[Episcopal News Service – San Juan, Puerto Rico] The bishops of Province IX last week approved the formation of a province-wide development group aimed at moving each of the province’s seven dioceses toward self-sustainability.
Since 2013, the Episcopal Church 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.
“It’s a dream realized,” said Dominican Republic Bishop Julio Cesar Holguín, whose diocese received the Episcopal Church recently awarded a one-time focus grant totaling $950,000. “It’s a platform to help each of the dioceses of Province IX to reach self-sufficiency and to fund their own missionary work. We’re very optimistic in this regard that we can make this work.”
The Province IX bishops created the development group on May 17 during a synod meeting.
The Province IX dioceses have been leading the effort to move toward self-sustainability since a 2011 Church Pension Group-sponsored conference in Tela, Honduras, that brought together the Province IX dioceses to explore a secure path. The dioceses themselves adopted sustainability as a focus for 2012; three of the seven dioceses – the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Honduras now have development groups.
According to the Province IX Development Group’s bylaws, its purpose is to assist with the development and self-sustainability of the diocese through the promotion of sustainable development, the solicitation of resources and the strengthening of companion relationships.
The development group will pursue its purpose through diocesan consultations, making presentations about the work being carried out in each of the dioceses, preparing promotional material, writing grant proposals and coordinating mission teams and other fundraising activities.
The development group will serve as an umbrella organization to help all of the Province IX dioceses achieve sustainability by sharing best practices and resources that enable them to learn from one another, said Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen.
The Diocese of Honduras has set the goal to achieve financial sustainability by 2019, he added.
“2019 is our time to say it’s good what you have done for us, but beyond this we are ready to walk on our own,” said Allen. “My [diocesan] convention is a week from Saturday and I’m going to be letting people know that we have two years to go and nothing is stopping us now. We’re restructuring the Honduran Development Network and the diocese, and preparing the platform for this to come together.”
In February 2014, on the recommendation of the Second Mark of Mission working group, the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council agreed to an 18-year plan for “self-sufficiency,” to move to sustainable mission and ministry in Province IX.
The Episcopal Church’s 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.” It financed the focus grant.
In July 2015, General Convention adopted Resolution A015 “Continue to Support Province IX Sustainability” which continues “dedication for the ongoing work of Mark of Mission II: To Teach, Baptize, and Nurture New Believers, especially as it pertains to the agreed-upon plan for Province IX Sustainability.”
The Diocese of the Dominican Republic is the closest to achieving self-sustainability, in large part because of the formation in 1998 of the Dominican Development Group which 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 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. Heavily dependent on the income generated by short-term mission groups, it is held up as a model of entrepreneurship across Province IX.
The Province IX Development Group is intended to work with each of the seven dioceses in its own context, explained Bob Stevens, the former executive director of the DDG and the volunteer director of the newly formed province-wide development group.
“The suggestion [to form the province-wide group] came from the bishops themselves,” said Stevens. “We are at their service.”
The 2016-2018 budget maintains block-grant funding at $2.9 million for Province IX.
– Lynette Wilson is an editor/reporter for Episcopal News Service.