10/29/2010

Del Glover on Finances and Leadership of the Episcopal Church

Glover receiving Haiti Pledges from EC (photo ENS)
Mr. Del Glover, member of Executive Council and chair of its finances for mission committee, has written on some of the issues raised by various bloggers and on-line journals. 

Preludium has already posted a statement on these matters and hopes this from the chair of finance will help set the events of Executive Council in context. Mr. Glover also raises important questions about future form and structure of the Episcopal Church. He is a person of great integrity and diligence, and is a prime mover in the Haitian Solidarity Initiative. This statement, which appeared on the Executive Council extranet and on the House of Bishops / Deputies list is reproduced here with his permission: 


There have been a number of posts concerning the finances and leadership of the Episcopal Church. As the chair of the finance committee and a member of the audit committee, I want to address what I understand to be the key issues and the steps we are taking to address them. 

The first issue is the money we have borrowed to pay for the renovations to the Church Center and the purchase of a parking lot as a future site for the national archives. When those needs arose, the staff and Executive Council chose to borrow a combined $47 million dollars from our $50 million line of credit. The terms allowed us to pay as much or little principal as we chose – and we have made primarily interest payments and only about $500,000 in principal payments over the past six year. I and other members of finance and audit committees as well as previous members of those committees with extensive financial expertise whom we have asked to advise us, believe that a loan of that amount should not be made with a line of credit. It is not a standard financial practice to use a line of credit for major capital expenditures. The purpose of a line of credit is to cover cash shortfalls for small amounts of time and is normally repaid as soon as possible (generally within a year). 

In retrospect, this loan was undertaken at the time when banks encouraged all of us, individual homeowners and organizations, to over-extend ourselves and to take on loans that were not adequately secured. I believe that is what happened to us. But now the time has come for us to put our financial house in order.

It was entirely appropriate and necessary for us to do the renovations at Church Center and some of the costs were a result of the need for asbestos abatement and not optional. Concerning the proposed future site of the Archives in Texas, (the parking lot) some of us were convinced that the availability of the parking lot was a good purchase at the time, especially since the Archives had been asked to vacate the space to the Seminary of the Southwest, the current home of the Archives. The parking lot is a functioning enterprise and its income is sufficient (at the currently low interest rates) to make interest and some principal payment. If interest rates increase, as well they may, this situation would change. In any case, we need a new site for the Archives and the current parking lot is one option for that.

I and others believe we now need to obtain mortgages or private financing, using the properties as collateral, just as most of us use our homes as collateral for our mortgages. With interest rates at record low levels, we believe we should secure loans and make both interest and principal payment to service our debt – preferably paying principal at an accelerated rate, so less of the church’s funds goes towards interest payments and we can again be debt-free.

Several posts have suggested a conflict between the Treasurer, Kurt Barnes, and me. That assessment diminishes the importance of the issues before us undermines the commitment both Kurt and I feel for this Church. We simply have a difference of opinion as to how we should address these questions. Kurt, and others, including members of the staff, want to have the maximum amount of flexibility so if there is a shortfall in income from the dioceses, they can use more of the line of credit to fund the operations of the church and Church Center programs and pay less or no principle. That is understandable – the staff of an organization normally wants this kind of flexibility to do the work they have been given to do. On the other hand, I believe that we should pay our debt first and make whatever cost reductions are necessary to allow us to do so. That is also understandable – the role of the finance committee is to look at the big picture and the long view.

Another recent thread that has been on the HoB/D list is reflections on the decline in members. I share these concerns. If we project the decline in members and income into the future, it is clear that we can not maintain the size of the operations we currently have. We have lost about 1/3 of our members in the last 50 years – but we have a structure that has stayed pretty much the same. We need to “right-size” our structures and reduce about 1/3 of our costs. That includes General Convention, Committees/Commissions as well as Church Center programs. And it probably also will mean combining dioceses, reducing the number of bishops and committees, on the diocesan and parish levels as well. I believe these are the points Bishop Jefferts Schori was making in her comments to Executive Council.

If we begin to make those structural and organizational changes expeditiously now and focus whatever savings we can generate on our true “mission” of building the church (by which I mean, making disciples for Christ), we can turn this matter around.

I keep a copy of Claude Paine’s book, “Reclaiming the Great Commission” on my desk to remind me of our mission. (after all, my wife is a priest!) If we all continue to focus on our dwindling resources, we will simply continue down an unhealthy slope. While the most current manifestations of this have focused on declining membership and finances, it is, at the end, really about vision.

