The financial well-being of many United Church communities of faith is still uncertain as they emerge from the shadow of COVID-19. But General Council ended 2022 in relatively good fiscal shape, despite dropping investment returns, rising inflation, uncertain Mission & Service givings and an online General Council that cost roughly $528,000.
The $42 million 2022 budget — approved in principle in February 2022 and updated at a General Council Executive meeting on Sept. 18 — includes a $2.7 million deficit. That shortfall, though, follows a surplus of about $2.5 million in 2021, largely due to healthy returns on church investments, along with government COVID-19 wage subsidies. Those subsidy programs have ended, but no layoffs are planned for General Council staff this year. As for congregations, overall giving fell 12.4 percent in 2020 and 2021.
General Council’s executive minister of finance, Erik Mathiesen, says he expects 2023 to bring another deficit budget, which will help avoid cuts in grants and staffing. “We are implementing a strategic plan, hoping to set a degree of renewal and strengthening congregations,” he says.
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It’s a decision made much easier by a large legacy announced at the September meeting, significantly brightening General Council’s overall financial outlook.
A bequest worth $18 million is being shared equally by General Council and Fallowfield United in Nepean, Ont. The donor, retired Ottawa-area businessperson and farmer Lloyd Hope, died in early 2021 at age 92 and left an estate worth about $36 million, largely directed to charities. United Church of Canada Foundation president Sarah Charters says Hope was not active in the congregation but “knew how devoted the church was when it came to social justice and doing what was right.”
During the pandemic, bequests have been going into General Council reserve funds, where they can be used to cover budget deficits or fund initiatives related to the church’s new strategic plan.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that this year’s General Council meeting cost $1.1 million. It actually cost approximately $528,000. This version has been corrected.
Mike Milne is a writer in Owen Sound, Ont.
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There is something seriously wrong with the denomination if giving has dropped 12% for two years in a row.
This tells me that your congregations don't care, or they are not encouraged to give. Both are the responsibility of the local leadership of the church.
Does the leadership share a vision for the congregation to "step on board"? Are they aware of the expenses of running a building, or that the "Reverend" is not paid by the denomination itself?
If people stopped giving during the pandemic, how is the congregation going to "step up" during this time of inflation?
The problem with someone donating a huge sum of money, (what's worse is they don't even belong to the denomination) are the congregants going to think that someone else will "bailout" the denomination?
This is a sad situation that the UCC has put itself in.
Sheldon LeGrow says:
My view of the United Church changed with the persecution of Gretta Vosper. I thought we were an enlightened church. Alas. I was wrong.