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Diocesan support for church-wide budget varies widely

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.

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texasbishop

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.

Jim Naughton

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.

texasbishop

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.

Jared C. Cramer

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.

Jim Naughton

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.

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