Dear Friends in Christ,
Like many churches, The United Church of Canada is facing demographic, cultural, and financial shifts that are challenging us to live out God’s mission in different ways than we have in the past. Beginning this spring, the Comprehensive Review Task Group will engage our church in a broad conversation about new models, structures, and processes that will better nurture a range of vital congregations and ministries to embrace God’s mission. The task group’s recommendations are being prepared for the 42nd General Council in 2015.
Before we see the larger directions in which the Comprehensive Review work may lead us, we need to prepare to manage within a reduced overall General Council Office budget in 2014. We are facing significant financial pressures, including declining Mission and Service givings, decreased returns on investments, increasing costs, and a need to reduce our dependence on financial reserves. That means significant steps need to be taken this year within current church structures to achieve the reductions needed for 2014. The work of the Comprehensive Review Task Group will offer us broader recommendations that would make possible different approaches to future changes.
As a church, we seek to use our resources in ways that model faithfulness, justice, and good stewardship. General Council Office staff have already taken significant steps to reduce expenses; due in large part to their diligence, 2012 actual expenditures were more than $1 million less than budgeted. Staff are also developing new ways to invite people to give to Mission and Service.
These steps, while important, will not be enough to address our short-term financial challenges. Based on current projections, we anticipate the 2014 General Council Office budget will need to be reduced significantly further for us to live within our means.
The General Council Office management team is considering various proposals to achieve the required savings through reductions in staff and grants, the two largest budget items. Key considerations include the need to maintain valued programs and services and ensure there is flexibility to implement any directions arising from the Comprehensive Review Task Group’s recommendations. Over the next few months, I will finalize a budget proposal for the Executive of the General Council to consider at its meeting on May 4—6, 2013. I anticipate that any staff reductions necessitated by the Executive’s decisions would be implemented by the end of May 2013. These steps, while painful, are necessary to ensure the continuing sustainability of General Council operations while the Comprehensive Review Task Group engages the church in a broader conversation about our future.
In the midst of such change, let us take comfort in the constant and abiding presence of God. God is known to us in the wonder of creation, in the moving of the Spirit, and in the persistence of life, and we continue to proclaim that we are not alone. We do, indeed, live in God’s world.
General Secretary, General Council