7/15/2009

Budget death and resurrection: on moving beyond fear.

From my iPhone at 2:30 PM on Wednesday, I posted, "The Presiding Bishop has introduced the budget to a joint session of the two houses. "pain, death, staff cuts," are used throughout the verbal report."

There it is: The red ink flowed. You could feel it coming. I was out getting a cup of coffee yesterday afternoon and ran into several friends on Staff at the Church Center. The feeling was uniformly grim. They knew yet another staff "reduction" was in the wings and that the accompanying cry was that we could do better on less. Of course what that tends to mean in the ears of those who have been reduced and let go is this: We don't need you any more. I know, having been through a staff reduction in the early '90's. There is no way for this not to be a mess.

A few bits and pieces of good news: There is something like $800,000 in new initiatives - Latino / Hispanic work, domestic poverty / jubilee ministries, Seminarian debt relief, Task force on older adults, ministry of the child. The Latino / Hispanic work gets the big increase - 100,000 per year for the next three years.

We also put back in the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). This would go directly to agencies working to fulfill these goals.

The Joint Committee on Program, Budget and Finance reported out the budget with great care, as it always does. The figures are difficulty (some read bleak) and the problems raised are immensely difficult. But there it is. The budget is itself fairly clear: (i) there was increased askings from programs proposed at this Convention, (ii) there was an honest assessment of diocesan abilities to make assessments or pledges to the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS) - the Episcopal Church church-wide agency, which resulted in lower income from dioceses, (iii) there was the already existing shortfall anticipated in the budget and (iv) there are a variety of expenses that reduce the short term monies available, including renovations to the Church Center and the legal fees and re-formation costs in dioceses that have lost members to the Anglican Church in North America. Over all, the difference between the proposed budget (prior to General Convention) and the actual budget being proposed, is roughly this, if I can read this stuff late at night:

The draft budget (prior to General Convention) indicated revenues for the three year period 2010-1012 at $161,820613. The budget now being considered has income listed at $141,271,984.
The difference is $20,548,629

Expenses in the draft budget were given at $161,791,177 and in the budget now being considered, $140,856,531. The difference is $21,935,246

THE BOTTOM LINE: About $21,000,000 separated the income and expenses. The only way PB&F could see itself clear to a balanced budget was to go into deep cuts. Many programs are reduced in size, almost all Committees, Commissions, Boards and Agencies will work with reduced funding for their meetings, and in a number of cases there will be losses to the staff. It is hard to tell from the budget just how many jobs are lost. Given the nature of the reduction, roughly

The bottom line, however, is not the story. If the last word on the budget was the need to reduce about $7,000,000 per year in expenses that would be one thing. There are some good words about learning to work in new ways. There are lots of things we do that don't require paying people's salaries.There are indeed advantages in trimming the fat.

But what is not heard in all this is the need for bold risks. In the midst of all the pain somehow $300,000 was found for the Latino/ Hispanic Strategic Initiatives. What would happen if the DFMS (that's us) were to demand that general funds from the principal and interest of assets were put into a mission strategic initiative for the whole church, modeled on the Latino / Hispanic initiative? Suppose that was set, There are some $238 million invested. (p.8, proposed budget). Suppose only 5% of the assets over the three year period was plowed back into active funds available. That's roughly $11.9 million, or just short of $4 million a year. No doubt that would be a real dent in the income producing base, but projecting forward out of this period of economic misery we might argue that the monies put into building, programs, salaries, etc, would strengthen the church. And, we might argue, putting the funds to this use might also stimulate new mission initiatives locally and world wide.

DO NOT FEAR.

This it seems to me is not the time to be fearful. It is the time to be filled with courage.

Just as speaker after speaker this week has encouraged us to live without fear and to tell the truth about our experience as a church learning anew the ministry of inclusion, we need also to look at our financial holdings and ask what new courage and risk must be taken to expand the ministries of the Gospel precisely when the wisest financial heads say no.

