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March 16, 2009

ELCA treasurer reports on financial outlook for 2009, 2008 results


As economic uncertainty continues, responding "quickly and strategically" to changes in income will be critical to the continued financial stability of the ELCA churchwide organization and its capacity to sustain its mission and ministries, wrote Christina Jackson-Skelton, ELCA treasurer, in a March 7 written report to the ELCA Conference of Bishops.

"This will require close work and collaboration with churchwide units, synods and other partners," she wrote.

The ELCA Conference of Bishops is an advisory body of the church, consisting of bishops who lead the 65 synods of the ELCA, plus the ELCA presiding bishop and ELCA secretary. The conference met here March 5-10.

For 2009 the treasurer said she is currently projecting the ELCA churchwide organization will receive about $64 million in mission support, based on reports from synods. Mission support funds are provided by congregations to synods, which share a portion of those funds with the churchwide organization. In 2008 mission support funds sent to the churchwide organization totaled $65.3 million, down $1.3 million from what was forecast. All of the decrease in mission support occurred in January 2009, the last month of the church's fiscal year, Jackson-Skelton wrote.

The churchwide organization has already reduced its operating budget by about $1.5 million for 2009, and another adjustment will need to be made, she said, emphasizing that income estimates have been changing rapidly. Churchwide income adjustments will be reported to the ELCA Church Council, which meets March 27-29 in Chicago. The council determines the churchwide organization's spending authorization.

For fiscal year 2008 the chuchwide organization had income over expenses of $3.2 million in current operating funds, up $600,000 from the previous year, Jackson-Skelton said.

"In the midst of a lot of economic turmoil in this economy, we really do feel we have a lot to be grateful for as we look at our financial results ... because they represent a good stability for the churchwide organization for the fiscal year 2008," she told the conference.

ELCA World Hunger Appeal contributions in 2008 were $22 million, up $100,000 over 2007. Direct gifts for World Hunger declined significantly in the fourth quarter, but income from bequests and trusts more than compensated for the decrease, Jackson-Skelton said. As a result of the reduction in direct gifts for World Hunger, Jackson-Skelton said the Church Council will be asked to reduce the 2009 World Hunger budget from $20.6 million to $18.7 million.

The total budget for the ELCA churchwide organization is about $105 million, including income for the current operating budget, world hunger and other sources.

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