Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the number of churchwide staff positions based on budget documents that included some government-funded positions. Based on the correct figures, the proposed change in church-funded positions is a reduction from 141 to 140.
[Episcopal News Service] The Joint Budget Committee on Nov. 9 held the first of three scheduled public hearings on its latest draft of a churchwide budget proposal for 2025-27 totaling $145 million. About a dozen people testified, raising a range of issues from increasing financial support for historically Black colleges with Episcopal roots to increasing funding for the church’s creation care ministries.
The Rev. Patty Downing, chair of the budget committee, led the hearing, which convened via Zoom. Additional public hearings are scheduled on Dec. 9 and 12, and the committee will receive feedback Nov. 20 directly from Executive Council, The Episcopal Church’s primary governing body between meetings of General Convention.
During the Nov. 9 hearing, four speakers expressed concern over the committee’s proposal to seek $1.5 million, or $500,000 a year over three years from Episcopal Relief & Development, an independent nonprofit that until now has received office space and support services from The Episcopal Church without charge.
“Every dollar given to ERD, in fact, goes directly towards relief and development — gifts to ERD on behalf of Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza, for example, go to the hospital,” said the Rt. Rev. Wayne Smith, provisional bishop of the Diocese of Southern Ohio, during the budget hearing. “I fear that any change, any charge to ERD for operating costs, however small, however reasonable, will damage this brand of ours.”
Such concerns echo those raised by some members of Executive Council during an informational session on the budget during its Oct. 24-27 meeting. The Joint Budget Committee is scheduled to present its final revised budget plan in January for approval by Executive Council, which then will send the proposal to the 81st General Convention for final adoption in June 2024.
This will be the church’s first full budgetary triennium since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted financial expectations. The Joint Budget Committee has said it was able to balance its three-year budget proposal by tightening some spending lines, finding cost savings and seeking additional revenue.
A narrative summary of the 2025-27 proposal can be found here.
Several other speakers at the Nov. 9 hearing proposed increasing funding for the Episcopal Service Corps, an AmeriCorps-like ministry of The Episcopal Church that sends young adults ages 21 to 32 across the continental United States to commit to one year with a community service program.
The draft budget for 2025-27 would average $48.4 million in annual spending. It also would maintain the diocesan assessment rate at 15% of income while reducing the number of church-funded staff positions from 141 to 140.
-Shireen Korkzan is a reporter and assistant editor for Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.