Executive Council moves toward proposed draft budget

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted Oct 24, 2014

[Episcopal News Service – Linthicum Heights, Maryland] The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council opened its four-day meeting here considering its proposed draft 2016-2018 budget as well as reviewing in committees resolutions that are due for council action on the last meeting day.

The Rev. Susan Snook, a member of council’s Joint Standing Committee on Finances for Mission (FFM), gave her colleagues an update on the committee’s work on the budget thus far. Because that work is not complete, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori advised council members and observers not to report the details of the work Snook presented. The committee will return to council on Oct. 27 with a preliminary draft.

After council considers that version, it soon will be released to the church for comment. In addition some FFM members will stay at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum Heights, Maryland, after that meeting to discuss the document with the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F) during its Oct. 27-29 meeting.

Then FFM will revise the budget based on comments from PB&F and the wider church and have a final draft budget ready for the full council’s consideration during its Jan. 9-11, 2015 meeting. According to the joint rules of General Convention (joint rule II.10.c.ii), council must give its draft budget to PB&F no less than four months before the start of General Convention (essentially by February of convention year).

PB&F is due to meet next from Feb. 23-25, 2015, to begin work on that draft budget. PB&F uses the draft budget and any legislation passed by or being considered by General Convention to create a final budget proposal. That budget must be presented to a joint session of the Houses of Bishops and Deputies no later than the third day before convention’s scheduled adjournment. The two houses then debate and vote on the budget separately and the budget needs the approval of both houses.

In a related matter, Treasurer Kurt Barnes updated the council on the state of the current 2013-2015 triennial budget. He reported that the 2014 budget year-to-date through September is generally in line with the revised version council had previously approved.

General Convention approves the triennial budget, and council often revises the three annual budgets, based on changes in income and expenses.

Council will be asked to approve a 2015 budget that has a deficit but, Barnes said, the three-year budget overall, which must at least be balanced, will show $4 million in income above what is needed to cover expenses. He attributed that excess income to $1.5 million in unbudgeted income from rental of space at the Church Center in New York. An additional $2.9 million comes from an increased draw on endowment income to support the work of the church’s development office. Some increased expenses shaved money off that $4.4 million additional income, Barnes said.

He noted that while diocesan income has increased from what was budgeted, the increase is attributable to better performance of diocesan investments leading to greater diocesan income and a generally improving economy.

“We have not seen any increase of dioceses stepping up with higher [percentage] contributions,” he said.

The Episcopal Church’s three-year budget is funded primarily by pledges from the church’s dioceses and regional mission areas. Each year’s annual giving in the three-year budget is based on a diocese’s income two years earlier, minus $120,000. Diocesan commitments for 2013 and 2014, based on the budget’s request of a 19 percent contribution, are here.

Presiding bishop says church must learn to share it resources in new ways

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori focused her opening remarks to council on how the church must change the way it educates its leaders and how it might foster financial autonomy for every diocese and other jurisdiction in the church.

“We’re not called to build a church that leaves poor and struggling relatives either shamed or incapacitated by their poverty,” she said. “We are called to build societies of abundance where resources are directed where needed, and no one lives in want …We should be challenging all Episcopalians to see the abundance we enjoy as gifts to be shared. When those gifts are shared, we know that it brings joy and flourishing to all members of the body. It looks like abundant life.”

Jefferts Schori also complimented the entire council for its “growth in capacity in this triennium.”

“We are engaging the mission and ministry of this Church in larger and more strategic ways than we have in recent years,” she said. “I continue to believe that the primary mission of this body is those larger and strategic questions, and I firmly hope the Convention will help us to clarify that role.”

The complete text of the presiding bishop’s remarks is here.

House of Deputies president outlines General Convention changes

In her opening remarks to council, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, House of Deputies president, outlined a series of changes for to the 2015 meeting of General Convention that she said are aimed at “make[ing] the legislative process one that can best help us discern our mission and ministry.”

Those changes include a new slate of legislative committees that are more closely aligned with the framework of the Five Marks of Mission, Jennings and Jefferts Schori said in a July letter to bishops and deputies. The new committees are here.

Jennings said she plans to appoint House of Deputies legislative committees by the end of this year and instruct committee chairs to begin work before General Convention. The current Rules of Order permit that early start and Jennings told council she hopes that it “will make it possible for us to consider legislation much more efficiently once we arrive at General Convention.”

Another change at convention is the scheduling of four joint sessions of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, including:

* June 24, the day before the first legislative day, an afternoon session during which the nominees for presiding bishop will be presented,

* June 26, joint session to receive officially the nominations from the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the 27th Presiding Bishop and to receive nominations that may have come through the petition process. (The House of Bishops elects the presiding bishop on June 27, after which the House of Deputies is asked to vote to confirm or not confirm the bishops’ choice.) That session will also include a conversation on church structure, according to Jennings,

* June 30, joint session for a conversation on mission,

* July 1, for the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget & Finance to present its proposed budget for the 2016-2018 triennium (both houses will debate the budget and must concur on the same budget for it to be approved), and

* July 3 (final legislative day), a special Eucharist for convention to welcome the presiding bishop-elect. Jennings said that although the new presiding bishop will also be seated at the Washington National Cathedral later in the year, “we intend for the service at General Convention to be the primary celebration so that we can all participate in an event with only modest additional costs.”

The complete text of Jennings’ remarks is here and an Oct. 22 letter she wrote to deputies explaining the General Convention changes is here.

The rest of the meeting agenda

Council will spend all of Oct. 25 in committee meetings. After Eucharist on Oct. 26, committee sessions will continue until mid-afternoon when the whole council gathers for another session on the 2016-2018 proposed draft budget. On Oct. 27, council meets as a whole to consider various reports and act on proposed resolutions from its five committees. That day will include a closed session for the council to hear a report from its subcommittee considering options for use of the Church Center at 815 Second Ave. in New York.

The Oct. 24-27 meeting is taking place at the Maritime Institute Conference Center.

Some council members are tweeting from the meeting using #ExCoun.

The Executive Council carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention, according to Canon I.4 (1)(a). The council is composed of 38 members, 20 of whom (four bishops, four priests or deacons and 12 lay people) are elected by General Convention and 18 (one clergy and one lay) by the nine provincial synods for six-year terms – plus the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.


Comments (1)

  1. Kenneth Knapp says:

    While developing budgets, you might want to keep in mind that some of us make directed contributions to the church in order to keep our contributions out of the hands of the partisan lobbyists in the Office of Government Relations. If I wanted to contribute to a partisan political cause I would send the money directly to politicians who best represent my opinions.

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