From my vantage point as campus pastor at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., I see that we’re dismantling much of the ELCA due to budget cuts.
I must confess that as a former parish pastor, I didn’t really have a sense of the impact that diminished congregational giving to synods was having in various ministry areas. Now I’m painfully aware of the people who are affected, or in danger of being affected, by those cuts.
They’re people like the college students I work with, people like the girl last year who broke up with her roommate’s brother. The roommate and her brother, who were very close, were both angry—so angry that this girl didn’t feel safe in her own room.
We provided a place of safety and refuge for this student during those tumultuous times. I really wonder if—when decisions are made to decrease funding to the synod—that people realize it’s just that kind of situation that too often is impacted.
This year we were greeted at the Indiana-Kentucky Synod assembly with the news that $300,000 (plus) needed to be trimmed from the budget due to diminished congregational giving. Support to campus ministry was cut $45,000. Because of this and a decision to add a campus ministry five years ago, campus ministry now must raise $100,000 on its own—not through the synod budget—next year in order to continue.
Our synod office already reduced two positions to stave off cuts to programs like campus ministry, so the staff, too, is stretched thin in its ability to help us raise this money. Also, the number of deployed directors for campus ministry nationwide has been cut to three, just when we could use additional support.
I don’t think people realize that when they decide to withhold money to the ELCA—to “hurt” the ELCA for something, perhaps—what they are, in effect, doing is hurting people like the students who participate in our campus ministry.
Let me be clear: I’m not pointing the finger at anyone. I believe everyone in the church structure is behaving in a way they think is best for the whole church, given the circumstances. But I also think people in our congregations don’t have much of a vision for just how much the so-called “bureaucracy” of the ELCA does for the rank-and-file ministries that depend on their support. Or for the people, like that Purdue student, who these ministries serve.
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