News Analysis: A significant drop in funding
Agencies have 36.5 percent less 'buying power' than in 2002.by Everett J. Thomas
Feb. 1 marked 10 years since the official merger that transformed General Conference Mennonite Church and Mennonite Church into Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA. Several years ago, a reader asked us to do some research about a promise he recalled from church leaders in the runup to the merger: “We were told that one reason to merge was that we would have fewer agencies, and it would cost less to do things as a denomination,” he said.
We thought the 10-year anniversary was a good time to take a look. So we commissioned retired CPA Don Stauffer, Union, Mich., to examine the financial records in the Archives of Mennonite Church USA and from Mennonite Church Canada. Below (see box) is the result of his research, with help from Lisa Heinz, senior director of operations and chief financial officer for Mennonite Education Agency.
We asked just two questions: How do expenditures nearly 20 years ago compare with expenditures of agencies in the fiscal year ending in 2002, the last before the official merger? And how do those expenditures compare with the most recent year-end financial reports for Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA?
Note that we have not asked why the numbers changed so significantly. I invited a Mennonite Church USA leader from each board or agency to suggest an explanation, but none was offered. However, there could be several reasons for the decline:
• The Great Recession affected contributions from individuals and congregations nearly everywhere.
• Congregations and individuals have become more interested in local ministries and initiatives and less interested in those administered by churchwide agencies.
• There are fewer members in both Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada than a decade and two decades ago in the predecessor denominations.
The bottom line: The aggregate for expenditures in the most recently concluded fiscal years was $8,216,200 less in absolute dollars than the aggregate of the 1992 expenditures. When adjusted for inflation—which has been 60.3 percent since 1992—the aggregate would have needed to be $46,752,944 in 2011 dollars to have the same “buying power” as the 1992 aggregate.
The past nine years shows a smaller drop. To have the same buying power as the aggregate of 2002 expenditures, the aggregate of all expenditures would have needed to be $32,959,432.67. According to Heinz, churchwide ministries were operating with 55.2 percent less buying power in 2011 than in 1992 and 36.5 percent less when comparing 2002 to 2011.
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