National Council leader opposes split by Church World Service

Posted: Sunday, March 26, 2000

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- ''I don't want to see us separate,'' said the Rev. Robert Edgar, new general secretary of the National Council of Churches, as he opposed a bid by the council's international welfare agency, Church World Service (CWS), to take control of its own finances. Contributions to the welfare arm amount to 88 percent of council income.

The council and its CWS unit are both supported by 35 member denominations with 100,000 local congregations. Edgar, who assumed leadership of the council in January, spoke last week to delegates at a Portland meeting of the committee that governs CWS.

The governing committee decided last year that CWS should seek to manage its own finances. Later, the council asked CWS to pay a special assessment of $1.4 million to help meet a council deficit of $4 million for 1999; it also raised the fee it is charging CWS this year for administrative services.

After Edgar's talk, a delegate from the American Baptist Churches, Bucky Sydney, complained that the council, ''which has bungled finances for 25 years, gets it wrong and every time we have to ante up.''

The Rev. Patrick Mauney, an Episcopal Church executive who chairs the governing committee, said, ''I'm heartened that we're addressing the issue head on.''

Edgar and CWS officials will resume talks on the issue April 20.

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