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United Methodists lift suspension of NCC funds

12/16/1999 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York

NEW YORK (UMNS) - The temporary suspension of United Methodist funding to the National Council of Churches (NCC) has been lifted.

The Rev. Bruce Robbins, chief executive of the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, said the commission's executive committee approved the action during a Dec. 14 conference call.

He told United Methodist News Service he was "relieved and glad" to resume funding. "I'm appreciative of the hard work that staff members of the council have done to address the issues at stake," he added.

In response to the commission's action, the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, the NCC's top executive, said the council's leaders have "identified historic problems in the financial infrastructure of the NCC and have recognized severe difficulties in making much needed changes."

"The United Methodists, quite rightly, pushed us to complete this task," she said. "Their concern for fiscal stability of the council is appropriate for a member communion."

In October, the commission had voted to temporarily suspend NCC funding from the United Methodist Church's Interdenominational Cooperation Fund until it received answers from the ecumenical body about questions of "past and future fiscal policies and management." At that point, the NCC had received a little less than half of the $670,000 to be allocated from that fund this year. The money was designated for the council's Ecumenical Commitment Fund, budgeted at $1.5 million for 1999.

The NCC's executive board and general assembly worked to address financial issues during the agency's 50th anniversary celebration in November, and Robbins said he was hopeful that funding would resume before the end of the year. He noted then that the executive committee "made large strides" by adopting a financial framework for 2000 that included making staff reductions and setting aside 10 percent of projected income in a reserve fund.

In a statement issued Dec. 16, the commission said the lifting of the suspension was effective immediately. "The executive committee received regular reports on progress over the past two months and believes that the (council) has made extensive changes and is now essentially in compliance with these requirements," it reported.

A mutual agreement between the commission and NCC leadership also has been reached "regarding continuing implementation of policies and practices providing assurance of the future health of the council."

Campbell said the council has dedicated time and money to answering the "difficult questions" posed by United Methodists. "We are grateful that we are able to close 1999 with the blessing of one of our major contributors," she added.

Robbins said the executive committee asked him to work with other denominational leadership "to search for ways to provide our share of support for (financial) recovery of the National Council."

During an Oct. 5 NCC executive board meeting, Bishop William Boyd Grove, ecumenical officer for the United Methodist Council of Bishops, made a "statement of intention" to seek denominational approval for a $700,000 contribution to the NCC's financial recovery plan.

The plan was adopted by the NCC executive board to meet approved but unbudgeted one-time expenses of nearly $4 million for 1998 and 1999. It asks for a $2 million commitment from member communions to help meet the debt.

Robbins said the goal is to contribute the additional $700,000 toward the recovery plan.

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