Category : Executive Council
It’s not surprising that it’s hard for us to adapt our decision-making processes to create the change we need and to respond to change in the world around us. This is halting and imperfect work. The inertia that keeps us stuck in the old model””in the ethic of survival that Stringfellow cautions us against””is powerful. I feel its pull, and I imagine you do too.
But I think that when we talk about a “transitional” budget we’re dressing up that ethic of survival instead of mustering the courage we need to free ourselves of it. During the remainder of the budget process, I hope and pray that we can resist the inertia that will lull us into complacency, confront change bravely, and come up with a budget that we can consider at General Convention faithfully and in good conscience.
The budget, which will not be final until General Convention acts in July, proposes to set aside money for a “churchwide consultation” on the Episcopal Church’s future shape and work. It also includes money for pilot projects that Chief Operating Officer Stacy Sauls said could show how the church’s purchasing and organizational power could help congregations and dioceses free up more of their resources for mission work.
Sauls characterized such a cooperative arrangement as one way to bring about “long-term significant change” in how the churchwide staff relates to the rest of the church. Council accepted his proposal and his suggestion that the 2013-2015 budget “should open the door to doing long-term reform of how we do business as a church.”
Three Episcopal Church leaders challenged members of the church’s Executive Council Jan. 27 to engage in “adaptive change” in response to what they said are changing church and societal environments.
That challenge began immediately as the members received two different budget scenarios developed by council’s Executive Committee upon which to begin formulating a draft 2013-2015 budget. One scenario calls for asking dioceses to contribute 19 percent of their income and the other calls for dioceses contributing 15 percent. The larger income would be $103.6 million and the 15 percent-asking budget would be reduced by approximately $13.5 million, according to Treasurer Kurt Barnes.
In an emailed memo to Episcopal Church Center staff after the scenarios were presented to council, Chief Operating Officer Stacy Sauls noted that the 19-percent version plans on a $5.9 million decrease in income from the current triennium. The 15-percent version’s reduced revenue amounts to $19.3 million less than the current triennium.
Broader Measures of Church Vitality
To get a broad-based sense of congregational vitality, we have used a number of measurements including church school enrollment, marriages, funerals, child baptisms, adult baptisms, and confirmations. These speak to a parish’s integration in the community and the possibility for future growth:
Change in church school enrollment: -33%
Change in number of marriages performed: -41%
Change in number of burials/funerals: -21%
Change in the number of child baptisms: -36%
Change in the number of adult baptisms: -40%
Change in the number of confirmations: -32%
While these numbers may not capture the totality of what is happening in the Church, we do not have a measure that is moving in a positive direction.
The report further noted that “to adopt the current version would mean changes to both the Constitution and Canons which would significantly alter our current understanding of what it means to be an autonomous province.”
While the executive council remained committed to “continuing engagement in thoughtful dialogue within the Anglican Communion around issues that may be divisive,” it could not “recommend adoption of the covenant in its present form.”
The first morning of Council brought three distinctive yet interwoven narratives from the Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Deputies and the Chief Operating Officer. Each made important statements about how the work of Executive Council relates to the larger narratives of the life of the Church. There were moments of conflict as values held passionately by the three speakers were openly expressed. There were admonitions to find Jesus among the poor, to honor the hard work and witness of the whole people of the Church in all orders, to express how we carry out God’s mission in the shaping of a budget.
The experience of conflict in church meetings where budgetary discussions and vision are mixed together often make us wary of even trying to connect the dots, of weaving a whole story from the threads. Rich insights by committed leadership, accompanied by a common commitment to hear one another out, resulted in the beginnings of new stronger cloth.
In 2009, General Convention closed with a strong emphasis on mission, mission, mission. . . . God is calling the church to meet Jesus in the marginalized ”“ the poor, the lonely, the suffering, the lost. Weave, weave, weave . . . Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in her opening remarks challenged Council to regard budgets as moral documents. The 76th General Convention’s adoption of the Five Marks of Mission of the Anglican Communion as mission priorities are the threads that are woven through all the parts of The Episcopal Church’s budget.
Also in his remarks, [Bishop Stacy] Sauls spoke about how in September when he came to work at the Episcopal Church Center in New York he found a “demoralized staff” that was fearful, overly regulated, distrustful and that felt their creativity was stifled. He said he has begun to refer to the staff as “missionaries” in keeping with the church’s corporate identity as the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society “because it suggests something about the reason for our being.”
“I want them grounded, not in a place, but in an endeavor and that endeavor is to participate in the mission of God and to lead others to participate in the mission of God,” he said.
On August 26, the Diocese received correspondence from the Secretary of Executive Council of The Episcopal Church that copied us, belatedly, on their correspondence with a third party. The correspondence informed us of actions taken by a Committee of the Executive Council regarding resolutions taken by the Diocese of South Carolina. The assertion was made there that those resolutions of our Convention “have no force or effect.”
