For More Information
by Eric Anderson
HARTFORD (09/18/2012) -- At the Fall Session of the Connecticut Conference Annual Meeting next month, the Board of Directors will recommend that delegates change the proportion of Our Church's Wider Mission Basic Support (OCWM) contributions that are passed to the national setting of the United Church of Christ. If delegates approve the change, national and Connecticut Conference ministries will share equally in OCWM gifts from local churches.
The last change to the sharing ratio (also called the retention rate) was made just under twenty years ago, and has stood at 37% used by the Connecticut Conference for its work and 63% allocated to the national ministries of the UCC. Connecticut has led the UCC's conferences in sharing OCWM receipts with the national offices.
In a message to lay and ordained local church leaders of the Connecticut Conference today, Interim Conference Minister the Rev. Charles L. Wildman said that with 4% to 5% annual declines in OCWM Basic Support from its congregations -- which has been true for twenty years -- "the Conference will not be able to maintain quality services to our churches and clergy if this trend continues."
Close attention, energy efficiency, adoption of electronic communications, and staff reductions have reduced Conference expenses. Most recently, a Regional Minister position was eliminated, and support staff -- upon whose hours and industry programs rely for their successful implementation -- have been cut "to below basic needs years ago," said Wildman.
|The Rev. Charles L. Wildman, Interim Conference Minister|
The recommendation, he told church leaders, originally came from him. "As I studied our financial situation," he wrote, "it became clear that this change is necessary, a painful reality for one who has a forty year history of strong support for OCWM." Believing that such options as reducing staff and mission for Connecticut Conference churches was the higher priority, he engaged in conversations with the Board's Finance and Budget Committee, chaired by Mark Engstrom; with the Conference Treasurer, Lynn Cripe; and with officers of the UCC. The Board reviewed the question at length before voting to present it to the Annual Meeting.
In 2011, UCC national ministries received $1,077,579 from Connecticut's OCWM Basic Support contribution, which was 2.9% of the denomination's national income. In addition to OCWM Basic Support, the UCC receives funding from endowments, fees, and bequests. Changing Connecticut's retention rate would put it at a similar level to the Massachusetts Conference and it would continue to be well above most other conferences' support.
"Connecticut's OCWM 20-year must be reversed," Wildman emphasized. "The mission of our United Church of Christ is vital to the future of Christ's Church and the entire globe." He called for a new commitment to the covenant that gathers the UCC together, "that they may all be one." He invited ideas for reinvigorating that covenant, to be sent to Regional Ministers, Wildman, or to Associate Conference Minister for Generosity Ministries Patricia Bjorling.
The Connecticut Conference's three primary funding sources are OCWM, determined by each congregation from their resources; Fellowship Dues, a voluntary per-member contribution from local churches (currently $8.00 per member); and income from endowments. OCWM gifts are divided between Conference and national ministries, wheras the others are used in the state.
The Rev. Eric S. Anderson is Minister of Communications and Technology for the Connecticut Conference UCC.