Diocesan support for church-wide budget varies widely

Almost 100 of the 109 dioceses in the Episcopal Church have made their pledges of support to the General Convention budget, and an interesting pattern continues.

• Only about half of the dioceses in the church give the 19% that the general church requests.

• About 40 percent of dioceses give less than 15 percent, the reduced asking rate proposed (but defeated) by member of Executive Council who want to keep more of the church’s money on the diocesan level.

• At least 17 dioceses will give less than 10 percent of their annual income to the general church.

(The numbers for 2010 and 2011 are here. The numbers under discussion in this article are not in one single location online, but have been gleaned from diocesan budgets and others reports.)

These numbers indicate that many dioceses can’t or won’t support the general church budget at the rate that General Convention requests, and that reducing the asking that the general church requests to 15 percent of diocesan income will have no effect on the budget of 40 percent of the church’s dioceses.

The dioceses that give ten percent or less include the Diocese of Springfield, which will contribute less than 2% of its $711,000 budget to the wider church next year, and the Diocese of Bethlehem, which will give 5.8% of its $1.2 million budget.

The “less than 10” contingent also includes dioceses that have all but stopped supporting the general church for theological reasons (Dallas, which hasn’t given a penny for years; South Carolina and Central Florida).

But some dioceses with significant budgets offer less than significant financial support to the budget of the general church. These include New York (10.8% on $5.5m), New Jersey (9.4% on $3.3m), West Texas (3.3% on $4.1m), Pennsylvania (3.3% on $4.5m) and the Diocese of Texas, the granddaddy of them all, which gives 5% of a $7.9 million budget to the general church—and which is hosting the House of Bishops Meeting that begins tomorrow at its camp and conference center.

These numbers raise challenging structural questions that have not received much attention in a budge debate that, thus far, has focused almost entirely on cuts to the Christian formation budget:

If a diocese can’t afford to support the budget of the general church at some minimum level (5%? 7? 10?) can it afford to sustain itself? If a wealthy diocese won’t support the general church at or near the asking, should it be penalized in some way? Or, should all dioceses follow the example of the those who make small contributions and keep their money close to home?

I don’t want to suggest answers to these questions. I do want to suggest that one can’t necessarily blame Executive Council or the staff at the Church Center if dioceses that are too small or too financially strapped to support themselves will not entertain the possibility of a merger. Nor does the fault reside with the Presiding Bishop or the President of the House of Deputies when dioceses with significant budgets don’t contribute their fair share to the budget of the general church.

Comments (12)

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked....unless you disagree with your church's positions.

So, why haven't the bishops in South Carolina, Dallas and Central Florida been removed if they refuse to support the mission of the greater church? Why do we keep playing this silly game, especially with South Carolina?

Morris Post

Thank you so much for doing this analysis! The revenue side of the DFMS 2013-2015 budget is really where the rubber meets the road. It makes no sense to me that we have a 19% "asking," and no consequences for giving less than the full asking.

Morris

To simply answer your question technically, there is no clear enforcement mechanism to compel either dioceses to pay the asking or hold their bishops accountable.

This is similar in some ways to a number of dioceses having no canonical enforcement for congregational assessments.

Whether the asking ought to be made compulsory is an entirely different matter, but I think the first task is for the Church as a whole to get a better handle on its shared sense of mission, which will require intensive engagement. So much in our way of doing "ecclesiastical business" depends on invitation and inspiration rather than compulsion.

Coming at this from another angle, I take your point. We have often been empowering the voices and shenanigans of bodies in the Church that have no "skin in the game." While compulsion may not be desirable (let alone possible), I do often wonder why we feel the need to bend over so far to accommodate those who have already withdrawn their stakes.

It reminds me of the fascinating phenomenon that frequently the ones who complain the loudest at the parochial level are the ones who give the least -- if at all!

There are many issues at play here. Speaking for NJ, we reduced our giving to the national church to a tithe, so I'm not sure why the figure is 9.3%. The reasons were totally financial, and based on the reality that we already run a very lean operation. At this point, we either gut all diocesan programs or simply have a bishop and a secretary for 160+ congregations in order to pay 19%. That doesn't seem very helpful for the Kingdom.

