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.