The system we are now in is producing what it is designed to produce. I believe we need to challenge what we are doing, change direction and ultimately change the system. That will need the hard work of many, so I hope others will do their part.

I expect these comments will generate resistance – especially from those who now have the most power and resources in the system. I hope they and we all can stop, listen to what God is saying to us and refocus on what our Book of Common Prayer says so well about God’s church (i.e., God’s people) existing to be the arena by which God restores all people to God and each other in Christ. If we are not about doing that, we have truly lost our way!

Del Glover, Chair of the Finance Committee of Executive Council

15 comments:

  1. Thank you Mr Glover. At last, a sober, factual, honest report. It sounds like the plan long term is to accept decline in membership and income, and so to combine dioceses and do other budget cutting measures. It’s hard to tell whether getting rid of 815 is a possibility, as it is not discussed. Sobering to see the Chairman accept the fact of over 30% loss in membership and major income depletion from dioceses, and accept as well that things cannot go on the same way. AJM

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  2. I very much appreciate Mr. Glover's informed opinion on the need to "right-size" our church structures and reduce the cost of them. I wish we could accept that as a reality that awaits us and plan for it - prayerfully and intelligently - rather than burying our heads in the sand and pretending that it's not going to happen.

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  3. I, too, am grateful for Mr. Glover's report on the budget of the Episcopal Church.

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  4. BTW, anyone know why you spend 10 Million on a parking lot? Archives can be housed in a lot of places, including ones that could use the income (US seminaries crashing down. This sounds like a plan with a story behind it. 10 Million and not even a building to go with it. AJM

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  5. Of course, AJM, there is the way that the Lord has financially blessed and rewarded the endeavors of the archdiocese of Sydney, which cast its bread on the waters to quite some effect. Perhaps, while you're on a roll, you'd enlighten us on that topic?

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  6. Rabbit--please take something for your indigestion. The question was a straightforward one, and maybe one Mr Glover will in time explain. I hope so. It isn't like TEC is in a position to be prodigal with its monies, (unless the archives are going to tell the story of how TEC came apart and dwindled to 400K ASA in five years). Here'd be a fine time to hand the archives over to a seminary, sell the parking lot, and pay down some of the loan. But, hey, I thought of that in the time it took to type this out, and no doubt bigger financial minds than mine could fine another 20 Mil somewhere as well. AJM

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  7. In short, your church doesn't stick gold stars on your card for nit-picking God's Elect ad nauseam, AJM. Question - and one asked out of genuine curiosity - how old are you? I think I have a pretty good idea - love to know if I'm right.

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  8. Old enough to know when one is being led down a bunny trail. Stay on topic, Rabbit. You're stalking again. Why is 10 Mil being spent for a parking lot? You and others tend to read serious questions and concerns as 'opposition' (see previous entry). Many of us see TEC being transformed into a tiny niche church, the destruction of a catholic expression of Christian faith world wide. We are not opposed to TEC -- we are opposed to TEC ceasing to be what it was, through things like Title IV and 10Mil parking lots and dubious claims of the Holy Spirit's work. AJM

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  9. Usual con-evo crap - anyone who stands up to you is a "stalker".
    You, AJM, are the stalker here, endlessly harassing Fr Harris with your smug, mindless, "Four legs good,two legs bad" repetitions.

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  10. Well, goodbye topic, hello Rabbit ad hominem. AJM

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  12. Such a need to feel persecuted, AJM. Remind my aging mind, which of us first accused the other of stalking? Ad hominem? Not like I called you a Sanctimonious Pratt, is it?

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  13. Dear Rabbit--now you've stopped stalking and are projecting. I don't feel persecuted in the least. I just find your interest in my age and other irrelevancies a sign that you don't want to speak about the topic. Go wherever you want to go, but I'd prefer a discussion of the topic. Grace and peace--AJM.

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  14. I am confused about what is so hard to understand about the parking lot. It was explained that the Seminary of the Southwest, the Episcopal seminary in San Antonio, TX, where the Episcopal Church archives have been kept has asked TEC to find somewhere else for the archive. One potential location is a new archival facility built on the parking lot that TEC purchased. The parking lot was purchased with that future building in mind and instead of being a weed overgrown lot, it is actually a profit making enterprise paying for itself, as folks in TEC make the decisions about what ultimately to do with the archive.

    Obviously the seminary that has the collection is not so convinced it is a great thing to have.

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  15. Thank you, Daaved and my point is: use the 10 Mil to pay down the debt and hand the archives project over to someone who wants it, or use a storage facility. It's not like TEC is humming along financially. It is borrowing 60 Mil to fund its activities until it gets 'nimble.' AJM

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