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Strange Yokefellows

John Lomperis and Alan Wisdom

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Strange Yokefellows - 1. Executive Summary

The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) defines itself as "a community of Christian communions, which, in response to the gospel as revealed in the Scriptures, confess Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, as Savior and Lord." It boasts of being "the preeminent expression in the United States of the movement toward Christian unity." But the council spends much of its time and resources on political advocacy in the name of "the churches," "the religious community," and "people of faith."

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Inevitably, the political alienation between the NCC and its claimed constituency begot a financial alienation. Gifts from member denominations dropped through the 1980s and 1990s. By 1999 the NCC was in desperate financial straits. Amidst multi-million dollar debt, unsustainable deficit spending, and open talk of the council's possible dissolution, the NCC brought in a new general secretary, the Rev. Dr. Robert Edgar.

Edgar has been widely credited with rescuing the dying church council from collapse. But the NCC's fiscal stabilization has not resulted from a renewed surge of support among member denominations committed to Christian unity. In fact, those gifts have continued to decline, from $2.9 million in fiscal year 2000-2001 to $1.75 million in 2004-2005 -- a drop of 40 percent in four years.

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The NCC has also sought and received funding from secular foundations and other non-church organizations. In fact, in the fiscal year ending June 2005, it received $1.76 million from such organizations. This total surpassed the $1.75 million that year from member communions, signaling a radical new development in the council's history.

In analyzing the council's financial statements, we found a number of surprising funding sources for a church group that has as its primary purpose seeking Christian unity. Among those institutions contributing at least $50,000 to the NCC in 2004-2005, ten of the sixteen were non-church bodies. These included:

  • $344,514 from the National Religious Partnership for the Environment
  • $300,000 from the Knight Foundation
  • $225,000 from the Tides Foundation
  • $150,000 from the Ford Foundation
  • $141,450 from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
  • $100,000 from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund
  • $85,000 from the AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons)
  • $80,000 from the Wyss Foundation
  • $60,000 from the Sierra Club
  • $50,000 from the Connect US Network

These gifts are far greater than the donations that the NCC receives from most of its member denominations. They suggest, for instance, that the council is more dependent financially upon the Ford Foundation than upon 32 of its 35 member denominations.

Read the entire article on the Institute on Religion and Democracy website (new window will open).

Read Fr. John M. Reeves' reaction to "Strange Yokefellows."

Posted: 11-Jan-07

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Copyright 2001-2020 OrthodoxyToday.org. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article is subject to the policy of the individual copyright holder. See OrthodoxyToday.org for details.

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