Bad news came yesterday. We can look to see the good in it, but not yet. Maybe we will see pie in the sky not too long from now, but not today. Corporate cutbacks can be praised for making organizations leaner and meaner, but now is not the time to laugh or to dance.
“ELCA Presiding Bishop Announces New Churchwide Organization Design for 2011” read the ELCA News Service article yesterday, October 11. Such a headline hopes to construct the best possible meaning out of the changes the ELCA is undergoing. But the article is peppered with bad news:
- “the 358-member churchwide staff — including 270 here at the churchwide office — will decrease by approximately 65 employees or 60 full-time equivalents”
- “unit reductions will affect up to five mission personnel currently in service”
- “In 2008 after adjusting for inflation, the value of mission support income had declined by half since the founding of this church in 1988″
- “From 2008 to 2011, estimated churchwide mission support dropped from $65.3 million to $48 million.”
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, said in the news release that “This new design positions the churchwide organization to make a vital and vibrant contribution to the ministries of this church and the work of partners throughout the world,” and “The new design also assumes that financial support will continue for these vital ministries — and enable us to engage in these ministries in a more flexible and forward way.”
Hanson’s positive statements were the right things to say as a leader and they will, I don’t doubt it, be true, eventually. But for right now, ELCA members are praying for and with those who have lost their employment. “The time to build” will have to come tomorrow.
–ELCA missionary the Rev. Viking Dietrich serves as West African Regional Representative. He and his family are based in Ghana.