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Monday, June 1, 2009

Funding for The Episcopal Church

The Episcopal church is funded in several ways -- the one that touches us most is the assessment each diocese pays. The current expectation is that each diocese will pay 22% toward the work of the general church. Dioceses then choose if they will pay part or all of that.

With the current economic situation a question has arisen as to how much ought to be paid and if it is time to cut back. Certainly we would hope that the General Convention will be attentive and sensitive to this, but there are some pitfalls in making abrupt changes.

1. What priorities are in place to determine which programs will be trimmed? Or, will there be an across the board cut in programming?

2. We all know that some program departments work better than others. What priorities are in place to determine which are cut and which are not? Cutting ought not be a question of the popularity of staff or seniority, but one of furthering the ministry and mission of the Church.

3. If we make a blanket cut now, are we really being good stewards of our mission and ministry or are we simply trying to save a buck.

4. Without a plan and priorities, what are we saying to the larger Church? Do we want congregations to simply cut back without having a plan in the diocese? Do we want people to simply give less to the local congregation if it has no plan?

5. Are we expecting a scarcity without first looking at the abundance of gifts that God has given us?

6. Cutting funding does not answer the question of how we will move forward in mission and ministry -- it only tries to find a way to cut, which is to step away from evangelism and growth.

There is no doubt that we need to face the economic crisis, but as with all things, a thoughtful response will be much stronger than a quick reaction.

Your deputation has discussed this matter and we are of the opinion that the financial issues need to be addressed and that we need to make it clear to the Program, Budget and Finance Committee (PB&F) that steps need to be taken to address this crisis; and that this is simply not a crisis of Wall Street, but one of "Main Street." We would want a well thought out plan that lists priorities and strategies to provide the necessary program for mission and ministry in the Church and that the current programming of the church (and the staff responsible for that programming) to be evaluated against that plan.

We realize there are issues that need to be and can be addressed quickly, but we also believe that a long-term approach is good stewardship.

Your Diocesan Council has proposed that General Convention allow for an annual 1% cut in the giving to the Episcopal Church (over a 10 year period). Even though I do not agree with the strategy proposed, I do agree with the spirit of this resolution. We can no longer go about business as usual. We have to address the 21st Century economy and the Church needs to look at different ways in which to do mission and ministry. I am glad that the Council raised the issue and believe we are not the only diocese that wants to talk this out and to find new ways to go about mission and ministry.

I will testify before PB&F at General Convention, as shall several others in our deputation. We will raise these issues and prayerfully engage the Church in a movement to address the crisis and its impact upon our church -- beginning with the person in the pew.

The Very Rev. Ronald Clingenpeel

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