LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has told 43 national staff members they will be laid off immediately in a restructuring to cope with lower investment earnings and changing priorities, church spokesmen say.
The Executive Committee of the General Assembly Council voted last week to approve the cuts as part of the denomination's $130 million 2003 budget. The spending plan, about $2 million lower than the 2002 operating budget, must be approved by the General Assembly in June.
The church blames the cuts on lower donations due to the struggling U.S. economy, as well as lower income from wills, bequests and investments. At the same time, the council hopes to shift resources to better fund missionaries, fund-raising and other projects.
Church officials feared earlier this year that many conservative churches would withhold donations to protest perceived liberal trends in the church, but that hasn't been the case.
Debate has cooled in recent months after the denomination's regional governing bodies voted to uphold the church's ban on ordaining gays.
A total of 66 positions will be eliminated, but 21 were already vacant. The 43 workers must leave their jobs by Friday. Two more jobs will be cut by year's end.
About 600 people work in the Presbyterian national headquarters in Louisville.
John Detterick, the council's executive director, called the budget process ''anxiety-filled.''
''We tried to do it justly,'' he said.
The Rev. Adelia Kelso of Pearl River, La., was the sole member of the 11-person committee who voted against the budget. She said she considered the recommendations wise, but was holding out hope for an economic recovery.
The Presbyterian Church has about 2.5 million members.
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