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Diocese of Connecticut cuts staff by 27 percent

Diocese of Connecticut cuts staff by 27 percent

A news release from the Diocese of Connecticut:

Diocesan staff reduction announced

Cuts are response to new financial and organizational realities

July 20, 2011


Effective today, July 20, six positions in total have been eliminated from the staff of Diocesan House, representing a 27 percent reduction in the number of staff serving in the offices of The Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut in Hartford.

The positions that have been eliminated are: Front Desk Receptionist; Production Manager; Missioner for Children & Adults; Missioner for Youth & Young Adults; Canon to the Ordinary; and Canon for Transition Ministry. Some of the duties previously assigned to the Canon to the Ordinary and Canon for Transition Ministry, particularly those related to the ordination process and parish deployment, will be combined into a new position of Canon for Mission Leadership. A nationwide search to fill the new position will be initiated as soon as possible. The position of Accounting Supervisor, vacated earlier this year through retirement, will not be filled and will also be eliminated.

The elimination of these positions means the departure of six faithful individuals representing 74 years of ministry and service to the communities and individuals of the Diocese of Connecticut.

“There is profound sadness in these cuts.” said Bishop Ian T. Douglas. “We are losing faithful and dedicated colleagues who have served us all so well for many decades. We need to pray for these fine sisters and brother who are losing their jobs in these difficult economic times. At the same time these cuts represent a loss of an ideal for what the Diocese of Connecticut has been. 20th century models of the Church with big diocesan staffs providing programs from a centralized office are not the way of the future.”

One impetus for these changes is an anticipated $1 million to $1.2 million reduction for the proposed 2012 diocesan-wide budget that will be decided upon by the Annual Diocesan Convention in October. The diocesan Program & Budget Committee (P & B), charged to develop a budget for convention, reviewed parish pledge cards and other anticipated revenue before making the reduced budget. Parish pledges account for about 92% of income for the convention’s budget. Currently fewer than 70 of the 172 parishes fulfill their pledge of 12.5% of their operating income as set by diocesan convention.

“For some time now the diocesan pledge system hasn’t worked,” said Bishop Douglas. “The majority of our parishes don’t participate at the 12.5% level. Those that do, do so at great cost to themselves, particularly when they draw down their endowments to meet their obligation. While we are thankful for the generosity of the parishes that do support the diocesan-wide budget, the current system is unsustainable.”

As a result the P & B Committee is working on a proposed 2012 budget that is 20 percent less than the 2011 budget. To meet this reduced budget, the committee began looking at the budget in new ways with an eye to a modified zero-based budget. While the committee was consulted in principle on the need to reduce staff, the specific position eliminations were the decision of the diocesan bishop in consultation with the bishops suffragan. The reduction in force represents a 23 percent cut in the cost of Diocesan House staff. As the budget process matures, additional staff adjustments may be necessary. Most other items in the proposed budget have also been reduced by 20 percent. An exception is the commitment to the budget of The Episcopal Church as determined by the Church’s triennial General Convention.

The anticipated drastic budget shortfall has invited deep reconsideration of the way the diocese is organized in much the same way that the upcoming retirement of Canon for Administration & Stewardship Jack Spaeth provided an initial opportunity to examine the structure of diocesan staffing and resources. That review has resulted in a reorganization of responsibilities and the creation of a new position, the Canon for Mission Collaboration.

“This is a time of incredible change and possibility,” said Bishop Douglas. “We’re being invited to consider how to be the Diocese of Connecticut in new ways for the 21st Century. Our 20th Century models of diocesan staffing are no longer appropriate to this networked age, nor are they financially sustainable. This reduction in force gives us a chance to respond creatively to the changing economic and organizational realities. We are being invited to re-imagine who we are as the Episcopal Church in Connecticut and how we will come together collaboratively to serve and extend God’s mission.”

In practical terms, the reduction in force and reorganization of diocesan staff will mean that when people call Diocesan House they will find notable changes and new ways of working.

“This is a time of significant transition and we need to develop new networks of response drawing on the incredible lay and ordained leadership across the Diocese,” said Bishop Douglas. “These changes are hopeful and right for the Diocese and for our Church today.

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Benedict Varnum

We just had a similar thing happen in the Diocese of Chicago. May God bless all those whose lives are affected by these changes — those whose work and ministry (in these roles) has ended, and the work that depended on their efforts and now must find a new shape. May clarity come soon to all those who yearn for it after a change like this.

It may (or may not) be that our church is walking into a new time of lay ministry less-defined by mimicking business or political structures, and more-defined by free-form, organic, self-organizing ministries made possible by the low thresholds that new media enable for many volunteers to come together, but I hope for grace for all those whose lives are disrupted by the turbulence of change along the way.

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