The Episcopal Church has announced the possibility that there will be a 9 Million Dollar shortfall in expected revenues for the Triennial budget (2010-2012) for The Episcopal Church. Reports on this can be found HERE and HERE.
Pan Adams-McCaslin, chairwoman of The Joint Committee on Program, Budget and Finance, is quoted by The Living Church as saying, “We are going in as educated as possible about the draft budget that was approved by Executive Council, as educated as possible about the proposed resolutions with funding implications—both revenue-specific and those with funding implied—in order that PB&F can listen to the convention and the Holy Spirit so that the mission of the church is fulfilled and not political agendas.” That's a tall order, but it can be done.
A Proposal: It is time to mount a campaign for a "Missionary Stimulus Relief Package: $21 Million for the Triennium."
Background: Implications of the deficit if it were to go forward:
The annual budget projections for the three years of the Triennium are currently listed as:
$53,619,754; $52,995,246; $55,205,613 for a total of $161,820,613. (p. 11, Draft Budget) Now a reduction of 3 million a year would make these figures roughly 50, 49 and 52 million dollars. The reductions would be roughly 6%. Using a scarcity model, in which we work from the existing budget income and expenditures, we could and very well might work at belt-tightening and reduction in services. Six percent seems manageable. The problem with this is twofold:
(i) There are non-reducible expenses for the canonically required offices of the Presiding Bishop, the General Convention. This means that the 6% shortfall, if it happens, will be disproportionally relegated to the program and mission budgets. This means the shortfall in program and mission may be as high as 10-12 percent. This ends up pitting worthwhile and arguably necessary new initiatives in mission against one another. This model of scarcity planning leads to program depletion rather than strategic thinking.
(ii) The decrease in available monies in the US due to reduced returns on investments, hold backs by dioceses due to prudent allocation of resources, and reduction in funding from unhappy, anxious or confused donors, as well as general disease about the program of the Episcopal Church as expressed in the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS) budget. At a time when the DFMS could be challenging the church to greater giving because of greater missionary need, the budget planning appears to be one guided by staff concerns to "balance" the various existing efforts in a model that involves internal struggle. For example the staff was asked to envision a 50 percent reduction in funding and imagine how they might respond. This thinking may be prudent, but it is not strategic.
The projected deficit will lead to funding decisions based on a model of scarcity. That model is inadequate to the economic, social and religious demands of the times.
Missionary Stimulus Relief
This is exactly the time to ask the General Convention to direct the assignment of $21 million from the abundance of invested funds, as well as interest from those funds, for a Missionary Stimulus Relief Package.
Does such an abundance exist? Yes. In the current budget $28,928,713 is being drawn from investment income. That represents a 5.5% distribution from investments, where the assumed gross annual growth is placed at 8%. As I understand it the fiduciary model is to use less than the projected income from investments thereby increasing the endowment. the proposal of an additional $21 million from investments increases the expenditures from investments to a point where it will impact the body of invested monies. The total drawn from invested income would approach $50 million over three years, or about $16 million per year, up from roughly $9.7 million per year. Assuming an 8% annual growth this would mean some incursion into invested monies that include accumulated investments from the past.
But that accumulation represents an abundance, not a scarcity. It was meant to be used as needed for the ministry and mission of the Church. And, in time of great need it seems prudent to draw on this capital.
The Missionary Stimulus Package:
The purpose of this relief package is four fold: (numbers are for a three year period)
(i) To complete the funding of the budget proposed by Program, Budget and Finance to the General Convention, recognizing that the final form of that budget may include some reductions and some additions to the draft budget distributed to Bishops and Deputies ($9 million) ;
(ii) To expand the allocation of funds to diocese in stress, dioceses of The Episcopal Church receiving assistance, and in particular those overseas dioceses whose local currencies suffer disproportionately from the economic stresses in the world recession ($4 million),
(iii) To extend to those Provinces in which we are in covenant relationships additional financial relief so that they may maintain their ministries in uncertain economic times, ($3 million) and
(iv) to fund new mission initiatives on a diocesan and national level the purpose of which is related to parish and diocesan revitalization and growth ($5 million).
The Episcopal Church is challenged on many fronts. If we simply accept the shortfall of $9 million as indicative of the need to reduce ministry, services, support and expansion activities, we will have wasted a perfectly good challenge to our common life. This is not the time to exercise great caution or to be fearful. This is a time to be forthright and clear that we are willing to support our churches in need, fund the programs that support diocesan and local ministry and are ready to expand support for new opportunities in mission.
It is time to engaged in missionary expansion and aid to those churches in need. Now.