Executive Council disappointed

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UPDATED: MEMO to PB&F corrected copy.

Updated. The Executive Council of The Episcopal Church has completed its last meeting before General Convention. They issued this letter today:

A message from the Episcopal Church Executive Council

The Lord is Risen! Alleluia!

The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

In this joyous Easter season, Executive Council came together in Salt Lake City for its final meeting of this Triennium.

It has been a time of reflection on what we have done, and what we have left undone. It has been a time to ask whether we have loved our neighbors – Council members and Church Center staff; bishops, clergy and laity of The Episcopal Church; our sisters and brothers of the Anglican Communion; sisters and brothers who chose to leave The Episcopal Church; the poor, the needy and the oppressed – as ourselves.

Have we had enough strength and courage for this work, or have we at times shrunk from the need to stand up and say things that are not only hard to say, but hard to hear? Have we cherished collegiality more than accountability? Have we used our structure to empower one part of the church while disempowering another? Have we been able to overcome fear of the unknown as we face the challenges of being church in a post Christian world?

The Presiding Bishop spoke of this in her opening remarks: “We will be more faithful, and far more effective, in that discernment work if we can let go of suspicion, assumptions about others’ motives, and power politics – all of which are based in fear and scarcity. We do know that perfect love casts out fear, and when we can remember how deeply and completely love dwells within us, the fear does begin to recede.”

President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson said, “I want us to change. But I want us to do it responsibly, with a conceptual framework that will keep us from the unintended consequences that come from reactive decision-making. I want us to keep the decision making in the hands of all the baptized and not an elite few. “

Chief Operating Officer Bishop Stacy Sauls said in his opening remarks, “The conversation I long to have with you as the elected leadership of the Episcopal Church is not about the panic of our declining numbers but about how we strengthen what is working best out there and make what is strong stronger so that the strong can serve the less than strong. The conversation I long to have with you is not about how to get more people in the doors to help us pay the bills but about how to make more disciples of Jesus to go about changing the world into God’s dream for it.”

The opening plenary session began with a frank discussion of Council’s extreme disappointment with the budget that was sent to PB&F. Council members were very clear that their disappointment was not simply a reluctance to let go of the budget but instead a very clear statement that the budget sent to PB&F is not the budget Council approved. Rather than spend time assigning blame, Council members moved fairly quickly to a discussion of how to rectify the situation within the confines of the canons. On Friday, Council passed a memo outlining their concerns to PB&F.

The plenary discussion strengthened our realization that while we attempted to save money by having shorter Council meetings, the amount of work remained the same or expanded. The result has been longer days with tired and stressed Council members and staff, resulting in a greater chance of errors occurring.

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Having said that, we want to remind the Church that our work in this triennium involved much more than just the budget. Much of it is not as visible as the budget, but is structurally important, just as a lattice is often hard to see but is vital in supporting the vine as it grows toward the Light. This last meeting seemed an appropriate time to highlight the scope of our work.

The Committee on Local Mission and Ministry (LMM) was made up completely of new members of Council. This meant their initial task was discovering and developing the scope of their work. They decided that in addition to simply approving the continued funding of Jubilee Centers they would uphold and celebrate the work done by the various centers. At this meeting they celebrated the work of All Saints Cathedral on St. Thomas, whose work with elderly includes home visits, pastoral care, and work with grandchildren in after school care. LMM also spent a lot of time on multi-cultural issues with a particular focus on encouraging the whole church to engage in anti-racism work. This work calls the Church to continue, individually and corporately, to recognize, name and confront racism in all its guises.

In this meeting, Council’s anti-racism committee worked with members to focus on systemic racism. In our table discussions members recounted instances where they became aware of how racism permeates the world in which we live, move and have our being – most of us in positions of great privilege that insulate us from much of the destructive results of this sin and thus puts us in danger of being blind to its effect on those less privileged.

The report of the Committee on Advocacy and Networking around their work on issues of immigration led the Council into a heated and passionate discussion of how we tease out the differences between anti-racism training and diversity and inclusion training. Immigration includes more than issues of racism. How do we make space for people who come from other countries in our church? How do we broaden our conversation to address these issues without in any way lessening our commitment to the peculiar and dire necessity for anti-racism work in this church and in these United States? It is clear this will be an ongoing conversation in Council.

A and N working in collaboration with The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations has moved resolutions on Immigration Reform, Racial Profiling, and Corporate Social Responsibility. These resolutions empower local, regional, national and international advocacy on behalf of the disenfranchised and empower OGR to lobby on behalf of our shared values as Episcopalians in a conflicted, partisan environment on Capitol Hill. For example, one simple resolution on the moral dimensions of balanced budgets gave The Episcopal Church the ability to participate in a dominant national debate in a creative, visible, and influential way that would not have been possible absent the resolution.

