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Church focuses on needs of humanity

Monitor faces possible cuts

By David T. CookStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / June 8, 2004



BOSTON

At the Annual Meeting of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, church officials discussed the relevance of Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan, detailed the church's financial status, and announced plans to cut costs at The Christian Science Monitor, which could include reducing the number of pages in the paper and the size of the staff.

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"The example of the Good Samaritan impels each of us to look first at our own hearts and lives and then ponder the actions of our branch churches ... and even The Mother Church; to ponder and pray about how we are loving and responding to those along the way," said Virginia Harris, Chairman of The Christian Science Board of Directors.

This report is based on transcripts of videotaped presentations that were scheduled to be shown to church members gathered Monday afternoon in the auditorium of the Extension of The Mother Church here. Members outside Boston could watch the meeting over the Internet from locations around the world.

Mrs. Harris opened the Directors' message by calling members' attention to "the challenges and victories of stopping our own routine and responding to the needs of humanity."

Church Treasurer Walter D. Jones called for increased giving to respond to those needs. He revealed that the most frequent donation to the church is $50. "It will take much more from all of us - substantial donations, commitment, and love - in order to keep pace with the demand for spirituality today."

Mr. Jones reported that after accounting for revenue from the sale of products, net church spending was $113.2 million in the fiscal year ending April 30. Spending outpaced the $83 million the church received last year from member contributions and legacies. To cover the $30 million shortfall, the church drew down its financial reserves. Unrestricted reserves, the main source for funding daily needs, were $46 million at the end of the fiscal year, down from $67 million a year ago and $95 million two years ago.

Expense reduction remains a priority for the church. The organization will "continue to streamline activities, reduce costs for infrastructure, and gain efficiencies in overall spending so that more of the resources can support broader availability of Science and Health and deeper engagement with its healing message," Jones said. A restructuring program, begun six months ago, has reduced total employment at the church and Christian Science Publishing Society (CSPS) in Boston by 150 from 760.

The Treasurer then turned his attention to the Monitor. "One of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing us," Jones said, is developing a new business model for the paper. He noted the Monitor's "vital mission in the world today" but added "it has required the largest subsidy from the church over many years in order to sustain its operations."

Over the past 10 years, payments to the Publishing Society from various church sources, including the Monitor Endowment Fund, have totaled $172 million. In that decade total church spending amounted to $1.37 billion.

In her report, Margaret Campbell, chairman of the Society's Board of Trustees, noted that subscriptions to the Christian Science Sentinel, Christian Science Journal, Christian Science Quarterly, and the Monitor all fell slightly last year. She attributed part of the decline to reduced spending on promotion and marketing. The Monitor's print circulation now stands at 69,000. But 1.7 million different people log onto csmonitor.com each month.

Largely as a result of Monitor shortfalls, the CSPS has been subsidized by the church for the past 44 years. Campbell said that governing documents written by the church's Founder, Mary Baker Eddy, showed she "expected and required" the Society to be profitable. "This 44-year practice of the Society requiring subsidy from the church must now change. Not only have losses grown too large to sustain, but budgeting for a deficit is not in accord with either Mrs. Eddy's vision for the Publishing Society or her specific instructions in the Deed of Trust," Campbell said.

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