|The Rev. Charles L. Wildman, Interim Conference Minister|
In order to work toward a balanced Conference budget, the Board of Directors will recommend to the Fall Annual Meeting a change in the Sharing Ratio (Retention Rate) -- the percentage of OCWM (Our Church's Wider Mission) Basic Support we send to the UCC National Setting.
For some years, Connecticut Conference led the UCC in giving 63% of OCWM to National, retaining 37% to help support staff salaries and other Conference expenses. The Board recommends changing the formula to 50% to the National Setting, 50% to the Conference.
Why is this change necessary? OCWM Basic Support from Connecticut congregations has been declining 4% to 5% per year for the last 20 twenty years. The Conference will not be able to maintain quality services to our churches and clergy if this trend continues.
What has been done to reduce Conference expenses? We recently reduced staff from five to four regional ministers. Support staff was cut to below basic needs several years ago. Salaries have been kept virtually constant with only modest cost of living increases for some years. Staff compensation is generally below market for similar secular and non-profit positions. Green policies require maximum conservation of utilities at Sherman Street and Silver Lake. Recycling of all office materials in both offices is mandatory. Expenses are tracked to the penny and a strict reporting and accounting system is in place for all staff. Management continually looks for greater efficiencies in all Conference operations.
Would the change to 50/50 get us to a balanced budget? Yes, this in conjunction with the above staff reduction will eliminate our persistent deficit. A favorable vote on this proposal would add about $200,000 to Missionary Society of Connecticut (MSC) conference income.
How was this recommendation developed? The 50-50 recommendation first came from me. As I studied our financial situation, I became clear that this change is necessary, a painful reality for one who has a forty year history of strong support for OCWM. But, a balanced budget is an essential partner to prudent management. Other choices are even less palatable -- further reducing staff (i.e., cutting our mission to and through Connecticut churches); drawing down endowment by beginning to use principle (an emergency, short-term fix at best). The mission of our United Church of Christ is vital to the future of Christ's Church and the entire globe.
The Finance and Budget Committee, under Chair Mark Engstrom, in consultation with Conference Treasurer, Lynn Cripe, studied and discussed the proposal and then recommended it to the Board of Directors. After a thoughtful discussion, the Board approved the proposal, recommending it to the Annual Meeting for ratification.
How might the change impact the ministry of the National Setting?
In the 2011, Connecticut's OCWM Basic Support contribution to the National Setting of the UCC was $1,077,579, or 2.9% of total national income. Other support comes from wills and bequests, fees and earnings from investments. Connecticut's current sharing ratio of 63% to Cleveland has been the single highest percentage and dollar amount among the 38 conferences of the UCC. The Board's proposal would put us on a relative par with Massachusetts Conference and far ahead of the national average of conference support for OCWM Basic Support.
The Board's recommendation has come after considerable discussion with our national officers in Cleveland. These leaders understand our need to maintain a strong, enabling ministry to UCC churches here in CT. They also appreciate our past and current OCWM leadership, and look for a close ministry relationship with us moving forward.
Connecticut's OCWM 20-year must be reversed.
What can we do to re-energize this essential support for the Conference and National Church? As the Sustainability Commission Report stated, education about OCWM's essential purposes is vital. We also need a new commitment to the Covenant we share as congregations together in ministry in this conference. What are your ideas? Send your thoughts to Patsy Bjorling, Associate Conference Minister for Generosity Ministries, your Regional Minister or to me directly.
The back page of the current Still Speaking Magazine of the UCC has good information on OCWM. Regional Ministers and I are prepared for further discussion. Ben Guess, Executive Minister for Local Church Ministries and our keynoter for the fall meeting, will address the exciting ministries of the National Setting. Information for study is posted on www.ctucc.org.
Please share this information with your congregation and Annual Meeting delegates. It's all about what God requires of us in these exciting days of challenge and change.