The United Church’s General Council Executive is reducing partnership grants and keeping cost of living increases for staff and ministry personnel conservative — both efforts to hold the 2024 budget deficit at $3.2 million.
“We’ve agreed that a number of grants are going to be cut,” says Rev. Michael Blair, United Church of Canada general secretary. Mission and Service grants to regions will fall to $180,000 each, a reduction of $60,000 per region or 25 percent. Grants to Canadian and global partners will also be reduced by 27 and 25 percent respectively, with some partners losing funding altogether.
The church currently spends $9.43 million on global partners in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, plus a number of global ecumenical partners. “We’re moving from 81 [global] funded partners to 68,” Blair says. “And we know that that has significant implications.”
There are more than 100 Canadian partners, including community ministries, faith-based ecumenical partnerships and civil society organizations who currently receive $396,000. Of those, 11 partners will see their grants reduced by a total of $107,000, or 27 percent of the total. Some will see their funding stopped entirely; others will see reductions with a potential of further reductions in 2025, according to a statement from Blair’s office.
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Blair declined to comment on which Canadian or global partners would lose funding; at press time many had not yet been informed of the cuts. Broadview’s grant will be cut by 50 percent to $40,880, Blair confirmed.
“The reality is that there’s no easy way to do this,” Blair says. “It’s a result of declining income. …The [faith] communities are struggling. The pandemic threw us a wrench. People aren’t coming back to church; they’re staying online.”
United Church staff and ministry personnel didn’t have to wait for their bad news. Following the Executive’s Sept. 22-23 meeting, Blair sent a letter outlining changes to the annual cost of living adjustment (COLA). Ministers are to receive a 6.3 percent increase in 2024, and General Council office and Regional Council office staff will see a two percent increase. According to the letter, both will be “delinked” from the Consumer Price Index, a standard used to set most COLAs.
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“My phone blew up yesterday,” Rev. Alison Miculan said in late September about the many angry calls she received. Miculan is the organizing chair of Unifaith, a group trying to unionize United Church clergy. “One of the things I am hearing is ‘I don’t recognize this as my United Church anymore.’”
The General Council Executive will approve the 2024 budget at its Nov. 17- 18 meeting.
Julie Carl is Broadview’s United Church in Focus Editor.
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