Delegates consider during the Fall Session of the Annual Meeting.
Photos by Eric Anderson
by Eric Anderson
MIDDLETOWN (10/24/2012) -- Ministers and delegates to the Connecticut Conference's 14th Annual Meeting had to make significant new decisions about how to minister in the changed realities of the 21st century. They debated three resolutions offered to the assembly, and the Board of Directors asked for a significant change in the Conference's spending plan for the next year. The budget recommendation won the delegates' approval.
The delegates voted to retain 50% of Our Church's Wider Mission Basic Support monies contributed by local churches for work of the Connecticut Conference itself, with the other half being passed to the national ministries of the United Church of Christ. For nearly twenty years, Connecticut has kept just 37% of OCWM funds.
Both Conference Treasurer Lynn Cripe and Finance and Budget Committee Chair Mark Engstrom stressed the thirty-year trend of declining financial support through Our Church's Wider Mission (OCWM) Basic Support giving from local congregations, which provides 43% of Conference income. The slope on the graph mirrors another set of figures over the same time period: the decrease in total church membership from just under 110,000 in 1981 to less than 80,000 in 2011. Although the Conference concluded 2011 in the black, OCWM income continued its decline, with the 2010 increase in per capita making up the difference.
The Board of Directors, said Engstrom, faced these unappealing options:
For More Information
2013 Budget Presentation (PDF)
Resolutions as Proposed
Voted: 12F-CTUCC GMO Resolution of Affirmation (PDF)
Voted with Amendments: 12F-CTWUCC Resolution of Implementation (PDF)
Rejected: 12F-US Constitution Resolution of Implementation (PDF)
In the end, the Board recommended the final option, as being most consistent with recognizing the financial stress experienced in the local church, with the sense of importance of Conference services to local churches, and the consequences of selling assets. Delegates cheered when Engstrom declared that the sale of Silver Lake Conference Center was not even considered. A Board team is now studying the implications of owning vs. renting office space (the Conference owns United Church Center, its office in Hartford), but has not completed that review. Spending down unrestricted endowment money impacts the income in each succeeding year, and would create new crises.
During debate, the voices raised generally opposed the change in the sharing ration while confirming the financial challenges experienced in churches around the state. When the vote came, after a moment of prayer, the ayes clearly were in the majority.
Annual Meeting delegates approved two of the three resolutions presented to them. They overwhelmingly affirmed the resolution "On Continuing Support of Women as Equal Partners in Church and Society," drafted by the CT Women of the UCC. Disturbed by signs of cultural forces that would limit women's rights -- "on an issue of justice that we thought we had settled a long time ago," lamented Gloria Bent, who presented the matter to the assembly. The resolution was amended, without opposition, to offer some clarification and strengthening to the goals.
The body also approved a resolution proposed by the Conference's Environmental Ministry Team, which calls for study of the impact of Genetically Modified Organisms in the food stream, both their health effects and what benefit might derive from labeling them on grocery store shelves.
Delegates rejected a resolution calling for the adoption of the "People's Rights Amendment" to the United States Constitution. The proposal seeks to address the problems created by the US Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which opened the door for unlimited funding of campaign-related activity by corporations and unions. Speakers, by and large, sympathized with the resolution's goals, but were not convinced that the specific measures in the "People's Rights Amendment" were the proper course.
The Rev. Eric S. Anderson is Minister of Communications and Technology for the Connecticut Conference UCC.