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Bishop Sauls’ proposal, III: reducing overhead

Bishop Sauls’ proposal, III: reducing overhead

In his presentation on reforming the structures of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Stacy Sauls argues that our overhead is too high. He suggests several way to reduce it, giving particular attention to the cost of the General Convention, and the various bodies that either help to govern the church or prepare resolutions when the convention is not in session. He identifies certain savings that could be realized by having fewer interim bodies, and having the convention meet less frequently.

Leaving aside the issue of whether this would diminish the ability of clergy and lay people to participate in the governance of the church for another time, let’s examine together the virtues of this and two other ways of reducing overhead, and ask which methods, or combination of methods might work best.

One fairly obvious means of reducing overhead not discussed in Bishop Sauls’ proposal, would be merging small dioceses into larger ones. This would not only reduce the size of General Convention, and, eventually, the House of Bishops, but could potentially reduce the overhead of the combined dioceses, which would no longer have to support two diocesan bishops, and two staffs.

The church could also save money by reducing the size of the staff housed at 815 Second Avenue in New York, selling the building and renting cheaper office space. $4 million a year seems like a high price to house a staff that I don’t think numbers more than 150 at most.

Each of these methods would change the nature of the church in some measure—at least in some locations. Each gores a different ox. The only oxen gored–by name–in Bishop Sauls’ proposal are the General Convention and interim bodies as currently configured. I think it is worth expanding the conversation for two reasons: 1) to arrive at the best solution, and 2) to make sure that everyone likely to be making decisions on this matter demonstrates their good intentions by putting their self-interest at risk.


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Malcolm, it is true that retired bishops do continue to have seat and voice in the House. However, in most cases they attend at their own expense, and not at the expense of a diocese. So, many do not attend, for reasons of health or expense. Some money would be saved in arrangements, but not, perhaps, as much as expected.

Related is the issue of whether retired bishops continue to have vote in the House, and we’ve gone back and forth on that. Sometimes the retired bishops have been more progressive than active bishops; and sometimes the opposite. That, too, would, I imagine, be part of the discussion of restructuring the Church.

Marshall Scott

Jeffri Harre

One of the things that seriously needs to be considered is WHAT is the purpose for reconfiguring the structure or governance of the church. Reducing overhead expenses is one thing. Building an organization that is more responsive to a mission outlook is another. Doing both together? Possible, but a bit more complicated. Before doing any kind of restructuring/reorganizing we need to be very clear about what we’re doing it for.

Malcolm French+

I understand that retired / resigned bishops (and in some cases assistant bishops arrived from outside TEC) continue as members of your Huse of Bishops until either death, deposition or the renunciation of their orders. To this Canadian, it seems bizarre beyond words. Some money would be saved by reducing the House of Bishops to serving diocesans, suffragans and coadjutors.

Canon K F KKing Tssf

Years ago, with the illness of our ID bishop, representatives of UT, ID and EOR wrestled with merger possibilities. Distances and market centers got in the way. Travel would have been long and lay persons would have found THAT a deep concern; jurisdictional loyalty would not have been as great.


Regarding the merger of diocese, I think part of our problem, as Issac above is alluding to, is that we have too few diocese, not too many. Because in many diocese, the bishop is a faraway person whose impact onthe congregation is minimal. Perhaps many of the functions of diocese could be transferred to Provinces (what do they do anyway?) to better enable sharing of resources.

As to moving the Church Center, I’ve often thought that Manhattan might not be the most cost-effective place to be. But I can see advantages in things ease of travel and access tot things like the UN. Nonetheless, its probably worth taking a good hard look at it again.

And finally, why do the HoD have to be physically in the same place to do legislative business? Why not seperate the legislative from the getting together; have a convention every 6 years, and with online legislative meetings every 2 or 3 years?

Jon White

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