GC2009: Episcopal Church Finance Woes Plague Budget
By Michael Heidt
Only twenty-eight of The Episcopal Church's one hundred and ten dioceses have committed themselves to paying the full assessment, or "giving", asked by the Church. This, along with high infrastructure and mission demands, has caused a budgetary shortfall of approximately $14 million dollars.
Most of The Episcopal Church's triennial income in the draft 2010-2012 budget comes from diocesan giving, amounting to $96.6 million out of a total expenditure of $161.8 million. According to the Episcopal News Service, twenty eight dioceses have reported themselves able to pay the recommended 21% of their income as suggested by The Episcopal Church. Six more are paying slightly more, and twenty-six dioceses haven't filed a report of income at all. This leaves sixty dioceses; just under half of TEC's total, unable to pay their full assessment.
In many dioceses the fiscal situation is grim; Bishop Stacy Sauls of Lexington, Kentucky, speaks for many, stating that lack of funds "would choke the life out of 63% of our congregations, which serve 27% of our people." Bishop Scruton of the Diocese of Western Massachusetts tells a similar story, "The diocesan endowment income that supports half of our diocesan budget has also diminished. As a result of all these factors, we will need to cut $200,000 out of the balanced Diocesan budget approved by our Convention last October."
The economic downturn has inevitably led to lower rates of giving. To reverse this negative trend, the Program, Budget and Finance Committee (PBF) are proposing to reduce the amount of money asked for in assessment. The House of Bishops has also taken action, passing resolution B018, which calls on the PBF to halve the budget interim meetings of committees and commissions for the next three years leading up to the next General Convention. The Bishops want the money saved to be redirected to mission work, such as supporting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
The $161.8 million budget has five "missional" priorities as resolved by the Church's Executive Committee in June and endorsed by the Convention. They are:
Doing Justice and Alleviating Poverty Claiming Our Identity Growing Congregations Strengthening Governance and Foundations for Mission Promoting Anglican Partnerships
These priorities, which include work in The Episcopal Church's non-domestic dioceses and "covenant partners" (Brazil, IARCA, Mexico, Philippines, and Liberia), go hand in hand with heavy structural commitments, such as the Convention itself.
The 2010-2012 draft budget projects a total triennial expenditure for the General Convention at $14,620,998, or 9% of all costs incurred by the Church. The Office of the Presiding Bishop isn't cheap either, costing $9,831,035 over three years. Neither are lawyer's fees, which are mounting exponentially in the face of increasing litigation against parishes, dioceses and individuals who have left the numerically declining Episcopal Church. These are unlisted in the budget and will continue to be, thanks to a resolution for transparency being soundly defeated in the House of Deputies.
Thanks to declining diocesan revenue, and rising costs, to say nothing of the current economic downturn, the budget will have to be cut by reducing mission priorities and structure. To address this crisis, the budget will be presented to a joint session of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies this afternoon. It remains to be seen how a Church, which is losing approximately 1000 members weekly, and now looks set to embroil itself in further controversy over homosexual advocacy, will be able to fund its budgetary objectives.
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