Two years after deficits came to light, the National Council of Churches is still trying to balance its budget. During its recent annual meeting in Oakland, California, the NCC announced that 16 more employees will be laid off.

NCC General Secretary Bob Edgar says he is "very confident that we're prepared to restore the health of this organization."

The 52-year-old ecumenical agency represents 36 mainline Protestant and Orthodox churches. NCC finished the 2001 fiscal year on June 30 with a deficit of $2.1 million—far exceeding last May's official projection of $730,000. For the current fiscal year, officials trimmed NCC's budget from $6.87 million to $5.7 million. With additional cuts, the NCC will have 39 employees. Two years ago, it had 102.

The agency's largest contributors, the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), are reassessing their contributions. Both churches said their dues would be based, in part, on the NCC's improved fiscal outlook.

NCC Treasurer Phil Young says it is crucial that the organization balance this year's budget. Otherwise, he says, "We're facing a moment of very sober truth."

At the November meeting, the council also installed Elenie Huszagh, a Greek Orthodox laywoman, as president. Huszagh is the first Orthodox woman to be president of the NCC.

Huszagh says she and others have become accustomed to rumors of the council's imminent demise, but she is optimistic. "We've got the sense now that we have turned a corner and that we can function, and function capably," she said. The NCC must now enter what she called a period of "substantive reflection" on what it should be.

Huszagh, 64, succeeds Andrew Young, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and onetime mayor of Atlanta. ...

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