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Following discussion at General Synod about the RCA’s financial situation, general secretary Rev. Eddy Alemán has announced a few changes to staffing that will take place in coming months. This article seeks to provide a transparent update about finances and budget, particularly relating to General Synod Council (GSC) staff positions.

The GSC’s current financial situation

In the last five years, the denomination has experienced a loss of about a quarter of its churches; combined with shrinking or closing congregations, this accounts for an approximate 50 percent loss of confessing membership. As the restructuring team—tasked with recommending an optimized and healthy structure for a smaller denomination—stated, “While the General Synod no longer collects assessments based on confessing membership, this decline in membership has also led to a similar steep decline in covenant shares revenue and we need to adapt to a new financial reality that includes much lower denominational income. We simply cannot afford to spend the same amount of money on staff, commissions, and General Synod as we once did.”

The GSC operating budget is primarily funded by covenant shares (a portion of a church’s total revenue that is paid to the denomination), contributions and grants, and investment income. Operating expenses for the Board of Benefits Services and Church Growth Fund have different funding and are covered under separate budgets, and RCA Global Mission is entirely funded by contributions.

The GSC budget has been reduced several times since 2020—first in anticipation of churches leaving, and then in response to the departures—in order to maintain a stable financial position for the denomination. In many departments, especially related to operations, positions have been combined or eliminated since 2020. 

In fiscal year 2024, which will end on September 30, 2024, more than $1 million of reserves were budgeted to cover expenses as the GSC grappled with the decrease in income; this is the first year in recent history that reserves have been used. General secretary Rev. Eddy Alemán has committed to a balanced budget over the next few years.

“During this period of financial adjustment, we have approached every decision with a thoughtful and prayerful mindset, ensuring that our actions reflect responsible stewardship and unwavering support for the work of the RCA,” says chief financial officer Tony Schmid, who joined the staff in April

Two weeks ago, General Synod considered but did not approve a 2 percent limit on covenant shares (as recommended by the restructuring team). Even so, the reality of being a smaller denomination still necessitates budget cuts to achieve a balanced budget. At the recommendation of the RCA’s Office of Finance, General Synod approved a covenant shares rate of 2.5 percent for calendar year 2025.

“We will continue to reduce costs and work toward 2 percent as a gesture of good faith,” says Alemán. 

How was this budget formulated?

The budget approved for fiscal year 2025 (October 2024–September 2025) has been developed over the last six months through extensive work by members of the GSC’s strategic leadership team (SLT), aided by the finance staff. The budget factors in the now-approved 2.5 percent covenant shares rate, a reduction from 2.7 percent from the previous year, and was guided by the SLT strategic plan and by the ends policies set by the GSC to guide the work of Alemán and the staff.

Read the GSC Finance report to General Synod for a more detailed overview of the budget.

“We looked especially at areas of the budget that are funded by covenant shares, where we have lost so much income as churches left the denomination,” says Christina Tazelaar, chief operating officer. “In our current financial reality, this means making some hard decisions about work that we value and people we value.”

Changes to GSC staff

The newest GSC staff cuts are the latest in an effort over the last few years to reduce the denomination’s operating costs—from the elimination of positions to the combination of others, from early retirement options to reduced travel and operating costs.

In an email to staff in mid-May, Alemán announced the conclusion of Tiffany DeMyers’s work as the director of human resources, a position that is being eliminated due to budget constraints. DeMyers concluded her work on May 15 after 14 months on GSC staff.

On Thursday, Alemán announced the elimination of two more positions: director of diversity and belonging and director of church ministry, held by Rev. Jeremy Simpson and Rev. Sung Kim, respectively. Simpson will conclude his work on September 30; and Kim will do so on July 31.

Simpson has been on staff for 20 months; he began as a half-time supervisor of race relations and advocacy and became a full-time director last summer. Kim has been on staff for nearly six years in various capacities, working on leadership development, then as chief operating officer, and currently as director for church ministry.

Alemán told the GSC staff he made the budget decisions with a heavy heart because “some of our people that we love and care much about are losing their jobs,” and because the work these positions have supported is important.  

“Revitalization of our churches and living into our Revelation 7:9 vision are both very important and are central to our work,” says Alemán. “We are committed to this work. We just have to think differently about how we help churches and classes do it. Due to budget realities, we have to adopt new approaches to this work. I am confident we can still live out our values and fulfill the ends policies.”

Simpson’s position is not the only way the denomination supports its multiracial, multicultural future freed from racism. It also has a Commission on Race and Ethnicity (CORE) and four racial and ethnic councils: the African American Black Council, the Council for Pacific and Asian American Ministries, the Global Council for Hispanic Ministries, and the recently reconstituted Council for Native American and Indigenous Ministries. Additionally, online prayer gatherings focused on dismantling racism began several years ago and are largely volunteer-led. In 2022, General Synod adopted an antiracism policy recommended by CORE; several of the other assemblies, including the General Synod Council, have also adopted that policy. 

Beginning this fall, the racial and ethnic council coordinators will report directly to the chief ministry officer, moving them more centrally into the GSC staff structure.

“I hope that this will increase the collaboration over time, not only with the other racial and ethnic councils, but with the entire center staff team,” says Alemán. “I will also be asking for collaboration from our racial and ethnic councils to help meet the ends policies, and to see them more involved in this important work of antiracism and belonging in the Reformed Church in America. This is work they are already engaged in.”

Rev. Dr. Laura Osborne, coordinator for interreligious relations, will begin supporting the RCA’s network of disability advocates, as Simpson has done for the past year.

The newly appointed chief ministry officer, Rev. Hanoi Avila, will pick up the work and oversight of church ministry. Avila will directly work with classes (middle assemblies) and churches on revitalization, while also supervising the Center for Church Multiplication and Ministry.

Lastly, human resources needs will be met by a part-time manager instead of a director. Andrea Grooters, who has served in HR capacities for a number of years on GSC staff, has begun to fill this role, alongside her work in finance. Outside HR consultants will be brought in as needed.

“These necessary changes are made with the future in mind, aiming to sustain and strengthen our mission,” says Schmid. “We are hopeful and confident that together, we will continue to advance our ministry’s impact, embracing new opportunities with faith and optimism.”

Alemán also embraces confidence in spite of the difficult decisions.

“I believe that God is going to take us to a great place,” he says. “I have said this many, many times: we are about to turn the corner. I believe that our story in the next three or four years will be different.”

Will further cuts be made?

“We had been anticipating greater cuts at this stage, but a few recent developments helped out,” says Tazelaar.

Those developments included a $200,000 grant from the Church Growth Fund to support the work of revitalization in the center, additional staffing costs covered through existing grants from the Lilly Endowment, Inc, and rental income over the next six months from leasing vacant office space to the Christian Reformed Church in North America, whose staff will be moving into the Michigan Regional Center temporarily while their new building is under construction. 

“We have also evaluated every job vacancy and have combined or eliminated a number of positions over the last few years, which has helped significantly,” says Tazelaar. “Altogether, these developments mean we do not need to make more widespread cuts at this time.”

Schmid says that moving forward, there will be increased focus on bringing in more revenue to support the work that GSC staff is tasked with, recognizing that cuts can only be made so far before the work is too greatly impacted.