Sustainability grant helps Dominican Republic secure mission, ministry

Second Mark budget assists all Province IX dioceses

By Lynette Wilson
Posted Jun 24, 2015

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic recently took a big step toward securing its mission and ministry for the future with a one-time $950,000 sustainability focus grant awarded by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

“The contribution The Episcopal Church is making to the Dominican Republic represents a boost in favor of the efforts the diocese has been making to achieve the goal of financial sustainability,” said Dominican Republic Bishop Julio Cesar Holguín Khoury, in an email to Episcopal News Service. “It will contribute significantly to the continued development of the mission-focused work of evangelization and social service that we have been doing since the arrival of Anglicanism to the country in 1897.”

(The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is the legal and canonical name under which The Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business and carries out mission.)

The grant, a key component to the Dominican Republic’s plan to endow their mission operations, signifies the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s long-term commitment to securing the mission and ministry in Province IX, said Samuel A. McDonald, deputy chief operating officer and director of mission for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

“The significance is that this is the first major, sizable grant the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society has made in support of sustainability,” said McDonald.

Since 2013, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society has been working with all Province IX dioceses – the Dominican Republic, Ecuador Central, Ecuador Litoral, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras and Puerto Rico – to develop a plan for financial self-sustainability and to further secure their ministries.

The 18-year-plan to secure mission and ministry in Province IX is consistent with the second of Anglican Communion’s Five Marks of Mission: To teach, baptize, and nurture new believers. The current triennium’s budget was based on the Five Marks of Mission.

The Province IX dioceses adopted self-sustainability as a focus in 2012; in addition to the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Ecuador Central have made significant strides toward securing their mission and ministry.

The 2013-2015 budget allocated $2.9 million in block grants over the triennium and also included an additional $1 million for Province IX with the goal of “strengthening the province for sustainable mission.”

The Province IX sustainability plan was adopted by Executive Council in 2014.

General Convention will be asked via Resolution A015 will to continue its support of the plan in the 2016-2018 triennium.

The Mark 2 plan signified a remarkable shift in the church’s approach to aiding overseas dioceses, and was a direct result of sustainability work that began in 2011 during a Church Pension Group-sponsored conference in Tela, Honduras, that brought together the Province IX dioceses to explore sustainability, said McDonald.

“The really remarkable aspect of the Mark of Mission plan … is the courageous leadership and vision of the leaders of the dioceses of Province IX. While we often talk about ‘securing ministry’ and ‘sustainable plans,’ the leaders of Province IX talk about how they believe it’s good for the spiritual life of Province IX. They are breaking old colonial models of dependency and leading us all into a model of ministry that is built on partnership. McDonald said.  “That is the true vision for this work.”

Each of the Province IX dioceses considered in the plan will eventually receive a focus grant based on a strategic plan for self-sustainability in addition to the block grants distributed annually.

In the coming years, the block grant amount received by the Dominican Republic will decrease, and in 10 years’ time it will stop. The same will happen in the remaining five Province IX dioceses as they reach financial sustainability. As each diocese becomes sustainable, they have committed to working with the province’s other dioceses to help them achieve the same goal.

“We give infinite thanks to God for the initiative taken by the Presiding Bishop, the General Convention to designate the funds to contribute to the dioceses of Province IX to gradually overcome the financial dependence, by taking their own initiatives, which lead to sustainability of the mission in their respective places,” said Holguín.

The Dominican Republic received the first focus grant because the diocese had an existing plan and was further along the path toward financial sustainability.

For instance, in the Dominican Republic:

  • Local congregations, most of which have limited resources, have begun to take responsibility for some of their own costs, stewardship, utilities, maintenance, clergy salaries, Christian education and social programs.
  • Congregations have started entrepreneurial programs.
  • The diocese’s schools, conference centers and institutions continue to grow in their own administrative capacities and the services they offer, increasing their income and contribution to the diocese and its mission in the country.
  • The Dominican Development Group and the Episcopal Church’s annual subsidy provide continued support.

In 1998, the Dominican Development Group was formed with the primary goal of seeking the “human, material and financial resources that are required to maintain the diocese’s rate of growth and to provide the diocese with the ability to maintain ‘quality’ programs.”

In some 15 years, the DDG has raised more than $10 million to finance the building of infrastructure, including churches, schools, day care centers and medical clinics, in the Dominican Republic. It is held up as a model of entrepreneurship across Province IX.

The $950,000 focus grant will shore up the diocese’s existing endowment, which is invested locally in the Dominican Republic’s financial markets. Currently, the Dominican economy is one of the fastest growing in Latin America.

In 2014, the diocese earned a 15 percent return on its investment. Its sustainability plan stipulates that 20 percent of the gains be added to the endowment, said Holguín.

— Lynette Wilson is an editor/reporter with the Episcopal News Service.