Also, how can a Bishop be held accountable for diocesan giving when Convention votes the budget? I know our bishop wanted the 19% (and refused to hire an Assisting Bishop in a previous years in order to avoid cutting the national church).

More deeply - if the tithe is the standard of Christian giving, why does the national church get 19% or 15% or the diocese more than 10% (in many cases)? What is the purpose of that? Is our mission as a church primarily directed by the national church and then funded accordingly so Dioceses are satellite offices? Or is the Diocese the fundamental locus for ministry?

I think you have to look at what's going on on the ground and see how each constituent unit is seeking to be faithful to the Gospel, where they are in the growth/decline cycles, and what potential there is for that community before deciding to use financial giving as the trigger for determining closure/merger/ punitive actions, etc.

Dirk

I think this is an interesting Lead topic.  There are two parts to this I think are in need of thoughtful perspective.
 
The first part is that there are a couple of pieces of information that don’t seem to me to accurately portray the situation.   
 
First only 39 of the 110 diocese give close to or their full “asking” according to the chart.  That is way below “half” which was what was stated.  Moreover, these dioceses that make up the 65% are across the whole of the theological spectrum so the idea that they unanimously agree on an issue and are responding by not giving is a misleading notion.
 
Second: this statement is presented as fact, “These numbers indicate that many dioceses can’t or won’t support the general church budget at the rate that General Convention requests, and that reducing the asking that the general church requests to 15 percent of diocesan income will have no effect on the budget of 40 percent of the church’s dioceses.”  That is not fact.  That is actually only one possible future among many possibilities.  We in the Diocese of Texas recently lowered our asking and this year more people increased their giving and their support to TEC.  Such a response is one possible future for TEC if the asking was lowered.
 
Third:  this statement is not accurate.  “But some dioceses with significant budgets offer less than significant financial support to the budget of the general church. These include New York (10.8% on $5.5m), New Jersey (9.4% on $3.3m), West Texas (3.3% on $4.1m), Pennsylvania (3.3% on $4.5m) and the Diocese of Texas, the granddaddy of them all, which gives 5% of a $7.9 million budget to the general church—and which is hosting the House of Bishops Meeting that begins tomorrow at its camp and conference center.”  I would say that everyone would agree that amounts of money over $400,000 or 1.5 million over 3 years is a “significant” amount of money.  Moreover, three of the dioceses noted, if combined, give 7% of the total annual budget of TEC; which simply put is significant.  Moreover, some of those dioceses contribute in other ways as well.
 
On the second part, as the Bishop of the “Granddaddy Diocese,” let me say that I believe that every diocese that does not give their full "asking" from the General Convention should be ready and able to say why it gives what it gives and be ready to accept the consequences.  I know that I am frequently asked as bishop of Texas to explain and I am perfectly willing to do so.   In our diocese there are consequences for a church that does not give their full assessment after 5 years.  Diocesan council may vote to disallow seating at our meeting.  Such a change if made today would affect 65% of our dioceses if we applied this to the General Convention.
 
I appreciate Jim’s final statements about this not being the Executive Council’s fault, or the P.B.’s fault.  He is correct. It is all of our responsibility.
 
I would argue that the Lead comes at this from the same old perspective.   It is the same discussion we have been having for years.  It is one that believes if we just had enough money we would be ok.  If the system we have would work everything would be alright.  The system we have is working in our current culture the way it is meant to work.  It is a system that assumes everyone gives and that huge national organizations are key to the heartbeat of a church.  Today our Episcopal Church is undergoing a tremendous amount of change and a new economy is being formed.
 
We are no longer living in a culture where the top of the organization is the heartbeat, rather we are moving into a culture where the heartbeat of mission emanates from the local congregation out into the world at the grass roots level.  Where dollars are needed is on the front lines of mission and in an era where we can trust that people are doing good work; as opposed to being suspicious of their motives.  People on the front lines of mission know more about how to do things that people at the top; this is a difficult notion to accept in a typically top down organization. Listening and empowering the local community is difficult to do when it threatens the highest echelons of power.
 
Every business piece I read speaks about leaving as much cash in the local operational level.  Everyone is trying to streamline large top heavy organizations. Everyone is looking to network and share the exciting creative work that is happening in the field.  This is where the dollars need to be.

