Creation care, youth outreach among church priorities emphasized in listening session on 2025-27 budget

By David Paulsen
Posted Apr 18, 2023

[Episcopal News Service] The public phase of The Episcopal Church’s budgeting process for 2025-27 got underway on April 17 with an online listening session hosted by the church’s newly created Joint Budget Committee.

The 20 people who testified during the hourlong session on Zoom, from bishops to lay leaders, exemplified the wide range of current Episcopal ministries while underscoring several of the church’s top priorities, including creation care, LGBTQ+ rights, Indigenous ministries and youth outreach. Each spoke of the need to devote adequate funding to those priorities, at a time of some uncertainty about the church’s financial outlook for the coming years.

The Rev. Everett Lees spoke first, highlighting how Christ Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he is vicar, recently celebrated Easter with over 600 worshippers, but “it’s not just numbers,” Lees said. “It’s people whose lives have been transformed through the witness of The Episcopal Church, its commitment to inclusion and its commitment to justice, and I want to see more of that throughout the church.”

Lees raised concerns that the churchwide budget has been too skewed toward administrative costs, and he advocated spending more money on directly supporting the needs and priorities of local worshipping communities. Others echoed those sentiments in calling for greater financial support of new and growing ministries.

“We need the church budget to prioritize new ministry development,” said the Rev. Nurya Love Parish, a priest in the Diocese of Western Michigan who created Plainsong Farm in 2015 with local support and backing from The Episcopal Church’s church planting program.

The Episcopal Church typically operates on a three-year budget plan approved by General Convention and managed by Executive Council. In July 2022, because the pandemic had forced a one-year postponement of the 80th General Convention, bishops and deputies approved a $100.5 million budget for two years, 2023-24. The last three-year budget approved by General Convention, for 2019-2021, totaled $134 million.

The largest revenue line in the budget is the assessments that The Episcopal Church collects from dioceses, which typically generate more than half of the church’s annual revenue. For 2023 and 2024, the church maintained its assessment on diocesan revenue at 15% while increasing the amount of revenue exempted from that assessment from $140,000 to $200,000. Despite financial uncertainty related to the pandemic, most dioceses have continued to pay their full assessments.

The budget also is balanced partly with income from returns on the church’s investments, which have been affected by the stock market’s recent volatility. Even so, Kurt Barnes, the church’s chief financial officer, told Executive Council in February that the church’s investment portfolio has been able to weather the ups and downs of market fluctuations, meeting the goal of a 7.5% average in annual returns.

Budget documents for 2023-24 can be accessed on the Finance Office’s website.

Under Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, churchwide ministry expenses are mostly grouped under the general headings of ministry within the church, ministry beyond the church and the church’s three top priorities: reconciliation and justice, creation care and evangelism.

Diane Pollard, a lay leader from the Diocese of New York, testified April 17 in support of continued funding of the church’s racial reconciliation efforts, particularly the new Episcopal Coalition for Racial Equity and Justice that was endorsed by the 80th General Convention. Pollard served on the presiding officers’ working group that recommended the coalition, along with other steps to confront and remedy the church’s historic complicity in colonialism, white supremacy and racist systems.

“The report calls for a large, bold and energetic effort to change the way we, as The Episcopal Church, exist,” Pollard said. “It calls for some rather imaginative ways of looking at the budget and of actually prioritizing our money.”

General Convention approved $400,000 in startup funds for the Coalition for Racial Equity and Justice in the 2023-24 budget, with the potential for greater funding once it is up and running.

Zena Link, at bottom, a member of the Task Force on Creation Care and Environmental Racism, speaks during the Joint Budget Committee’s listening session on April 17. The session was led by the Rev. Patty Downing, chair of the Joint Budget Committee.

Five of the people who testified at the listening session emphasized the church’s work to address climate change and related environmental and conservation issues. “The Episcopal Church must reckon not only with the sins of our past but with the challenges of today and the crises of the future,” Delia Heck of the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia said.

Heck and others testified as members of the church’s Task Force on Creation Care and Environmental Racism. The Rev. Stephanie Johnson, chair of the task force and a priest from Connecticut, specifically asked for an increase in grant funding for local initiatives to combat climate change.

“I would say we are turning down a significant number of very wonderful grant applicants” after existing grant funding is allocated, Johnson said. “So, there’s a huge need, there’s a huge demand, there’s so much enthusiasm and ministries are flourishing across the church.”

Emily Hopkins of the Diocese of California underscored that the church does not lack the will or a way to make a positive difference. “We know what we have to do, and what we have to do takes money,” she said. “We have a lot of folks doing a lot of good things that need to be ramped up, and additional funding at the church level will really help with that.”

Other people testifying at the April 17 session raised concerns that the church has yet to fill the newly created position of director of LGBTQ+ and women’s ministries. “It’s ever more important … that this position exists,” said Sarah Lawton, a lay leader from the Diocese of California who serves on the steering committee of TransEpiscopal. “We get emailed every week for resources and help, and there’s just a desperate need for us as a church to live into this work.”

Church leaders announced in February they were forming a discernment and search committee “to help cast vision and interview candidates” for the position.

Ellen Singer from the Diocese of Texas spoke in favor of increased funding for campus ministries and other young adult programs. “If we are going to plant the seeds of the coming generations of The Episcopal Church, it’s going to take a lot of resources.”

Others made similar pleas for funding of ministries that prioritize young adults. “I hear that the young people are the church now, but it doesn’t appear that we are backing them, supporting them by our own resources,” said the Rev. Landon Moore, a priest in the Diocese of Long Island.

The session also featured input from three bishops who serve some of the church’s largest Indigenous communities: Navajoland Bishop David Bailey, South Dakota Bishop Jonathan Folts and Bishop Thomas Ely, bishop provisional in the Diocese of North Dakota. They thanked the church’s budget planners for increasing churchwide support of Indigenous ministries through the block grant program and additional sustainability grants.

Bailey noted that in his nearly 13 years leading the Navajoland Area Mission, in parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, the church there has grown from one Native American priest to seven now serving the Navajo Nation. “The contributions that you are giving us are allowing us to do the work that sorely needs to be done,” Bailey said.

The listening session was promoted not as a hearing but as an opportunity for people across the church to offer feedback on current budget priorities and their suggestions on the church’s future financial decisions. Additional comments can be provided by email to

The Joint Budget Committee is chaired by the Rev. Patty Downing, Diocese of Delaware, who led the April 17 listening session. The committee will spend the coming months analyzing the input it receives and will schedule additional listening sessions later this year with church task forces, other interim bodies, church staff and the wider church, with the goal of drafting and presenting a 2025-27 budget plan to Executive Council in October, followed by formal hearings.

“Budgets are the means by which we allocate our financial resources to empower the mission of Jesus Christ,” the Joint Budget Committee said in a news release sharing its timeline. “Their structure and processes help us to set priorities and enable new initiatives.”

The proposed budget plan will be finalized in January 2024, voted on by Executive Council and submitted for consideration by the 81st General Convention when it convenes in June 2024 in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Joint Budget Committee was created as part of a plan approved by the 80th General Convention to improve and streamline the process of developing, revising and finalizing the churchwide budget. Previously, the draft budget was developed over the course of each triennium by Executive Council’s Finance Committee and then, in the final year, referred to a separate committee of General Convention to finalize and present it to deputies and bishops for approval.

– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at