As the church moves towards General Convention 2012, the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council finished its second to last meeting with the adoption of a preliminary budget that asks each diocese for support of 19% rather than the 15% also proposed. The Executive Council message to the church indicates a hard working session as vision and programs were balanced with a shrinking base of money and members. It includes a possible funding of a special session of General Convention to re-structure governance.
President Anderson, in her closing remarks, raises the issue that regardless of our hopes that we continue to support a church that is dependent on an executive staff-driven model that no longer works in a era of the need for flexibility and grass roots initiatives.
Episcopal News Service reports:
The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council Jan. 29 approved a 2013-2015 draft budget that includes money meant to “open the door to doing long-term reform of how we do business as the church.”
Executive Council spent the majority of its Jan. 27-29 meeting here at the Conference Center at the Maritime Institute discussing the draft budget, alternating between discussing big-picture issues and negotiating specific line items. It also passed what Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori called a “highly significant” resolution expressing solidarity with the people of the Republic of Southern Sudan.
The draft budget represents $104.9 million in income from dioceses and investments plus other sources such as facilities rental, and an equal amount of expenses. It does not include the church’s refugee resettlement work, which is performed under government grants, according to Treasurer Kurt Barnes.
He said the draft budget is due to be posted here in the next few days.
The budget, which will not be final until General Convention acts in July, proposes to set aside money for a “churchwide consultation” on the Episcopal Church’s future shape and work. It also includes money for pilot projects that Chief Operating Officer Stacy Sauls said could show how the church’s purchasing and organizational power could help congregations and dioceses free up more of their resources for mission work.
The Executive Council message notes:
The draft budget for the 2013-2015 triennium overshadowed all the other Executive Council business at this meeting. The budget conversation began at the June 2011 Executive Council meeting, also held at the Maritime Institute, when members were challenged to “change the conversation,” to seek a way to take on the adaptive challenges facing all denominations in a post-Christian era of declining interest in the institutional church. The Joint Standing Committee on Finances for Mission (FFM) already had begun working with the treasurer in mid-2011 on a financial projection model and determined that the current spending model is unsustainable. At that time, it was pointed out that the chairs of Executive Council’s standing committees had previously not provided much input into the budget process. The Executive Council’s newly formed Executive Committee was charged with developing a process for the triennium budget that would challenge the church to new ways of engaging God’s mission.
A summary of resolutions is here.
President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson closing remarks noted her concerns about captivity to a model that is unsustainable:
We have worked hard and faithfully during this meeting, but I think the budget we have passed is captive to an ethic of survival of the institutional church as we know it. Here are my concerns:
I am concerned that the categories within the budget perpetuate the church’s continued reliance on an executive, staff-driven church. This model isn’t working for us, and it runs counter to the flexible networks that are being developed and embraced at other levels of the church and in the world. There are some glimmers of a future that is here, and for that, I am grateful.
If we keep relying on this old, bureaucratic model to run our church, we’re also continuing our reliance on the building at 815 Second Avenue that will cost us now up from $7.7 million dollars when I gave my opening remarks on Friday to $8.7 because of increased interest rates in facilities cost and debt repayment during the next triennium. If we continue to spend this kind of money on a building to house an executive structure, the only place we’ll be able to look for savings will be in areas that compromise the voices and leadership of clergy and laypeople in the church. That’s not faithful to our tradition as Episcopalians or to who I believe God is calling us to be.
The constraints of this meeting and our budget process have given us very little time to really understand this budget. This increases the high risk of unintended consequences.