The Joint Standing Committee on World Mission addressed many major areas of concern. It worked with the D020 Task Force that developed a process that allowed for the involvement of the church in responding to the Proposed Anglican Covenant through the preparation of a study guide. Collated responses from church leadership at all levels informed the report which is in the forthcoming Blue Book. The committee engaged in an on-going review of the funding source and distribution of funds for CETALC (Theological Educational Center of Latin America and the Caribbean). It followed the formation of a seminary for Latin America and the Caribbean, heard from missioners, especially the Young Adult Service Corps, and discussed ways of supporting future missionary efforts. After the successful Mutual Regional Ministry Conference in February 2010 that involved all the provinces of the Americas, the committee discussed plans for a future conference. The committee continued to evaluate the covenants The Episcopal Church has with our covenant partners in Mexico, Central America, Brazil, the Philippines and Liberia. Finally, the committee also received regular reports from Episcopal Relief and Development and worked with the “Rebuild Our Church in Haiti” campaign.

The Joint Standing Committee on Finance for Mission dealt with many issues beyond the budget. They continued consulting on funding for the Archives and tracked mission funding as well as the larger financial picture of the Church, including modifications of the budget on an annual basis and financial trends five to twenty years out. They also have examined the highest and best use of the Church Center property and reviewed the status of fundraising for Haiti.

In the absence of committee chair Del Glover, acting chair Tim Anderson asked COO Sauls to share with the entire Council his report on the proposed effort to create an Episcopal Church Cooperative. This involves providing high-quality professional service to dioceses, congregations and other Episcopal institutions at a lower cost than would be available to these individual institutions by making use of economies of scale and group purchasing power. This would leave additional funds for mission and ministry at the local level, thereby furthering the overall mission of the Church.

The Joint Standing Committee on Governance and Administration for Mission (GAM) was formed at the beginning of this triennium and quickly realized there was ample work to accomplish, which included a comprehensive review and revision of the By-laws of the Executive Council of the General Convention and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society; the creation of Rules of Order for the Executive Council; a revision of the Whistleblower Policy for the staff; a call for the GAM-009 Consultation on Church Structure held in May 2011; and the initiation of board development training for members of Council. At this meeting, the Council adopted a new DFMS Employee Handbook, human resources policies, and Policies for the Protection of Children & Youth from Abuse. The adoption of the Employee Handbook and policies represents an enormous amount of work on the part of the Executive Council and staff members John E. Colón, Paul Nix, and Bishop Stacy Sauls. John Colón, Director of Human Resource Management, was especially commended for his significant contribution and tireless devotion to the completion of this important project.

Wednesday night the Class of 2015 said farewell to the Class of 2012 with a lighthearted roast that revealed hitherto unknown talents of some of our members. The Class of 2012 was treated to an “EC Cruise” led by “Captain Gregory Straub,” who was played by a Council member who will remain unnamed to protect him from being besieged by talent scouts.

On Thursday Council heard reports from the Rt. Rev. James Cowan, bishop of British Columbia and liaison to Council from the Anglican Church of Canada, and from Lelanda Lee, elected representative from Council to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Bishop Cowan reminded us of the need to listen respectfully and deeply to one another and to “the many.”

He asked, “Where are the voices of prophecy in your midst? Personally, I as a bishop, need to remember that prophets are annoying as I seek to maintain an institution, but are necessary to reforming the institution.”

He also said he wants to take home with him the Council’s process of anti-racism training.

Lelanda Lee reported on attending a meeting last week, where for the first time, three other ELCA Full Communion Partners also were present from the Reformed Church in America, the Presbyterian Church USA, and the Southern Province of the Moravian Church. Lee noted that unlike the other ecumenical partners, she is the only layperson among them, a reflection of The Episcopal Church’s commitment to the ministry of the laity. Her point in sharing specific information from the ELCA meeting and these other churches was to highlight the fact that our churches share many concerns and trends in common.

Council also heard a comprehensive report from Elizabeth Lowell about work being done around creating a Development Office for The Episcopal Church. Major challenges include the time to do appropriate cultivation of possible donors; finding people who can ask for those major gifts, and obtaining most effective development software.

As that plenary session ended, in a moment of personal privilege one Council member mused – given current data on the number of people with no church affiliation – on what would happen if we all committed to spending as much time and money developing evangelism and stewardship skills as we do fundraising skills.

As always, we ended around the Lord’s Table, gathering not just for solace but also for strength, not just for pardon but also for renewal.

Council passed resolutions on the following topics:

• Declares Council’s support for Senate Bill 1670, End Racial Profiling Act of 2011, which is designed to enforce the constitutional right to equal protection of the laws by eliminating racial profiling through changing the policies and procedures underlying the practice, and stands in solidarity with the suffering of the victims of the harm caused by racial profiling, their families and their communities.