The response of the Bishop and Standing Committee to those actions, along with the original correspondence from Executive Council, can be found at the link below.
…I appreciate the cautions about this linking of conciliarism too easily to Anglican provincial autonomy that Professor Radner makes me aware of. What are we to do in the 21st century with the international vision of Christian fellowship that was so much a part of the idealistic program of the medieval canonists who crafted conciliarism? What new structures might allow us to realize more deeply what it means to be members of the worldwide body of Christ? The Episcopal Church is no longer a “national church” but is made up of a family of nations, most of which do not share the English heritage of 18th-century American Anglicans (and in some nations the Episcopal Church in fact overlaps with another autonomous Anglican province). How can the 18th-century adaptation of conciliarism to one republic serve an international church that is no longer confined to one continent? The debate about the Anglican Covenant, which enters a new stage now as we prepare for the 2012 General Convention, is an opportunity for the whole people of God to engage prayerfully the issues concerning the constitutional structures of the body of Christ that Professor Radner and I have raised.
The questions arose after a plaintiff listed as John Doe 181 filed a lawsuit June 22 against Conception Abbey, a Roman Catholic monastery in Missouri, where Parry was a monk in the1980s and directed a choir. The plaintiff, now an adult, alleges that Parry had sexual contact with him during a 1987 summer choir camp at the abbey.
The suit also alleges that Parry engaged in inappropriate relationships with other youth in their late teens both at the abbey and while he attended St. John’s School of Theology in Collegeville, Minnesota. The suits claims that “Parry was a known serial child predator who had sexually abused numerous students” before he assaulted the defendant.
An Executive Council task force has released a report it received from the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons outlining the changes that would be needed if the General Convention decides to sign onto the Anglican Covenant.
“The SCCC is of the view that adoption of the current draft Anglican Covenant has the potential to change the constitutional and canonical framework of [the Episcopal Church], particularly with respect to the autonomy of our Church, and the constitutional authority of our General Convention, bishops and dioceses,” says the report.
In a statement June 24, the D023 (Anglican Covenant) task force wrote that it has released the report now because of “legitimate concerns raised about issues of transparency around a decision as important for our Church as the Anglican Covenant.”
Jim Cowan, liaison to Council from the Anglican Church in Canada, reflected that he found the conversations concerning the Dioceses of Quincy and San Joaquin intriguing. He asked, “How do the dioceses that have suffered as a result of schism compare with those dioceses that are marginal? There are real concerns about viability, but where do these concerns mesh with plans for the extended mission of the Church?
He also observed, “We have talked about ‘pruning for growth.’ What does this mean to us? Pruning, whether for maintenance or for growth, hurts.”
(ENS) During their opening remarks, both Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson spoke about the calls for changes in the structure and governance of the church.
Jefferts Schori said she encounters many people who are “eager or at least willing to entertain those conversations.”
She said she sees “a really significant rise in readiness for mission and connections to the need and concerns of people beyond our immediate congregations,” adding that she sees that readiness “as a sign of enormous health ”¦ [and] renewed investment in the core work of the church.”
“People are not focused inward by large; they are focused outward which is where the church is supposed to be,” she said.
Anderson suggested that the church will not “find our way forward by debating questions whose answers are important primarily to people who live and breathe church governance — as lovely as we all are!” Instead, she said, “we need to devote our energy to enabling the church to realize the possibility of real change — courageous, life-giving and life-altering change — for Episcopalians, for seekers, and for the lost and hurting and hungry in our midst.”
Jesus disarms and makes a spectacle of the power of money in the parable of the unjust steward (Luke 16:1-15). A steward accused of embezzlement is told to settle the accounts one last time. He uses the opportunity to “forgive” his master’s debtors and ingratiate himself with them, so he can seek help after his threatened dismissal. The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, ridiculed Jesus. He replied that what people prize can be an abomination in the sight of God.
Let the litigious bureaucracy have the money it wants. We keep the Gospel and proclaim it, in season and out of season. The money the Episcopal Church raises from coerced offerings, from Pyrrhic legal victories or from those who believe its new gospel will do no more to save it on its appointed day of judgment than the wealth of Herod’s temple protected it from Roman soldiers in A.D. 70. In the end, money is of no account, mere dust on the scales.
Episcopal Church Center Chief Operating Officer Linda Watt . . . began by saying that a human resources consultant hired by the Episcopal Church Center (located at 815 Second Avenue in New York) in 2006 “reported his impression that we were a place of broken wings where the primary focus was placed upon caring for individual staff members and less attention was paid to the work those individual staff members were accomplishing.”
She said that “this inward focus was troubling” to Jefferts Schori, who was just beginning her term, and who “also recognized that there were dangers inherent in a staff that consisted in considerable part of individuals whose working style was fundamentally isolated in silos.”
