Budget committee to seek input on churchwide income sources in latest listening session

By David Paulsen
Posted Jun 8, 2023

[Episcopal News Service] The Joint Budget Committee’s second listening session in The Episcopal Church’s 2025-27 budget process will be held June 20 with a focus on churchwide income sources, from diocesan assessments to Episcopal News Service sponsorship revenue.

This listening session is part of a new process for developing and proposing the three-year churchwide budget plan, based on resolutions adopted in 2022 by the 80th General Convention. The process now entrusts most of the work to the newly created Joint Budget Committee, which was intended to draw on the expertise of a diverse roster of Episcopal leaders while reducing the number of church bodies involved in reviewing and adopting the budget.

“The committee invites thoughts, questions and suggestions during the listening session or in advance via email,” the committee said. Registration is now open for the online session, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. Eastern June 20.

Church income graphic

A graphic included in the proposed 2023-24 churchwide budget, as presented to the 80th General Convention, shows the church’s various income sources. The final figures were modified slightly upon approval.

The largest revenue line in the budget is the assessments that The Episcopal Church receives 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 during the pandemic, such as disruptions to plate and pledge revenue, 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. In most years, the church draws 5% from its investments to support churchwide programs.

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.

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

The Joint Budget Committee, in its invitation to the listening session on church income, released a one-page summary of “income sources and assumptions” that serve as the starting point for developing the revenue side of the 2025-27 budget.

For example, the Development Office leads the Annual Appeal fundraiser that supports the churchwide budget, one of the office’s several ongoing fundraising campaigns. The church also receives some rental income from its properties, though that total “will be definitely lower in the coming years,” the committee said.

“Some programs of the church have always charged fees to offset expenses. We expect this to continue.” the committee notes.

Additionally, “the previous budget had use of $5 million from previous years’ surpluses. We do not anticipate that money being available for the 2025–2027 budget.”

The committee also highlighted the revenue assumptions behind the launch of a new Episcopal Coalition for Racial Equity and Justice. The resolution approved by the 80th General Convention to create the coalition specified an “annual draw” on the church’s investment income to support the coalition’s work in dismantling racism and promoting racial healing.

The Joint Budget Committee explained, “this is being calculated in the following way: 10% of whatever dividend is declared on unrestricted trust funds (which total approximately $170 million, using 2021 numbers) will go toward these efforts. Applying the current draw percentage of 5%, the amount to fund the coalition would be $837,510.”

The June 20 event on Zoom will be the committee’s second listening session, after an initial session on April 17 led by the Rev. Patty Downing, Diocese of Delaware, who chairs the committee. The listening sessions are not promoted as hearings, 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.

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.

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.

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