[Episcopal News Service – Linthicum Heights, Maryland] The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council Oct. 27 tabled until its next meeting a resolution calling for the 2016-2018 budget to be predicated on a progressive diocesan income asking structure.
The action came as council’s Joint Standing Committee on Finances for Mission (FFM) prepared to release to the church for comment its “current working draft” version of next triennium’s budget.
Council member John Johnson, who proposed the resolution via his membership on the Joint Standing Committee on Advocacy and Networking, moved to table his proposal just after it was introduced, saying that he was doing so because of that opportunity council will soon have to hear from the wider church on its work on the 2016-2018 budget thus far.
The tabled resolution would have asked dioceses with annual income of $2 million or more to give 19 percent of their income to the churchwide budget, those with incomes between $1,999,999.99 and $1 million to give 15 percent and those with less than $1 million to give 10 percent.
The Episcopal Church’s three-year budget is funded primarily by pledges from the church’s dioceses and regional mission areas. Each year’s annual giving in the three-year budget is based on a diocese’s income two years earlier, minus $120,000. Diocesan commitments for 2013 and 2014, based on the budget’s asking of a 19 percent contribution, are here.
FFM spent a great deal if its time during this meeting building on the proposed draft budget that council is required to give to the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F) prior to the start of the next meeting of General Convention.
The current working draft’s revenue lines included a diocesan commitment amount that was based on assumed levels of the diocesan asking but council has not yet decided how it will calculate diocesan income for purposes of drafting its proposed budget. That decision will be articulated when council delivers the final version of its budget proposal to PB&F following council’s Jan 9-11 meeting.
After FFM had worked most of Oct. 25 and 26 in executive session, FFM chair Bishop Mark Hollingsworth and the Rev. Susan Snook, who headed FFM’s budget subcommittee, presented council during an open session late in the day on the 26th with what Hollingsworth called its “current working draft.”
Similar to her request when council got a budget review in its opening session on Oct. 24, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori instructed all who attended the Oct. 26 session not to publicize the details of the budget, pending its publication.
Hollingsworth, Snook, Jefferts Schori, House of Deputies President Gay Jennings and Chief Operating Officer Stacy Sauls will stay at the Maritime Institute here to discuss the working draft and council’s budget process with PB&F during its Oct. 27-29 meeting.
Soon after PB&F’s meeting concludes, FFM will release the working draft to the church along with a narrative to explain its assumptions and construction. It will be posted on the General Convention Office’s website and there will be a dedicated e-mail address for those who want to comment.
“Please do not hold us to a date as to when this will be sent out to everybody,” Hollingsworth said to council on Oct. 26, adding that FFM members need time to write the narrative and be sure that the budget document correctly reflects the committee’s thinking at this point in the process. He predicted a release in the “next week or so.”
On Oct. 26, Hollingsworth reminded council that when the working draft is posted it will not reflect a decision by council “but rather to continue the conversation” that will enable council to make “the best decision we can make.” He also noted that the comment mechanism on the General Convention website “won’t be a format for dialogue but for us to be able to receive input” and that FFM members will frequently access the comments.
During a post-meeting news conference, Jefferts Schori said that she hoped those who commented on the budget would consider whether it “expands our capacity for mission on behalf of the whole Episcopal Church.”
Jennings said she hoped that people “would not make a false dichotomy between, on the one hand, governance and administration and, on the other hand, mission,” adding that the portion of the budget devoted to governance and administration “is always as a servant of mission.”
FFM, she said, “is looking always at how mission is facilitated but also how local ministry is empowered,” predicting the working draft of the budget will include expenditures meant to encourage mission work at the local level.
The Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe, executive officer of the General Convention, said during the news conference that he hopes those who decide to comment on the budget “not become too fixated” on their particular interest, but instead consider “what God is calling us to do collectively to expand God’s mission.”
FFM will revise the budget based on comments from PB&F and the wider church and have a final draft budget ready for the full council’s consideration during its Jan. 9-11, 2015 meeting. According to the joint rules of General Convention (joint rule II.10.c.ii), council must give its draft budget to PB&F no less than four months before the start of General Convention (essentially by February of convention year).
PB&F is due to meet next from Feb. 23-25, 2015, to begin work on that draft budget. PB&F uses the draft budget and any legislation passed by or being considered by General Convention to create a final budget proposal. That budget must be presented to a joint session of the houses of Bishops and Deputies no later than the third day before convention’s scheduled adjournment. The two houses then debate and vote on the budget separately and the budget needs the approval of both houses.
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.