Today our organization is spending over 4 million dollars at the TEC level per General Convention. That number does not include the cost each diocese will divert out of their annual resources to send deputies and bishops. Nor does it include the cost to institutions and organizations that will send representatives and rent booth space.
 
At the end of the day the Gospel is shared more through discipling and formation efforts between two and three people gathered together in their local environment. Every part of our organization needs to be at work at that level.  We cannot hide from our responsibility to be held accountable for this amount of costly governance.
 
Asking: how an organization with 65% of the diocese not funding their full asking from the General Convention can improve its collections is just not going to fix what is wrong with our church. 

Asking how do we get 100% of our congregations and dioceses into missionary initiatives, sharing the Gospel of Salvation, and the uniqueness of God in Christ Jesus is the better question.  Asking how to trim costly governance for the sake of mission is the a better question. Asking how best the organization can trim every dollar so that it can be left in the congregation is paramount to being an organization that has excellency in stewardship as one of its primary goals. These are the right questions.  Moving beyond “issue” giving and into missionary support must be our common agenda; all for the sake of Gospel in the missionary field.
 
Andrew Doyle (~ed. added signature)

I am in an airport, so more later. But regarding these three things that the bishop alleges are not accurate:

1. The reference to about half the dioceses giving full asking pertains to the 2012 asking, not the 2011 asking. I have that information in front of me, and it is correct.

2. I think it is a stretch to argue that people in dioceses that give less than 15% of income to the general church will suddenly start contributing directly to the general church or will increase their giving to their dioceses if the general church revises its asking to a figure that is still more than their dioceses is currently contributing. For them, this is codifying the status quo.

The third statement you say is not correct is a quibble over a word. Texas gives a lot of money, but a small percent. It does not contribute a "significant" percentage of its income. Especially in comparison to some small and cash strapped dioceses.

Also, I can't speak for others at The Lead, but I don't think things will be all right if we just improved collections. No straw men please.

If an across the board 19% asking is in some ways unjust for some diocese, large or small, we need to change the way we draw income at the national level. We should move either to a lower percentage everyone can support as fair, a tiered system of progressive giving, or a flat dollar amount regardless of diocesan size. The idea that we have an asking but that it has nothing to do with what is actually given in many dioceses simply boggles my mind. In our Diocese we have moved from voluntary giving to an apportionment system and though it has been a difficult road over the past several years, our diocese is now financially stable for the first time in years and——shocker——our fully funded diocese is now able to engage in creative and vibrant ministry across Western Michigan.

Sure, just raising the collections won't solve the problems of the church. But moving to a system that is coherent, one that is actually followed throughout the church would help.

And I absolutely reject the idea that trimming "costly governance for the sake of mission" is what is going on in this proposed budget. "Costly governance" can indeed be a part of mission, it can support and engage and equip mission, as Bishop Doyle certainly knows.

This budget slashes Youth and Young Adult Ministries, it cuts our work in Appalachian ministries and in areas with First Nations. Particularly frustrating for me is that it cuts our ecumenical ministries budget by a third. Ecumenical ministries is already down significantly. The staff trying to support it are entirely overworked and our voice is increasingly absent from important ecumenical conversations. I'm currently THE ONLY representative from the Episcopal Church at the National Council of Churches Faith and Order Commission. This Commission has three study groups in this quadrennium and so I simply had to pick the one our voice would be heard in. Ecumenical ministries are essential to the future of our church. Documents like "Called to Common Mission" created abilities to coordinate with our Lutheran colleagues, supporting local ministry and furthering the reconciliation of Christianity. This is not costly governance. It is mission and ministry and it should be an essential part of the life of our church.

Rant ended.

I am not defending Texas. I am holding us all accountable; including TEC. And, I am simply asking: How do we defend the exorbitant cost of our governance at General Convention, CCABs, and structure while we cut formation and mission?

The answer that we make to this question will be that for which our generation of leaders will be judged. And, upon which the very health of our mission rests.

Fair question, Bishop Doyle. But why focus only on General Convention when there are far larger cost centers in the budget. Let's review them all, not just the ones that make it possible for clergy and lay people to participate in governing the general church.

Amen to that! The only reason i was particularly focussed is the topic of the article. I find that every diocese and their leadership are evaluating these questions. And, we are all in need of thoughtful reform.

Dear Bp Doyle - please sign your name when commenting at the Café. ~ed.

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