Magazine article The Christian Century

NCC Chief: No More `Hemorrhaging'

Magazine article The Christian Century

NCC Chief: No More `Hemorrhaging'

Article excerpt

The new general secretary of the National Council of Churches appeared at a recent meeting of the General Assembly Council of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to say that he has "stopped the hemorrhaging" at the 50-year-old ecumenical organization and has begun installing safeguards to ensure "that the money is used responsibly."

Robert W. Edgar, 56, an ordained United Methodist minister who came to the NCC from the Claremont School of Theology in California, said his assignment at the NCC is not unlike the situation he faced when he was president of Claremont, which he said was "just a hiccup away from going out of business," reeling from "two embezzlements" and having "no money for salaries."

During the ten years that he was at the helm, Edgar said, the school's endowment increased from $3.8 million to $25 million, enrollment climbed from 300 to 550, and the institution became "the most ecumenical of the Methodist seminaries," with students representing more than 30 Christian denominations. He said he has the expertise in "financial and administrative issues" to clear up the "chaos" he found at the NCC. The NCC, the nation's largest ecumenical organization with 35 member communions having more than 50 million congregants, has an annual budget of about $60 million.

In a news conference with PCUSA News, Edgar said he plans to launch a resources development program for the NCC "similar to what I've done at Claremont," and to ask the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Foundation to manage its endowment. "I look with some awe at what the Presbyterians have done," he told the GAC. "We would be a client of the Presbyterian Foundation, because your foundation has the best reputation. After 50 years, the NCC should have an endowment of at least $100 million."

Edgar said the NCC got into financial trouble because it was "not very systematized or organized" and was "coasting on a 1950s reputation." He said it didn't have "a very good identity or clarity about our work" and did a poor job of "paper oversight."

Since his arrival, Edgar said, "there are no limousines picking people up and taking them to the airport," and no longer are corporate credit cards being used in questionable ways. He said he found that $197,000 had been paid over three years in pension funds to people who were not entitled to such funds. …

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