The World Communion of Reformed Churches’ (WCRC) executive committee on May 16 endorsed priorities for 2012-2013 that will focus on theological formation, economic justice and measures to address financial concerns.
“We leave this meeting knowing what lies ahead of us ... The way will not be easy but we are committed to building a secure financial future for WCRC which will enable us to live out our vision and purpose as we engage God’s mission in the world,” said WCRC President Jerry Pillay at the conclusion of the six-day meeting here.
Much of the committee’s discussion focused on financial issues, according to a WCRC news release.
Representatives of the organization's member churches meeting in this North Sumatran city were told by their newly-selected general treasurer, Johann Weusmann, that WCRC’s financial difficulties are due primarily to the high rate of exchange between the Swiss franc and the euro.
WCRC’s offices are located in Geneva, Switzerland and the majority of membership contributions that support the organization’s operating expenses are made in euros. The other matter of concern, the German lawyer and church executive said, is the lack of payment of membership dues by some member churches and underpayment by others.
In measures to address these issues, the Executive Committee agreed to establish a task group to prepare for a move from Geneva to a less expensive city. Funds are being sought to cover the costs of preparing for relocation. Committee members also approved a grid that establishes a fair share of membership contributions to meet WCRC’s core budget.
The committee approved plans to launch a “sustainability fund” with a target of raising $10.6 million by 2017. In the first year of the campaign, WCRC has committed to raising $428,000. Targets were set for regional fundraising in order to meet the overall WCRC goal.
The president of WCRC Endowment Fund, Stephen Lytch ― a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) minister ― acknowledged WCRC has set an ambitious fundraising objective.
“This is a huge challenge,” Lytch admitted. “But we all know it is necessary for WCRC to prosper. The Executive Committee has given its unanimous support for a sustainability fund and members have made a personal commitment to support it.”
Program priorities approved for 2012-2013 include plans for a major international gathering in partnership with the Council for World Mission and the World Council of Churches to consider a new global “financial architecture” that would be more faithful to Christian values of sharing and justice than the current system. The consultation is to be held in October in Brazil.
“This event is designed to gather high level thinkers to consider and formulate alternatives to the current economic and financial system which clearly does not meet the needs of all God’s people and of the whole creation,” said the Rev. Dora Arce-Valentin, head of WCRC’s Justice and Partnership office and a minister in the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba.
The committee approved plans to hold a training event for theology students and recently-ordained pastors in Latin America in 2014. The Global Institute for Theology (GIT) offers formation in global ecumenism to young people from around the world. Earlier sessions of the GIT have been held in Africa and North America. In June 2012, GIT will convene in Indonesia.
“The intent of GIT is to engage young people in study of Reformed identity and theology in response to contemporary concerns about interfaith tensions, economic pressures and continuing splits within denominations,” said Executive Committee member, Bas Plaisier, who chairs the group with responsibility for theology, communion (church unity) and mission.
The WCRC is also selecting young theologians to participate in bilateral dialogues with other Christian groups such as Pentecostals and the Roman Catholic Church.
“It is particularly important that young people engage in these discussions. In this way, WCRC contributes to forming the next generation of ecumenical leaders,” said the Dutch theologian who currently teaches in Hong Kong.
In other business, the Executive Committee approved plans to launch the search process for a new general secretary to succeed Setri Nyomi when his term ends in April 2014.
WCRC’s member churches represent 80 million Christians in 108 countries. The PC(USA) is represented on the Executive Committee by General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons and his predecessor, the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick.