The proposed budget to be presented to General Convention was released late this week. There are people across the church pouring over the details to see what has changed. Tom Ferguson, formerly the Ecumenical Officer for the Episcopal Church and presently the Dean of Bexley Hall Seminary points out that the changes he’s seeing indicate that the debate over whether or not the church needs to restructure may be moot. The proposed budget is already doing that.
Tom, who writes online as the “Crusty Old Dean” (a Simpson’s reference) makes his case:
“The numbers don’t lie. Income is down. Income has been down for more than a decade. When has the church ever decided to face this reality and call for a conversation about how to prioritize what we do and how we do it? The narrative to the budget, of course, speaks of a survey distributed to gain input. But this survey was on the level at which certain ministries and mission should take place, and not about the prioritization of what the church as a whole should be emphasizing. There’s a call for a churchwide consultation in the secondary budget narrative, and a line item for this in the budget. But the discussion will come after two successive General Conventions will have gutted our denominational ministries almost beyond recognition. And a churchwide consultation can always be ignored by the governing structures that in the end control the budgetary process. These are just a couple of flaws in the budget narrative that speak to the multiple flaws in the budgetary process.
This budget, like its predecessors, will be crafted by a small group of people and submitted to the church with eventually the only option being to adopt it or else. The budget will be tweaked, to be sure, and will again go through the prism of the pointless bickering between the PHOD and the PB and their various parties in the lead up to Convention. But the budget will still be presented for perfunctory approval by GC as part of the usual triennial budget presentation farce more becoming of a banana republic than this organization that supposedly enshrines democratic principle. Crusty Old Dean wouldn’t be a member of a parish where a small group of people came up with the budget and told the annual meeting to take or — well, take it because there is no other option. But yet that is what GC does, meeting after meeting.
We essentially are restructuring the church by de-funding program, without any discussion beyond appointed committees and unelected staff. This should sound familiar, because it’s exactly what we did in 2009, when an appointed, unelected, unaccountable Chief Operating Officer had more input into the budget than the entire General Convention as a whole. Crusty Old Dean thought it was wrong then and said so then.”