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Report of the Officers

Report of the Officers to the WCC Central Committee

02 September 2003

World Council of Churches
CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Geneva, Switzerland
26 August - 3 September 2002

 Report of the Officers


1. The report of the Officers to the Central Committee is a constitutional obligation. The purpose of this report is to inform the Central Committee of the decisions taken by the Executive Committee at its meetings of 11-14 September 2001 and 19-22 February 2002, as well as those taken by the Officers at their meetings of 21-22 June and 13-14 December 2001, and 13-14 June 2002.

Public Issues
2. September 11: In September 2001, the opening of the Executive Committee meeting coincided with the devastating events of 11 September in the United States. The Executive Committee expressed its condolences to member churches and ecumenical partners in the United States as they prepared to face the aftermath of the spiritual and physical devastation.

3. At the February 2002 meeting, considering the global trends in the post-September 11 environment, the Executive Committee reviewed with appreciation the WCC's public witness in the period since its last meeting which was in session in Geneva on September 11. Given the critical role the churches in the United States now have to play, the Executive Committee asked the staff of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs to convene a special consultation in the United States with leaders of the churches there and their counterparts from other parts of the world to provide an opportunity to further the process of discernment which had begun at a previous consultation in Geneva, seeking insights on what kind of witness is required at such a time. A report of the findings of that consultation should be given to the next meeting of the Central Committee.

4. Israel and Palestine: At their meeting in June 2001, the Officers were informed that the Council had organised a visit of church representatives to Jerusalem. They were to meet with the patriarchs and heads of Christian communities in Jerusalem as well as with key local clergy and laity, church-related and ecumenical organizations, including Israeli and Palestinian human rights and peace activists. The visit was in preparation of an international ecumenical consultation to be held 6-7 August 2001 in Geneva, in response to the Central Committee recommendations.

5. In September 2001, in light of the deteriorating situation, and in response to the urgent plea of member churches and Christian communities in the Holy Land, the Executive Committee adopted a resolution calling on the WCC and the member churches and ecumenical partners to intensify efforts to promote a just and peaceful solution to the conflict.

6. At their meeting in December 2001, the Officers heard about the implementation of the Ecumenical Monitoring Programme for Palestine and Israel which had been initiated following the recommendations of the Executive Committee in September.

7. In February 2002, the Executive Committee received with appreciation reports about the work done in follow-up of its earlier decisions to engage member churches in 2002 in an ecumenical campaign to end the illegal occupation of Palestine in the context of the Decade to Overcome Violence and to develop the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The Executive Committee urged member churches and ecumenical partners to move rapidly with providing the necessary support for the WCC fund for the ecumenical response to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which has been established to enable this process.

8. Zimbabwe: In September 2001, the Executive Committee also reviewed the worsening economic and political situation developing in Zimbabwe. The Executive Committee adopted a statement encouraging the ZCC to continue to provide much needed leadership in the interest of peace and justice. It urged the church leaders to stimulate and guide a process of national dialogue and negotiation in pursuit of non-violent approaches to conflict transformation.

Financial Situation
9. At their meeting in June 2001, the Officers learned that ways had been found to bring down the forecast budget deficit for 2001 to CHF 1.5 million, the figure recommended by the Central Committee.

10. In September 2001, the Executive Committee ratified the audited financial statement of December 2000, noting that the Council had suffered an operating loss of CHF 750,000. The Investment Advisory Group, as commissioned by the Executive Committee in Berlin in January 2001, had reviewed investments risks and the portfolio structure. It was reported that steps have been taken steadily since that date to reduce market exposure and define and implement a more conservative investment profile. The Executive Committee supported the efforts to define policies which would work towards implementation of the financial plan presented and result in significantly lower deficits. The Committee agreed that member churches should be informed once again by letter of their financial obligations.

11. In December 2001, the Officers agreed to a number of principles and target figures. The new initiatives in the field of income development were beginning to take shape; the Officers in particular authorized an approach to a selection of foundations in Europe as well as an experimental introduction of the instrumentality for on-line giving in the United States.

12. At the Executive Committee meeting in February 2002, considerable time and attention had to be given to the financial situation of the WCC. The Executive Committee stated clearly that the difficulties are not due to mismanagement on the part of the Council, but to external non-controllable factors which have similarly affected many of our ecumenical partners, including member churches, church agencies and councils.

13. The proposed budget for 2002, which has been established for the first time according to the activity-based costing format, once again showed an operating deficit of CHF 1.2 million. Given the fact that there are no more general reserves and that the liquidity pressure continues, the Executive Committee, in giving basic approval to the 2002 budget, felt obliged to make the following amendments:
- a 90% spending limit on all expenses which are not contractually binding;
- the instruction to prepare a plan to reduce staff-related costs by 7-10%, i.e. by CHF 1.5-2 million; and
- the authorization to continue negotiations to obtain a mortgage against the Ecumenical Centre to restore liquidity for the Council.
The purpose of these measures is to begin the second three-year programme and financial plan 2003-2005 without carrying forward a deficit and to restore an acceptable relationship between the cost of staff and support services and expenditures for activities. The Executive Committee instructed the staff leadership to develop a plan of how to achieve the reduction in staff-related costs, to be presented for review at the time of the Round Table meeting in mid-April when the Officers of the Finance Committee and Dr. Marion Best as Vice-Moderator of the Central Committee would be in Geneva. Decisions were to be finalized by the Officers at their meeting in June, to take full effect at the latest at the beginning of 2003.

