Differences in church polity and doctrine continue to make major U.S. Protestant denominations distinguishable from one another. But these days, most of them look the same with respect to one reality: financial trouble.

At its August Churchwide Assembly, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America announced that income was down $850,000 compared to the first six months of last year. The ELCA reduced its operating budget by a million dollars to $74.9 million.

The United Methodist Church’s chief finance agency announced in July that contributions for the first half of 1993 had dropped by $1.2 million compared to last year. Similar financial woes have plagued the Episcopal Church of late, the Presbyterian Church (USA) (PCUSA), and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

In 1991, the PCUSA’s highest governing body passed a measure calling for a balanced budget by 1995. But by 1992, it was clear that the church, short of drastic action, would run out of reserves by the end of this year. Drastic action came a few months ago in the form of a $7 million budget slash (to about $103 million), resulting in staff reductions of 25 percent at the denomination’s Louisville headquarters.

The SBC, during the first 10 months of its 1992–93 fiscal year, experienced a decline of $1.8 million, or about 1.5 percent, in giving to its Cooperative Program, a common pool that finances SBC major missions, education, and administrative efforts. Last year’s Lottie Moon Christian offering, the major source of support for SBC foreign missions, was down from the previous year, only the second time that has happened since the Great Depression.

Although the 1.5 million-member American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. (ABC) has been able to avoid major cutbacks in ...

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