5/07/2009

Money: The Ghost in the Machine.

In the past twenty-four hours the matter of money and its place in the workings of the Anglican Communion has come up several times. Perhaps we should look at the money issue.

The first mention is straightforward. The Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council, Canon Kearon.
ENS reported,

"ACC begins budget consideration

Anglican Communion Secretary General Kenneth Kearon told the council that it will be asked to request a 10 percent increase in the triennial contribution of the member provinces. Kearon noted, however, that few provinces met a similar request made by the ACC during its last meeting in 2005.

"As a result ACC struggled to balance its [budget] in 2006 and 2007," according to a handout outlining Kearon's presentation. The handout noted that the effort was "not helped by the continuing strength of the pound sterling against the U.S. dollar."

Bishop John Paterson of Auckland, New Zealand, who chairs the ACC, had noted late last week that the cost of the Kingston meeting has also been affected by currency fluctuations and would have been much cheaper four months ago. The nearly $500,000 cost of the meeting is covered, however, Paterson said.

According to a list of provincial contributions asked and received, the Episcopal Church is the second-largest giver to the ACC behind the Church of England. Together the two churches paid the ACC 768,903 pounds sterling of the nearly 1.2 million it received.

Kearon also noted that the Province of Hong Kong recently forgave a 500,000 pound loan that helped with the remodeling of the communion's London headquarters. "It's one of the biggest gifts we have ever received," he said, noting that it came from one of the numerically smallest provinces."

There are several things to note:

(i) The ACC asked for an increase of 10% following its last meeting. It is asking for a further 10% at this meeting. That means that in three years and a bit the asking has increased 21%. Given the increased costs, the number of additional meetings of various groups - the Covenant Design Group, the Windsor Continuation Group, etc - it is no wonder the
costs have risen.

(ii) The Church of England and The Episcopal Church contribute roughly 65% of the total Anglican Communion budget. In the proposed budget for 2010-12 the budget line item for the Inter-Anglican Budget/ Secretariat is 600,000 per year for three years - $1,800,000 for the Triennium. This does not include, as far as I know, the 10% increase in asking.

(iii) The income for the Anglican Communion includes additional funds - such as the forgiven debt from the Province of Hong Kong, grants from various agencies, and things like the
Compass Rose Society.

The m
onies to underwrite the Anglican Communion budget is such that five Churches - TEC, the CoE, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Church of Australia and The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia pay for roughly 80% of the Anglican Communion expenses.

These same churches are represented at ACC by 16 persons out of roughly 75 people, or 22% of the attending members. That is to say, the funding is inversely proportional to the membership. The stresses this places on the o
rganization is very real, for although Christians know better in their heart of hearts, "money, money, money makes the world go 'round," or at least it seems to.

The fact that at least 6 representatives of these 16 represent Churches that are considered by many of the rest as "the problem" only adds to the stress. The Elephant in the room #1 is the fact that were TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada and any one of the remaining three to be expelled or seriously placed in second class citizenship, the ACC as it currently organizes itself would collapse.

There has been a genuine commitment to working aroun
d this problem. TEC and ACoC did not withdraw support when their representatives were asked to not take part in the last ACC meeting. Indeed I believe both churches provided the funding increases asked. While several provinces have castigated TEC and ACoC as un-Godly no spokes-person for either has returned the favor, nor have they suggested that their critics are meeting on their dime.

On a related matter, Bishop Anis, Presiding Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East made a comment picked up by ENS HERE.

"(Bishop) Anis also warned the council about "another dimension" to the Listening Process. He said "several people," including at least one bishop, have told him that they do not disapprove of people with a homosexual orientation, but that they disapprove of homosexual practice because they know it is against Scripture. However, Anis said, they can't say so because their dioceses are "dependent on the donations that come from the west."

Bishop Anis has put the second Elephant in the room - Elephant #2: Some dioceses that want to support homosexual persons but not homosexual practice don't say so because of financial dependency and constraint. He raised this problem in the context of a conversation about the "Listening Process." the purpose of which is to commit ourselves (the Anglican Communion) to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ." (Lambeth 1998, 1.10)

Now eleven years later the listening process is still wallowing in the doldrums, or at least is moving very slowly.

