Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
As we continue to move towards our Diocesan Special Convention on April 18th, I am mindful that it may be helpful to hear a brief recap of what we as a household have done to date with regard to the 2009 budget and our forecasts for the future. In addition, I will include some of my hopes and expectations for our time together that day.
As you are aware, in October the 2009 diocesan operating budget was passed by convention along with a funding source that allows diocesan council to utilize a portion of the EMF corpus to underwrite any expenses not covered through the other channels of revenue (the aggregate coming from parish apportionments and additional investment income). As part of the budget resolution, the convention approved an additional resolve that called for a special convention in which we are to “review” the 2009 budget and consider “one or more proposals for a sustainable budget for the balance of 2009 and beyond.”
So where are we now and how do we move forward? We are in a different financial place than where we were even 6 short months ago. That difference requires that we look again at both our diocesan ministry and resources and use this time as an opportunity to discern how to realign and re-commit ourselves to God’s project. We are at a place where the household must come to terms with which mission and ministry opportunities it is prepared to sacrifice if we remain committed to budgeting for what we can afford rather than for what we are called to do.
The reality is that our anticipated revenue for 2009 and beyond will not exceed $2,000,000 annually (and may actually be less as we have not yet received all of the 2008 Parochial Reports that were due on March 1). We currently have a budget of $2,985,835. That difference is significant and will require serious reductions in program, personnel and delivery of ministry over a period of time if we are to reduce our expenditures to more closely meet our anticipated revenue.
What we will be asking during the Special Convention is that all members come ready to do two things:
1) to learn first-hand more about our current financial situation as a diocese and
2) to participate fully in conversations regarding priorities of ministry and mission.
It is the canonical responsibility of the Diocesan Council to manage and adjust the diocesan operating budget. Thus, the input and guidance collected from the household gathered in Special Convention will be crucial as we seek a sustainable mission rather than a place of stagnating maintenance.
Sufficient documentation and explanations of what these documents tell us will be the first order of business on April 18th. With the help of our Treasurer, we will show how the market downturn has hurt us and how we can avoid locking in those losses.
We will share not only what would be eliminated with a drastically reduced budget, but also, as one Council member suggested: “what do we get for $2,000,000?”
The second order of business will be to divide into small groups to discuss what has been presented, to prayerfully make some hard choices as we set priorities for our life together into the future, and report those insights to the full convention to further empower the Diocesan Council to proceed on behalf of all.
This is a single agenda convention. No other item of business can be brought before the gathering. This is an extremely important conversation and is not about personal agendas. Rather, this is about the very life and witness of The Episcopal Diocese of Michigan. Come and help us discern the future direction of our common mission.
–(The Rt. Rev.) Wendell N. Gibbs, Jr. is Bishop of Michigan