• Urges the Congress to adopt Senate Bill 1925 to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act that includes new protective measures for Native American women.

• States Council’s support of the work being done by Children’s Defense Fund’s “Cradle to Prison Pipeline” campaign and similar campaigns directed at breaking the cycle of disproportionate incarceration of children and youth of color targeted by Zero Tolerance rules.

• Reaffirms the importance of ongoing Anti-Racism Training for the church, and commits Council to participate in Anti-Racism Training at its regularly scheduled meetings on a periodic basis.

• Reaffirms the commitment of the church to the Rebuild Our Church in Haiti campaign, thanking the Episcopal Church Foundation for its early leadership in administering the campaign, which will now be part of the development effort of the DFMS staff.

• Recognizes a new companion diocese relationship between the Dioceses of Southeast Florida and Haiti.

• Reaffirms the Executive Council Committee on Indigenous Ministries, restating its mandate and committee composition.

• Reauthorizes the continuing Executive Council’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Economic Justice Loan Committee.

• Adopted some cleanup amendments to Council’s bylaws.

• Adopted a new Employee Handbook resulting from more than two years of intensive work on the part of the present Joint Standing Committee on Governance and Administration and the former Administration and Finance Committee.

• Addresses the need to plan for partnership conversations with Province IX, IARCA, and Mexico, so that such conversations might serve as model for other partnerships.

CORRECTED COPY UPDATED

Update: Here is a memo from The Executive Council to the Joint Committee on Program Budget and Finance that was discussed and approved by Executive Council at its meeting on April 20 in Salt Lake City, UT.

From: The Executive Council

To: The Joint Committee on Program Budget and Finance

Corrections to the Proposed Triennial Budget

We note with concern that the Proposed Draft Triennial Budget is not exactly the budget the Executive Council passed. There are potentially many explanations for the multiple errors in the document including:

Too many spreadsheets, too little time

The inability to keep up with the rapid discourse as the debate between a 15% and 19% ask continued through the final discussions on the last day of meeting

The scheduling of the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget & Finance’s first meeting the day after the February Council meeting, necessitating agreement by the Executive Council to a final document before the Treasurer’s Office had adequate time to draft the document for final review by Executive Council

In spite of best efforts, the result is a document that does not fully reflect Council’s work.

Below are some of Council’s concerns:

Formation and Vocation: Line 526 “Staff Costs” under Formation and Vocation reads $537,030 for the Triennium. Line 556 “Total Formation and Vocation” reads $286,438. Because none of the detail lines are completed, perhaps it is simply the memo line in 556 that is mistaken. Line 556 is a total of lines 527-555, not lines 480-527 as it currently reads. This will impact the bottom line.

Episcopal Service Corps: $200,000 – This item is currently subsumed under Mission Personnel in line 710. Council allotted $200,000 of new spending for the support of a local network in a covenant relationship. Episcopal Service Corps, which is an umbrella organization that supports young adult internship programs, throughout the church, was identified as the network to support in 2013-2015. Council’s thinking is that in each triennium this line will be shifted to a new organization with a new Memorandum of Understanding or a Covenant to provide ongoing support for emerging networks not originating with or from the General Convention or staffed by The Church Center.

The draft proposed budget is balanced at $104.9 million. However, there is an internal inconsistency related to the proposed Development Office. The amount proposed as income from unrestricted endowment, and therefore not from general operating expenses, for the proposed Development Office is $3.7 million. The amount proposed as expenditure is $2.5 million. If the two numbers are brought into alignment, either by decreasing income or increasing expense, then the budget will be unbalanced by about $1.2 million.

This Council has taken great care to receive accurate and even conservative projections of income for 2013-2015. It was difficult to make reductions resulting in cuts in programs the Council believes are extremely important. While difficult, it was the right thing to do in order to equip PB&F and General Convention to approach the formation of the budget of The Episcopal Church realistically.

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Michael Russell
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Michael Russell

The real problem in the budget is the size of the staff. Was there or was there not a directive by the EC to reduce staff? If not, why not? Why are only some of EC's concerns listed in the memo?

I am weary of hearing about nimbleness and adaptive change, but not seeing it in the budget. I was dismayed at the 09 GC with the way the budget was handled and am already more than dismayed at this run up to 2012.

I am far more sympathetic to math errors, those things happen, than I am to creating a budget that is out of touch with reality. Maintaining a centralized staff of the current size is unreal. So too is continuing programs that have little local impact. So too is sending money upstream to redisperse it downstream. So too is cutting programs from the central budget, but somehow not concomitantly cutting staff at the central level.

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