The Church’s Executive Council began work on the draft budget to be presented at General Convention next year at its most recent meeting last week. In this first draft, churchwide staff and the Council’s standing committees offered drafts of their desired spending plans and then council began to work on it with goal of presenting a balanced budget to General Convention. This first draft, if all of those spending plans were approved, would represent an $8 million deficit over expected revenues, even though those revenues are anticipated to increase by $3.7 million over the last budget (2016-2018).
There are clearly some difficult choices to be made to get to a balanced budget. This working draft proposes a 41% reduction in spending on support for planting churches. In this working draft, funds for evangelism would go from the $5.9 million allocated in the 2016-18 budget to $3.5 million. Despite being one of the church’s stated priorities, evangelism accounts for only 2.6% of the budget.
According to ENS, The Very Rev. Brian Baker, a FFM member (Joint Standing Committee on Finances for Mission), argued that the church’s recent effort to plant new churches is working. “This is the first time in my 27 years as a priest that the Episcopal Church is finally doing evangelism. We are planting new churches,” he said, noting that more than 50 new ministries had recently been started. “We got this seed money of a few million dollars to see if we could do it and we’re doing it.”
The church planting efforts approved by the 2015 convention are “one of the solutions to the dire statistics that we’re always faced with,” Baker said. “I’m asking all of the other committees to look at your budgets and see how can we support this piece of what the Episcopal Church has been trying to solve for so long.”
The three priorities of the church have been identified as evangelism, racial justice and reconciliation, and creation care. All told, these “priorities” account for less than 10% of planned spending, with spending on racial reconciliation budgeted to remain the same at just about $9.4 million while creation care would see a small increase to $740,000 from the current triennium’s $650,000.
The draft coming out of this meeting is expected to be posted soon for further review and analysis.