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Financial crunch forces WCC changes

Significant financial woes primarily due to losses in investments and currency, as well as decreases in contributions from member churches, are forcing "radical changes" upon the World Council of Churches.

Most striking were reports to the WCC Central Committee in September that the council had an operating loss of about $2.6 million in 1995. More than twice that amount will also be lost if the council is forced to liquidate other investments to maintain cash flow.

Although 1992 and 1993 were good years for the council, according to general secretary Conrad Raiser, WCC finances were hit hard by "accumulated negative results" in 1994 and 1995. A further shortfall is predicted for 1996. Signs of the problems began emerging in early 1995, he said, citing "declining income from churches, losses on investments and forward currency contracts, and unrealistically high budget exchanges that diminished our reserves."

WCC staff reductions have reached 20 percent; another 20 percent will be laid off during the next six months.

In addition, Raiser told the committee there is "ample evidence" that the WCC's institutional structure — with its multiple levels of governing and advisory bodies — is "too heavy." Too much time and energy is spent on activities that have only "limited effects on the life of the 330 member churches."

The committee discussed the council's future in a 16-page draft statement that envisions the WCC primarily as a "fellowship of churches" rather than an internal organization operating apart from them. Raiser, who was re-elected for a five-year term, proposed that a larger Christian council be considered by the year 2000 (the Roman Catholic church does not belong to the WCC). The committee also reaffirmed plans for the WCC's 1998 50th anniversary assembly in Zimbabwe.


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