The Program, Budget and Finance Committee, which is charged with delivering a budget to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church next week, has already begun its work here at convention. I don’t have much to report about it yet aside from the fact more bishops than I might have suspected would like to see the percentage of their budgets that they are expected to contribute to the wider church reduced from 19 percent to 15 percent.
I am not sure that is going to happen. Both the Executive Council’s budget and the budget document submitted by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori are based on a 19 percent asking.
Because I believe that the church is most likely to find its way forward if it encourages experimentation on the diocesan level, I favor keeping as much money as close to home as possible. But I wondered whether the original effort of those members of the Executive Committee would have required cutting too deep and too quick. I liked the idea of what a number of people have referred to as a “transitional budget,” one that would keep our church-wide organization healthy while we thought through the sort of organization we needed for our future.
I think Executive Council embraced that idea—advocated by the presiding bishop and the Bishop Sauls—but for reasons that I think were mostly beyond its control, came up with a bad budget that did not reflect it intentions.
The Presiding Bishop’s budget submission fixed some of the mistakes in the budget that was eventually released under Executive Council's name, most notably in restoring funding for Christian formation programs. But it did more than that. It used more than $5 million that Executive Council did not know would be available to initiate a few new programs. It includes $2 million in new money for church planting, and significant expenditures on a number of other programs that I am not going to enumerate here.
I think is it possible to argue on behalf of any of those expenditures. (Although I wonder about the wisdom of launching new initiatives that, to my knowledge, had never been publicly discussed until the presiding bishop sent her budget document to the Program Budget and Finance committee 10 days before the opening of General Convention.) But whether one likes the presiding bishop’s budget or not, I don’t think one can call it “transitional.” There is too much money spent on initiatives that are a) new and b) might require continued support, to warrant that name.
I am not a financial savant, but I wonder what a budget that stripped out or reduced the new spending the presiding bishop has proposed and put that money toward reducing the asking in this triennium would look like.