Annotated 2013-2015 proposed budget posted

From the Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs:

A commentary on the draft budget including a Foreword by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, commentary on the budget process, and a detailed triennial budget with line-by-line explanations have been posted. It’s now on the General Convention Budget and Diocesan Commitments page. The download link is here.

Promised for June 1 by Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, Chief Operating Officer Bishop Stacy Sauls and Treasurer to General Convention Kurt Barnes, the highly detailed items present a complete overview of the budget process, what happened, the current status of the proposed 2013-2015 budget, and addresses prevalent misunderstandings and misconceptions.

In addition to these three items, the posting includes a series of accompanying explanatory documents, including: the Churchwide Ministries Survey, the January 19 Alternative Budget Proposals, the January 29 Budget Revision, and the Executive Council’s April memo to the Joint Committee on Program, Budget & Finance, commonly known at PB&F.

“The proposed budget has been the source of much confusion, as Executive Council itself noted at its April meeting,” Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori states in the two-page Foreword. “Some do not believe the draft budget accurately reflects what Executive Council adopted on January 29, 2012. Some believe the process itself was not well-conceived and did not allow enough time for deliberation and care in what was presented. The document is, however, what we have to work with, and it is what Program, Budget & Finance has to consider.”

Noting that she has heard “first hand of the confusion and indeed frustration” about the recent budget process, the Presiding Bishop also points out, “Neither I nor anyone else has the authority to change the document itself, but I hope it may be helpful to have a detailed commentary that might, at least, make some explanations available and allow some things to be better understood.”

Comments (9)

The comments at the beginning the paragraph on page 14 entitled: "ECEC’s Work on the Budget between the October and January Meetings of Executive Council" seem a bit 'snarky'. Does anyone else think so?
'... neither included ... nor informed ...'
It makes one wonder what the real issues are.

Michael Hartney
Diocese of Rochester

Crusty Old Dean has some ripping comments.

From the Crusty Old Dean: "DEMAND that a TRANSITIONAL BUDGET be adopted for the 2013-2015 to fund more or less our current structures with equal across-the-board cuts. During this transition budget, allow for a churchwide discussion and consultation. Find ways to make it happen! Eliminate the across the Board 3% raises for the triennium. Postpone the $1 million in additional staff proposed. Make it work somehow."

There has been some good analysis of the budget brimming with understandable frustration. But many of them are based on the account released yesterday, in which everyone who participated in the process comes out looking bad except for the author and his boss. Such accounts are notoriously unreliable.

The whole budget and its underlying process is a great, stinking, festering crock of goo.

At this point, I'd say it's best to go one step further that Crusty Old Dean. Walk out of the convention, avoid a quorum, and refuse to let the thing go forward until sanity is restored to the process. I am not buying the whole, "Sorry, but this is what you have to work with," argument. This budget is worse than useless--it's damaging.

Eric Bonetti

A thousand pardons to COD.

Upon re-reading his blog, he recommends:

If not, then walk out and prevent a quorum necessary to pass this. In the end, if we stand by and do nothing to try to prevent this injustice from moving forward, we forfeit our rightful place as the DFMS and instead accept this dysfunction as normative. As Leviticus 19 tells us, if we see injustice, "you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself."

Go, COD!


I'm not an expert on budgets (I'm grateful that my wife is!). My eyes glaze over when I look at spreadsheets for too long, and I'm well aware that budgets are often compromises, possibly acceptable but never perfect. But it is increasingly clear that this process itself is broken. I don't know whether it's broken from ineptitude, corruption, or criminal negligence, but it's unacceptable.

What I find both annoying and highly objectionable is the Presiding Bishop's statement that no one can change the budget. I know that what she means is that at this point in the process no one can change the proposal that has been put forward. However the way in which she is quoted as saying this implies that the budget is a done deal and is the budget for the coming triennium, end of story.

But that's not true! The truth is that someone CAN change the budget, that being the bishops and deputies of the General Convention. And I hope to God they do because this budget is a disaster!

Brother Funston, the PB wrote, "Neither I nor anyone else has the authority to change the document itself at this stage;" and so said in the next paragraph what you knew she intended.

I have mixed feelings about this myself. However, my concerns gore a number of oxen, if you will. Should the Executive Council have undertaken a different budgeting process in the first place? Perhaps not; but then if we're so intent on doing things differently, a different process for budgeting seems a good place to start.

Should they have started by polling leaders in the Church instead of working with staff? Well, it's one way to prevent staff from getting into "defending turf." It's also a way to reconsider priorities - another step if we really want to do things differently.

Again, should the standards have included a commitment to subsidiarity, to having only those things done at the church-wide level that required church-wide support and consistency? In these days when all the civil rhetoric is "less government," that posture is at least not a surprise. Moreover, if we want our Church's governance to cost less, that seems an important question to raise. (Note here especially that I'm concerned: I'm not one committed to "less government," either in the civil realm or the Church. I'm still not surprised.) And, if we do plan a church-wide budget focused only on those things that require church-wide support, isn't it going to look heavily centered on the staff with church-wide responsibilities? After all, we've trusted everything else to be done by someone else.

I had my concerns about the survey. However, I'm appalled by a paltry 17% response rate - and that's certainly not the fault of the Executive Council or its Executive Committee. I did complete it; but I have to wonder what it says about our folks in leadership that so very few did.

Should the Executive Committee decided to plan expenditures as if dioceses gave only 15%, even as they planned with hope that dioceses would give 19%? Maybe not; but considering the experience at the parish level of pledge shortfalls, not to speak of those dioceses that just flat fail to support church-wide work, one could argue that it's only prudent. There is no doubt that it is more painful; but one could argue that it's really more responsible to take the pain up front, rather than extending it.

Above all else, it seems to me that the Executive Council tried to use a new budgeting process, that intended to focus not only on mission per se, but especially on what was required at the church-wide level, and reflected a broad perspective not only on what mission was called for but on what that church-wide staff was useful for. It was a new process, and well-meaning but sinful people (not unlike me, really) struggled with it, and we can argue it didn't work very well. It may not ever be worth using again. If so, it's our job in General Convention to say so, to make the changes that we can, and then get on with it. But, I can't fault the intent to try a new way, or to ask a broad group of leaders outside the Episcopal Church Center to participate. I can't fault a budget planned on conservative predictions of revenue, even if I find it sad. I can't fault folks who were trying to lead in an effort that it appeared everyone agreed on, and that most of us here agree with: reconfiguring the structures of the Episcopal Church in light of the trends we seem to face for the future. And I can't fault folks for making some honest mistakes - especially when they're honest enough to air dirty linen in public, like the phone pre-meeting of five of the eight members of ECEC (talk about transparency!); and especially when I don't know that I could have done any better.

Marshall Scott

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