The Rev. Bob Edgar, the former general secretary of the National Council of Churches who over the summer departed to join Common Cause, is held in high esteem in some quarters for turning around the NCC’s finances. They were left in shambles by his predecessor, the Rev. Joan Campbell Brown, and he cleaned up the mess in large part by turning to political cronies and left-wing foundations to pick up the slack left by shrinking mainline denominations.

Turns out, however, that Edgar has left town at an exceptionally fortuitous moment, according to the United Church of Christ news service:

Citing the need for fiscal responsibility in the face of projected $1.2 million budget shortfalls for the current and subsequent fiscal years, the governing board of the National Council of Churches, meeting Sept. 25 in New York, announced significant budget cuts and a sweeping staffing restructure.

Fourteen professional staff positions, including two deputy general secretaries and six associate general secretaries and the professional program positions reporting to them, will be eliminated on Dec. 1.

The Rev. Michael Livingston, president of the NCC, acknowledged the cuts are “deep and painful” especially given the “extraordinary professionalism and dedication of our staff.”

“But,” Livingston said, “we are committed to operating within budgetary parameters that are realistic. This plan moves us forward toward long-term sustainability so that the important ecumenical witness of the Council can continue well into the future.”

While the NCC’s 35 member communions, including the UCC, have not backed away from their support of the NCC’s mission, the action was deemed necessary because of the obvious diminishing capacity among member churches to sustain the organization as they have in the past.

The action comes on the heels of the departure of the Rev. Robert Edgar, NCC’s general secretary since January 2000, who stepped down in May to become president of Common Cause.


“The Edgar Years”