Presbyterians, Lutherans slash budgets

The Presbyterian Church (USA) and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America both have slashed their 2009 budgets, cutting programs and laying off scores of personnel as denominations continue to suffer from the recession.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in American (ELCA), the nation's largest Lutheran denomination, announced a $5.6-million reduction in its 2009 budget on Tuesday (March 31). The cut was necessary in part because regional synods plan to decrease their contributions to the denomination by $2.4 million this year, church leaders said.

Since last November, the ELCA has eliminated more than 23 jobs and cut 12 additional vacant positions. All churchwide units reduced their budgets for 2009, staff salaries were cut by 3 percent, and grants to churches, colleges, universities, seminaries and social services were slashed, according to an ELCA statement.

The ELCA also decided to cut its radio ministry, Grace Matters, which has aired weekly since 1947. Easter Sunday, April 12, will be the final broadcast for the program, which aired on nearly 180 radio stations in the U.S. and overseas, the church said.

On March 27, the Presbyterians announced a $4 million reduction in their 2009 budget because of a projected $10-million shortfall. Contributions to church headquarters, which come primarily from congregations and regional presbyteries, was almost $4 million less than expected.

The denomination has eliminated 56 jobs since September of last year. Twelve new positions have been added. The PC(USA) closed its National Health Ministries Office and consolidated its Collegiate and Youth Ministries. Remaining staff will have to take a furlough, and planned salary increases in 2010 have been eliminated, according to the church.

"The decision to eliminate positions was difficult," said Linda Valentine, executive director of the denomination's General Assembly Council. "We know it will have a real-life impact on people for whom we care and with whom we have worked side-by-side."

Valentine said the church will face a similar projected shortfall in 2010, "so we will be looking closely at program areas."

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