November (ENI)—The general assembly of the National Council of Churches (NCC) in the United States has approved a massive restructuring plan for the 50-year-old organization, which has in recent years been troubled by financial and management difficulties.

The NCC's outgoing president, Bishop Craig Anderson, described the restructuring as "trying to ride a bicycle while we're still trying to build it".

The restructuring plan calls for Church World Service and Witness (CWSW)—the NCC's division for humanitarian aid and relief work—to become semi-autonomous, accountable directly to the NCC's general assembly, and to manage its own administration and management. The bulk of the NCC's other program activities will be housed in a single unit called Unity and Justice.

Many of the details of the restructuring have yet to be worked out, but it is already clear that the NCC's New York-based staff will be reduced by at least a third—34 staff positions, including three associate general secretary posts and four high-level director positions, have been eliminated.

The restructuring plan is so complex and fluid that no budget for the year 2000 has yet been developed. Instead, the NCC's executive board is working within what its treasurer, Margaret Thomas, called "a fiscal framework".

Bishop Anderson, an Episcopalian (Anglican), appealed to the NCC's executive board to work together for the future of the organization. "Our work is not completed, and much of it will be handed over to new leadership," he said, referring to the administration to be led by general secretary-elect Robert Edgar, who has been chosen to succeed Dr Joan Brown Campbell.

"We can't wrap it [the restructuring] up and put a nice bow on it—that would be unfair to our processes ...

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