14. Given the urgent need to reduce expenditures, we are obliged to implement the provision in the Rules of the WCC (Rule I.6.a-c, Minutes of Executive Committee, September 2001, p. 65) that no subsidies for travel and accommodation shall be paid to members of governing bodies whose church has not responded to the obligation of making a minimum contribution to the support of the WCC.

15. At the meeting in June 2002, staff leadership were able to report to the Officers that both recommendations (see above) had been implemented. The first reduction had already been accomplished in mid-April when the Core Group of the Programme Committee, together with the Vice-Moderator of the Finance Sub-Committee, met in Geneva in conjunction with the WCC Round Table. It was therefore decided to approve the budget resulting from these reductions as the official budget for 2002.

16. HIV/AIDS: At its meeting in September 2001 the Executive Committee underlined the importance of including gender and justice approaches to the ecumenical response to HIV/AIDS.

17. Racism: Also in September 2001, the Executive Committee recommended that the WCC issue a call to all member churches to seize the time for a continuous and unequivocal commitment for justice for all people who suffer the oppression of racism.

18. DOV: In September 2001, the Committee discussed the report on the DOV in the wake of the dramatic violence that occurred in the United States on 11 September, noting that in the context of fear and hatred, the Decade should become a prophetic sign of hope and solidarity. The Committee welcomed the recommendations of the DOV Reference Group which called for the production of a handbook for popular use and affirmed the model of "living letters" in situations that required ecumenical presence with those in situations of suffering and conflict. It also recommended that the WCC explore possibilities for building up an international network, "Partners for Peace", between local congregations and churches and other faith communities from different parts of the world.

19. The Membership Study Group: At the same meeting the Executive Committee received the report on relations with constituencies with appreciation and agreed to the proposal of the Membership Study Group to postpone the consideration of applications for membership until the Central Committee meeting in 2003.

20. The Special Commission: It also agreed that one of the most crucial issues on the agenda of the Special Commission is the one related to common prayer. A final report will be submitted to the Central Committee in 2002.

21. With reference to the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation and the Membership Study Group the Executive Committee at its meeting in February 2002 expressed the conviction that the results of these two special processes will contribute to creating a better quality of relationships within the fellowship of the WCC and make visible more fully the institutional implications of the Common Understanding and Vision.

Central Committee
22. New members of Central Committee, Commissions and Advisory Groups. At its meeting in September 2001, the Executive Committee agreed to recommend to the Central Committee the following names: Rev. Pakoa B. Maraki, Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu, to replace Rev. Ruben Magekon on Central Committee; Rev. Robina Winbush, Presbyterian Church USA, to replace Rev. Eugene Turner on the Special Commission, and Ms Wendy McFadden, Church of the Brethren, to replace Mr Randy Naylor on the Communication Advisory Group.

23. In September 2001, the Executive Committee approved plans to mark the 75th anniversary of the first meeting of Faith and Order. The observance is to take place on 25 August 2002, in conjunction with the next meeting of the Central Committee.

24. In February 2002, the Executive Committee took steps with a view to enabling the Central Committee to take decisions regarding the venue and the general format of the Ninth Assembly of the WCC.

Procedure for Election of the General Secretary
25. At its meeting in September 2001, the Executive Committee recommended that the present procedure be retained (see Minutes of the Central Committee of 1987 (Appendix V), and of 1992, Appendix III). Clearer guidelines are to be given concerning the desired representation on the Search Committee of women, youth and Orthodox churches and regional and confessional balances.

26. In February 2002, the Executive Committee clarified the procedures for initiating the search process for a new General Secretary, and in June 2002, the Officers agreed on a procedure to review the proposed job description for the General Secretary which will be submitted to the Executive Committee for consideration before being transmitted to the Search Committee.

Staffing
27. In September 2001 the Executive Committee authorized the Officers to fill urgent vacancies that might be required prior to its next meeting. The Committee agreed to announce vacancies for the position of Executive Secretary in the General Secretariat, and Executive Web Editor and Senior Editor in the Communication Cluster.

28. In December 2001, the Officers agreed to two staff appointments: Rev. Theodore Gill was appointed Senior Editor in the Cluster on Communication, and Rev. Sabine Udodesku was appointed Executive Secretary in the General Secretariat. The Officers also authorized the opening of the following vacancies: Executive Secretary and Team Coordinator of International Affairs, Programme Secretary for Education and Ecumenical Formation, and Publisher.

29. At its meeting in February 2002, the Executive Committee approved two staff appointments: Rev. Olivier Schopfer from the Protestant Church of Geneva was appointed Senior Web Editor, and Mr Peter Weiderud from the Church of Sweden as Team Coordinator for International Relations.

30. It received with appreciation a document summarising the results of a mid-term evaluation by staff of WCC activities during the period from 1999 to 2001 and also approved a revised set of Staff Rules.