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PRESS RELEASE NO. 09
LWF Treasurer Johanne Wremer Calls for "Matter-of-Fact"
Attitude on Finances
of Member Churches Greater than Available Resources
WINNIPEG, Canada, 23 July 2003 –
The Treasurer of the Lutheran World Federation
(LWF), Ms Inger Johanne Wremer has paid tribute to the LWF member
churches and partners for their unwavering solidarity and financial
commitment over the past six years, but also called for a
“matter-of-fact attitude on financial policy and practice,” in view
of decreasing income.
“The years since the Assembly in Hong Kong have been rewarding ones
for the LWF, [but] also tough and challenging from a financial point
of view,” Wremer said in the Report of the Treasurer to the LWF
Tenth Assembly, July 22.
She pointed out that between the 1997 Ninth Assembly in Hong Kong,
China and the current Assembly, the LWF recorded an overall income
of USD 580 million of which USD 524 million went to programs,
projects and emergencies. She acknowledged the financial means
available in the LWF but expressed deep “concern that the needs of
the member churches remain greater than the resources available to
meet those needs. Certain areas of work are considered a priority,
[but] funding is not necessarily available,” she noted.
Wremer, a member of the Church of Norway and LWF Treasurer since
June 2000, noted that most of the funding is destined for specific
programs and projects. There is need for more un-earmarked funding so
that the LWF can work in an even more flexible way and respond
quickly to new and challenging situations facing some of its member
churches and partners.
The treasurer noted that the continued decrease in overall income
has impact on the Coordination Budget of the LWF Geneva Secretariat.
For most of the years since the Assembly in Hong Kong, the
fluctuations in exchange rates have been to the disadvantage of the
LWF. The Coordination (A) budget income has decreased by 10 percent
between 1998 and 2002, to the current sustainable level of USD 9.5
million per year, Wremer said.
She attributed the decrease also to a 20 percent depreciation of the
US dollar against the Swiss Franc, which overall makes the
headquarters costs more expensive, and hampers the balancing of the
budget. While these factors are beyond the control of the LWF, they
have considerable consequences for the overall financial situation
including difficulties in balancing the A-budget in recent years. In
September 2002, the Council approved a resolution calling for a
balanced 2004-2005 budget. The number of staff persons in Geneva has
decreased from 92 in 1997 to 86 in April 2003. “The decrease in
income may result in a further reduction of staff,” Wremer observed.
She stressed the need to tackle income decrease “in a very careful”
way - by reducing staff costs and expenditure in general as well as
keeping staff positions vacant for some time.” Although the reduced
overall income also reflects the strained economic situation of some
member churches, it should be underlined that most member churches
and many related agencies contribute to the budget as much as they
possibly can, Wremer underlined.
The financial situation has affected the Federation’s general
reserves, which by the end of 2002 stood at USD 4.7 million, down
from USD 6.7 million in 1998. Wremer described the financial
situation as manageable, due to the “rather strict financial
controls” but called “for soberness and very hard priority-setting
within the LWF.”
The Treasurer expressed concern that the LWF may experience a
further general decrease in income, saying this “has to be taken
into account when the LWF discusses its aims and goals and sets
priorities.” She urged the Council that will be appointed at the
Tenth Assembly to “have serious priority setting discussions” on
what the core functions of the LWF will be in the future. “A cut in
activities has to be made if the financial situation does not
improve,” she observed.
The LWF has always relied on and is dependent on member churches and
church-related organizations for the main financial support for its
activities. The decrease in income also reflects the strained
economic situation of some member churches. Nevertheless it
should be underlined that most member churches contribute to the
budget as much as they possibly can.
On annual membership fees, Wremer said that this remains an
important source of income for the LWF and an expression of
commitment to the communion. Most member churches have already
adjusted their membership fees to the new “fair membership level,”
while others are still striving to reach it.
She expressed hope that the income from membership fees will not
only remain stable, but again increase over the coming years to
reach the level of fair membership fees for all member churches.
When this goal is reached, the situation of the Geneva coordination
budget will ease considerably and make the LWF even more able to
provide member churches with the services they need. “I therefore
strongly recommend that all members of the LWF pay the amount of
their fair membership fee. In the present situation, expectations
have to be adjusted to the financial realities, while at the same
time the LWF must seek new funding sources.”
She mentioned efforts by the LWF to guarantee basic rights for
education in different parts of the world, sensitize people about
the HIV/AIDS pandemic, provide emergency relief assistance and
contribute to the life and work of the member churches that are in a
The LWF has also given priority to strengthening the organizational
and institutional capacities of smaller churches, especially in the
South. The need to also support smaller churches in theological
matters has been underlined by many member churches.
One of the most positive aspects in the financial development of the
LWF is the Endowment Fund, launched at the 1997 LWF Ninth Assembly
in Hong, King China. The fund provides the member churches with an
important instrument for securing the financial viability of LWF
operations, especially those that are in the field, Wremer said. At
the end of 2002, the Fund had USD 4.5 million. The goal is to have
USD 10 million in the short term, and a long term of USD 50 million.
Worldwide economic problems, recessions and exchange-rate variations
in the contributions from member churches may threaten the
activities of the LWF. The present difficult economic situation
calls for creativity and hard work in order to find ways and means
to get additional support for the LWF. Special efforts to improve
the LWF’s financial situation also include prioritizing fundraising
In an update on the Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) on the Mount of
Olives, East Jerusalem, Wremer explained the difficult political and
financial conditions. Israeli tax authorities have taken the AVH to
a lower court in Jerusalem over the payment of employer’s tax. The
LWF has submitted an appeal to a higher court and at the same time,
together with member churches, is pushing for political action from
She encouraged the member churches to pray for the hospital and also
contribute to its financial security, for instance by holding
Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is taking place
21-31 July 2003 in Winnipeg, Canada, under the theme "For the
Healing of the World." It is being hosted by the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).
There are around 820 men, women and youth participants in the Tenth
Assembly including 380 delegates from the
133 churches with full membership and three associate members. The Assembly is the highest
decision-making body of the LWF, and meets normally every six years.
Between Assemblies, the LWF is governed by its Council that meets
annually, and by its Executive Committee.
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