have to become part of the discipline of membership," Dr Raiser said.
He pointed out that in 1995 the central committee had decided that churches which did not make a minimum financial commitment to the WCC would not be eligible for travel or hotel subsidies to attend the organisation's eighth assembly which takes place in Harare, Zimbabwe, in December next year.
Outlining to the central committee a series of measures taken since its last meeting in 1996 to tackle the financial crisis facing the WCC, Dr Raiser said: "No-one ... could ignore the dwindling financial resources and the fact that the council had been living beyond its means for some time." The financial situation of the WCC was now being "stabilised" and negative financial balances from previous years had been absorbed through "exceptionally good investment results in 1996". However, the WCC's income was continuing to decrease, he added, fund balances were "severely depleted", and the WCC's work after its assembly next year would be on a "much reduced basis". He pointed out that 53 members of staff had left the WCC during the past 12 months and that the majority of them had not been replaced.
Although the WCC's 330 member churches are spread across five continents, slightly under four-fifths of the WCC's total income last year came from churches and related agencies in just four countries - Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands and the United States - according to the WCC's 1996 published accounts. Germany alone provided over 40 per cent of the WCC's total income in that year. In many cases these resources came from government funding for international affairs, development assistance and social programmes.The WCC was likely to suffer from cutbacks by governments in these areas, Dr Raiser said, and many ecumenical programmes which had benefited from such funding were "facing a difficult future ... given that the priorities for the use of public funds have changed".
Article from: ENI