“Many mission staff considered themselves to be in charge of an area ”“ to be the expert ”“ individually in control of events and budget and information,” Watt continued. “Bishops and others in leadership positions around the church expressed annoyance and even hostility toward 815, and some staff members exhibited some patronizing attitudes. There was really very little accountability on how money was spent, or if events had to take place or if goals were met, if indeed goals were set.”
The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council has authorized its finance office to seek a $60 million line of credit to support the church’s operations. The loan will be secured by a mortgage on the church’s headquarters at 815 Second Avenue in New York, and by offering as collateral its unrestricted endowment funds.
The Oct 23-25 meeting in Salt Lake City of the church’s governing council between meetings of its General Convention also voted to cut its budget by 5 per cent next year in response to a $2.1 million shortfall in income.
A memorandum from the church’s Finance Office to the 38 council members stated that diocesan contributions to the national church were expected to be $700,000 below budget, while cuts in spending at the national church offices were expected to depress income also.
How do you come up with an extra $10 million in a budget which you are already slashing by $2.1 million? “Voodoo economics” is a term which Episcopalians may have to revive to apply to the solution for the hurting Diocese of Haiti which the Executive Council finds in this particular situation. Once again, I am somehow certain that whatever that solution turns out to be, it will not involve the settling of any pending lawsuits . . .
And then today, we have ENS’s next item about the Executive Council Meeting, which reports — among other things — the opening address to it given by the Presiding Bishop. I hesitate to criticize the ENS reporter, who is an experienced professional, and has always has done her job superlatively. Therefore, in copying that reporter’s exact words in what follows, I leave it to the reader to determine whether what is reported is, shall we say, more or less coherent:
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori challenged the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council Oct. 24 to avoid “committing suicide by governance.”
Jefferts Schori said that the council and the church face a “life-or-death decision,” describing life as “a renewed and continually renewing focus on mission” and death as “an appeal to old ways and to internal focus” which devotes ever-greater resources to the institution and its internal conflicts.
Does anyone else besides this Curmudgeon perceive in these words a certain parallel — not exact, I grant you, but close enough to be exceedingly troubling — with a certain situation involving a sinking ocean liner, whose Captain is urging everyone, while facing a “life-or-death decision,” not to spend too much more time rearranging the deck chairs, and instead to scramble for the lifeboats?
…[Council member Katie Sherrod] said that her “deeper concern” is a “growing sense” that “some bishops are dangerously close to saying to the clergy and deputies, ‘We have no need of you.'”
Jefferts Schori said that she was not aware of bishops who want to do away with the House of Deputies, adding that she was “sorry to hear that.”
She said she was trying to point to the tension between bishops “who ideally in vocation are called to care for the whole and deputies who are elected by individual dioceses who represent the interests of those dioceses.” When a murmuring of “no” arose, the presiding bishop said “just a minute, let me finish,” explaining that she meant that dioceses elect deputies from out of the context of the diocese’s stance on the issues facing the church.
“I’m not impugning the understanding of individual deputies that they are called to serve the whole church,” she said. “What I am simply saying is that deputies in their election are called by particular dioceses. That’s not a perfect distinction, but generally it’s a tension and I hope I was careful to say that I don’t think we should resolve that tension.
A member of Council stated her desire to seek clarity from the Presiding Bishop about her remarks on Sunday on church governance. She noted that the Presiding Bishop’s remarks were taken by some to diminish the role of deputies in the widest governance of the church. The Presiding Bishop explained that she was not questioning the need for the House of Deputies nor diminishing their governance role, and that she views the natural tension between the two houses as healthy and necessary. She said that her larger concern was that leaders in the church ”“ bishops, clergy and laity ”“ not be afraid of exploring ways to respond to changing circumstances in a nimble way, that we “choose life” and find ways to insure that our governance enables that, and does not get in the way of it.
Out of that conversation came a renewed commitment to talk openly with one another, to challenge one another, and to trust that we all ”“ whatever our roles — are acting out of good motives.
We then heard a report from the Joint Standing Committee for Finances for Mission (FFM) about issues related to the budget. Committee Chair Del Glover explained that FFM’s work is to make sure we have the resources to do mission, and that the more clarity we have on mission, the better decisions we can make. Council adopted the budget.
The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council began its three-day fall meeting here Oct. 23 with an agenda that includes consideration of a Church Center 2011 budget that is five percent lower than the version adopted by General Convention in 2009.
Revenue in the proposed reduced budget is $2.1 million less than originally projected, with income from dioceses projected at $682,946 less than expected. The revenue reductions come “as a result of an unpredictable delayed payment by one diocese,” as well as major cuts in Church Center spending that also will result in less revenue, according to a memo to council members from the church’s Finance Office. The specific diocese has not yet been disclosed.
Total revenue is projected to be $37,147,458, while total expenses are budgeted at $36,966,829.