Joan Brown Campbell, the retiring general secretary of the National Council of Churches in the United States (NCC), remains optimistic about the future of the NCC despite what has been, by all accounts, an extremely difficult year for the nation's biggest ecumenical agency.In an interview with ENI about her nine-year tenure as general secretary, Campbell, 68, acknowledged that the council's much-publicized financial problems remain a serious challenge.But Campbell, an ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and former director of the US office of the World Council of Churches, defended her tenure as a time in which the council had faced up to a long history of financial difficulties.The council's problems include widely-criticized financial management systems and a deficit reaching almost US$4 million. Major restructuring is planned in order to close the deficit and solve the financial problems.The NCC's financial troubles largely dominated headlines about the agency's fiftieth anniversary celebrations last month, particularly when the United Methodist Church temporarily suspended its financial support of the council in October."Unfortunately, that [the financial crisis] became the story of the fiftieth," Campbell said, adding that she expected the UMC suspension to be lifted, and noting that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) had recently pledged $300 000 to help the NCC cover its deficit."A businessman would say a $4 million deficit in a budget of $70 million is not high tragedy," Campbell told ENI, but added that "there was enough blame to go around" about the council's financial problems, and that she was not sparing herself from any criticism. "It's equally well-shared," she said.Campbell ...

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