After attending the February meeting of the Executive Council The Rev. Susan Snook writes in her blog:
Each morning at an Executive Council meeting, we begin with prayers and meditation on a Bible passage. At my table last week, during our discussion of one passage, a member said that every time he stands up to preach, or to lead a church group or meeting, he says to himself, “I hope this is about Jesus.”
It’s a good way to think about what Council does. All the minutiae of budgets, by-laws, and boards – tiresome as it can be, I hope it’s about Jesus. And surely it is. The way we use our resources, organize ourselves to make decisions, and argue and advocate for different positions, may be complex. But in the end, if all that politics helps us to advance the mission of Jesus, it’s all worth it. I hope.
I had a few more questions about the MOU, which I shared with Steve privately and in Council session. My basic concern is that parts of the MOU can be interpreted in a way that allows Episcopal Church leadership (however that is defined) to create granting criteria for the UTO, and I do not believe it is Council’s intention to impose our judgment (or the staff’s) on the UTO. Steve assured me that that was not the intention, that everyone understands that the process would be: (1) the UTO creates granting criteria and proposes them to Council; (2) Council ratifies them in our usual rubber-stamp manner when given a proposal that others have labored hard over; (3) UTO goes away and does the work to determine grant recipients; (4) Council approves their grant requests (again, a rubber stamp in every situation I am aware of). Steve also assured me that the MOU (unlike by-laws) is not a legal document, but one that will continue to evolve and be modified, and that my concerns will be taken into account as the MOU is corrected and changed over the next few months.
For the record, I voted in favor of the new by-laws, because as I said above, they are simply innocuous. I voted against the MOU, because I would rather have a “fully evolved” and clear understanding of the process in any MOU that is adopted.
Re: Relocation of the Church Center (Snook serves on the committee charged with this resolution:
There are two separate and interrelated questions involved here. First, if we are going to move, where should we go and what is our vision for a reconstituted Church Center (or similar creature by another name)? Second, what should we do with the real estate asset that we leave behind? We are making some progress on both of these questions, though they are large and complex questions that cannot be answered quickly. I can’t say much about what we are doing in response to the second question, because these deliberations are confidential due to real estate valuation considerations. But please believe me that we are progressing well on the real estate question.
Current budget – more income, more for Anglican Communion, the racial reconciliation officer, and digitization of the Archives:
…we expect to receive $885,000 more per year in 2014 and 2015 than budgeted, mostly due to better than expected collections from two large dioceses. At our October meeting, Council agreed to use $258,000 to fund a new racial reconciliation officer. At the February meeting, we agreed to use $150,000 to fund a critically needed digitization project at the Archives.
In addition, we expect to use $312,000 in 2015 to support the Anglican Communion Office, in response to a request from the Presiding Bishop. If approved, this will raise our ACO commitment from $700,000 for the triennium to $1,012,000.
…I don’t think the Development Office should be funded from the endowment. If the office were raising funds for the endowment, this might be appropriate, but they are not. They are raising funds for projects like Haiti and Navajoland – critical needs, but operating, not endowment needs. We need to find ways to fund this office from operations.
Next Triennium budget:
One of the most important responsibilities of Executive Council is to propose a budget to the next General Convention. The last two triennia, it has been a fiasco. Without rehearsing those prior failures, I can say that I came into Council determined that we should not repeat them. I was promptly appointed the chair of the Budget Process subcommittee, which has been working almost since the beginning of this triennium to put together the 2015 budget proposal. We hope that this will be a document that embodies a true, inspiring, vision for the church.
….At our June meeting we will take up the question of revenue: how much should we be asking our dioceses to pay toward support of The Episcopal Church? We currently ask 19%, but diocesan compliance with this rate varies widely, giving rise to much resentment on the part of dioceses that pay the full rate toward those that do not. In my opinion, 19% is too high, and poses an unfair burden on the dedicated dioceses that pay full freight. I believe we should lower the asking rate, though it will result in millions of dollars of reduction in TEC revenues. A lower asking will allow more money to stay in local hands, where it will contribute to mission in important and tangible ways.
….At the June meeting, Council will be requested to make a decision on the revenue question, so this is the time to begin making noise if you have an opinion on the subject!
General Convention 2018 and “askings” Should we move to assessments and penalties?
Should we be holding Convention in a diocese that does not meet its full obligations? The answer the Planning Committee gave was that they have received assurances that Texas will be increasing their payment to full compliance before 2018. After receiving this assurance, Council voted to approve Austin as the 2018 Convention site.
Hoping it’s about Jesus:
I have to say that attending Council is both an exhilarating and an exhausting experience. We work hard to get a huge amount of work done in a few too-short days. We do the best we can to make wise decisions in the face of a lot of time pressure and a lot of uncertainty. Sometimes it all seems very institutional and bureaucratic, and it is. But we are ultimately doing the best we can to steer a very large ship in the direction of God’s mission. In the end, I hope it’s all about Jesus.
Read Susan Snook’s full report for more details.