This budget is the work of amazingly dedicated Christians and we owe them a debt of gratitude for a relatively thankless task. At the same time we need also to challenge us and them that caution is a relative virtue. We need not to let fear rule, but rather joy in believing. And if we have that, then how we spend our monies, even to the point of genuine poverty, is just one aspect of the strange and mysterious wonder that is our faith.


It may be too late at night for me to get the numbers crunches as they ought to be, but the sense is here. We need not be bound to trimming alone, there may be the need for new growth and old dollars to fund it.

9 comments:

  1. I'm shocked. I thought that the church would be full up, what with the diversity and all.

    ReplyDelete
  2. For all the resolutions pushing evangelism it is strange that that's the staff they cut.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Something that I know is dear to Mark+'s heart (and mine):

    A proposed 26 percent cut to the amount of money the Episcopal Church grants to its "covenant partners" in Central America, Liberia and Mexico worried some. The partnerships include promises of financial subsidies for certain amounts of time, as well as mutual ministry and interdependence.

    Ecuador Central Provisional Bishop Wilfrido Ramos-Orench said the proposed cuts will make for a "tough time."


    Do the Covenant Partners include Haiti?

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  4. David Bailey+16/7/09 7:57 AM

    Does this mean that the $3.5 millon ask for Latino ministries has been reduced 90%? Church planters know that you need to fund new church plants (with a full time church planter) at about $100,000/year for at least 5 years. Assuming that the diocese can provide 50% of the startup funds, this means that TWO Latino church plants can be underwritten from the $300,000 line item. This is hardly a bold initiative!

    David Bailey+
    Southern Ohio

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  5. Brad,
    You're becoming predictable. I clicked on the Comments link wondering, "What sort of snide comment is our semi-anonymous troll going to offer today?" I got my answer.

    I think I'm going to miss you when high school starts up again and you don't have so much free time.

    I know, don't feed the trolls... but I'm offering low cal. feed.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Robroy... no, Haiti is covered under "Diocesan Services" it being part of Province 2 as a part of TEC. The funds for the Overseas Dioceses of TEC have not been reduced (including Haiti). Additional program costs - monies for training, meetings, etc, are totally cut. This means that these Dioceses must gather using their own funds.

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  7. Thanks, Mark+. I know that a lot of churches who had partnerships with overseas parishes are struggling. Our church had two major fund raisers each year with proceeds going to our sister parish and school in Haiti. This year due to budget constraints, the monies are going into the local parish fund. One of our parishioners is trying to get the community rather than the parish to support the school. Our brothers and sisters in Haiti and elsewhere will be suffering.

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  8. Mark:

    The impression this General Convention gives is that mission is about electing gay bishops (this was supported in the name of mission and various items from radical left political agendas. I would rather that mission be about telling people about Jesus and the difference He makes in our lives, and serving others in His name. As it is, this doesn't seem to be the case, and I have no interest in supporting the kind of mission TEC seems to be about. I suspect there are tens of thousands of people like me still in TEC (though our number will be rapidly decreasing), and I suspect you will be having a very similar conversation three years from now, six years from now, and nine years from now. Even then, you won't get it, and we won't be here to try to tell you.

    I wish you well.

    ReplyDelete
  9. RB,
    The Church's mission IS "about telling people about Jesus and the difference He makes in our lives, and serving others in His name."

    The decisions reached at GC2009 were about the means to that end. One means to the end of effective evangelism is the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments. The diocese of New Hampshire, where this is a firm commitment, grew by 3% last year.

    It's unfortunate that you think the Church's commitments to social justice amount to "items from radical left political agendas." I'm reminded of a famous statement by the Brazilian Roman Catholic theologian Dom Helder Camara: "When I give bread to the poor they call me a saint; when I ask why the poor have no bread they call me a Communist."

    Peace be with you.

    ReplyDelete

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