A Note on looking at the budget of The Episcopal Church and beyond that to Vision.
The Episcopal Church budget for the next three years was approved yesterday by both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. In the budget of roughly $50 million per year there is trimming in most areas with some signs of where the trees are being felled.
Episcopal News Service states that "At least 30 of the 180 people employed by the Episcopal Church in its New York and regional offices could lose their jobs." The word after the afternoon session is that 30 Church Center employees will be asked to leave and seven or eight positions will not be filled when current office holders retire. So the overall staff loss is 37 or 38 people. That is a 20% cut, or one in five. I know several of these people and, having been subject of a "downsizing" in 1994, I know something of the shock they are facing. Whatever the larger meaning of it all, the close up concerns jobs ending for employees that have given of themselves for the work of the church.
Some significant cuts:
The funding of the Anglican Communion office and budget is cut by 1/3, from $600,00 to $400,000 for the next three years.
The Anti-Racism program and office are cut, with no indication how the "network" alternative is to be funded and networkers engaged.
Support of overseas dioceses of The Episcopal Church are maintained, but the support of Provinces formed from The Episcopal Church has been reduced.
The Office of Women's Ministry is gone.
On these areas it is clear the trimming will also kill trees: The Anglican Communion office and budget has relied heavily on TEC support. The work will continue, of course, but some of its networks will suffer because of "in kind" support provided. The Office of Women's Ministries provided staffing support for networking in the Communion. The cuts in Provincial support will severely limit those new Provinces in their attempts to achieve financial autonomy.
At one point in the debate in the House of Deputies a young deputy raise an important question: What would happen if the House of Deputies refused to accept the budget? The answer was that it would then be Executive Council's responsibility to build a budget.
In some ways, of course, that is how the budget work is done up until a period shortly before General Convention. The Administration and Finance committee of Executive Council works on budget issues and begins building a picture of the budget long before General Convention. In particular the "vision" (such as there is) gets formed by A&F. The Program, Budget and Finance Legislative Committee takes all that work, plus the work of the Commissions, Committees, Boards and Agencies of the Church, and the work of General Convention itself, and forms a budget in the hectic days just before and into the late days of Convention. So if the budget had been refused, it would have become the job of Administration and Finance in the Executive Council to continue the work.
The problem is the "vision" thing.
The budget passed in the past few days is decidedly lacking in vision. The narrative talks a good talk but there is nothing that sings. Of course it is hard to sing when there are cuttings on the floor and trees falling. But the most that could be said for the vision was that it was to go on going on. At the end all that could be said was , "Mission, mission, mission." Those are brave words, but not good enough.
Various solutions having to do with "if every Episcopalian just gave..." were proposed. If every Episcopalian just gave 80 cents a year, or if every Episcopalian just gave $9 a year the budget could be restored. But of course the problem has been that every Episcopalian already gave at the office (the parish) and the parishes and dioceses just didn't give full support to TEC's budget. There has been a lot of voting with the pocketbook going on, and schemes that rely on reversing that vote by a missionary appeal or a comparison of having two lattes a year and keeping the church afloat don't mean much. Lots of Episcopal Church folk are unmoved by missionary sending and receiving and more are unmoved by what they see as a bloated bureaucracy.
The vision thing requires more.
At the moment the best "vision thing" grows from the work towards full inclusion of all the baptized. The vision of an inclusive Church widely engaged with Anglican Communion churches throughout the world, missionary in its work to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God, and Episcopal in its polity, has power.
Past Presiding Bishops, both conservative and liberal, have served this vision in their day. Bishop Hines took us to a new place in our willingness to do justice and love mercy. Bishop Allen thought of TEC as a service agency, serving the dioceses and parishes in their mission. Bishop Browning dreamed of a church with no outcasts. Bishop Griswold peered into the unity of the Trinity and there discovered a diverse center. Bishop Kathryn has seen that same unity in the diverse community, centered in the same mission to do justice, love mercy, in inclusive ways.
The vision for The Episcopal Church will be clarified, it seems to me, if we take the trimming and even the falling trees as a sign of new mission sending: It appears that we will be sent without extra sandals, or cloaks, or staffs. We will be sent just as we are.
Where before the signs read, "The Episcopal Church welcomes you," we will seek to find places that will welcome us. We will be welcome in when we take seriously the justice and mercy needs of the world, of our fellow Christians, our fellow Anglicans, and do not take ourselves too seriously at all.
The question is, what will we do that is such Good News that we will be welcomed, just as we are?
Answer that an we have the vision.