Churches that have been dependent on funding have often restrained from making comments that they think the donors do not wish to hear and alternately have made comments that they think would be well received. Most of such restraint and promotion happen without real testing. No doubt there are occasions when money was not granted because something about the work, opinions, attitudes, etc of the receiving church upset potential donors. No doubt there are occasions when the numbers, influence, size and importance of churches has been exaggerated in order to show donors that success is real or if not that close at hand. Sometimes indeed "Money, money, money makes the world go 'round."

But there are many occasions - most I would warrant - when genuine and honest sharing among the churches has happened and when support has not been based on agreement
with the donor churches or on saying what the donor wants to hear.

Still, if Bishop Anis felt it necessary to name the elephant in the room as money, there it is. The question is, when will the ACC community, or the wider listening process, or indeed the future of the Communion get honest about that most difficult of topics?

It will be difficult to sell a 10% increase in support for the Inter-Anglican budget to General Convention if it is perceived that the "Instruments of Communion" have determined that TEC is a 'second tier' member of the Communion because it does not limit its actions to the gracious restraint demanded by various pronouncements and resolutions from the ACC or Primates or worse yet the Joint Standing Committee of Primates and ACC.

It will be difficult to trust the numbers or the success stories when they are gauged to impress or overpower the donor churches.

The money goes round...and where it rules the environment crumbles. The money is just money: it doesn't have to be given or received as with conditions or tainted. It can be an instrument of life giving help and mutual support. But we have to work at it a lot harder than we are now.

Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ was a great idea when it was put forward in 1963 at the Anglican Congress in Toronto. It nearly went belly-up as a guiding principle when it was immediately followed by a catalogue of needs and wants, whereby MRI almost turned into an alternative method of donations from the West to the rest. It found its continuing value in linked or companion dioceses and the way in which those companionships recast the askings and givings of the churches on a provincial or "church-wide" level. The recasting was the result of genuine relationships. The listening process is nothing new - it is at the core of the notion that lay people, bishops and clergy from very different perspectives and contexts can share mission and delight in the Gospel as it is present in each culture.

On a lighter, but perhaps as serious note, the following YouTube of "Money, Money, Money..." tells the other story. Money can be destructive of people and environment, but it can also be used for good - for the support and respect of the earth and all of us on it. Take a look.







7 comments:

  1. Perhaps each province should be assessed a per person contribution and the actual contributions published? Then the figures boasted about would have meaning.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "(i) The ACC asked for an increase of 10% following its last meeting. It is asking for a further 10% at this meeting. That means that in three years and a bit the asking has increased 20%."

    21%.

    If you start with a dollar and add 10% (10 cents), you get $1.10. If you increase that by 10% (11 cents), you get $1.21.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dirty Davey...got it. correction on its way.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm sure there will be a limit to how much the U.S. and Canada will pay to get thrown out of the house. If the covenant becomes a reality, the process of punitive action may become an unfunded mandate.

    Money only buys you choices. So - show me the money.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "Now eleven years later the listening process is still wallowing in the doldrums, or at least is moving very slowly."

    I expect that process to begin in earnest sometime after the Second Coming or the crumbling of the Rocky Mountains, whichever comes first.
    Madpriest said it best; the listening will begin when the bishops stop talking.

    I've always wondered how far this mess would have gone without copious Western financing. I doubt it would have come to this point on its own. We might have arrived at a very Anglican agreement to live with our differences. Now, we stand on the brink of turning ourselves into a cut-rate version of Rome or Geneva.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Nom de Plume7/5/09 6:50 PM

    The monies to underwrite the Anglican Communion budget is such that five Churches - TEC, the CoE, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Church of Australia and The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia.Er, Mark, I think you forgot to finish the sentence here. "...is such that" the named churches what? From the next remark, it seems they contribute something like 80 or 90% of the funding of the Communion. Am I right?

    ReplyDelete
  7. nom de plume...right. don't know what happened. I cut and pasted and don't know why the ending got dumped. thanks.

    ReplyDelete

OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.
Rule: PLEASE DO NOT SIGN OFF AS ANONYMOUS: BEGIN OR END THE MESSAGE WITH A NAME - ANY NAME. ANONYMOUS commentary will be cut.