Executive Council passes reduced 2011 budget
Council members discuss church's governance structures[Episcopal News Service -- Salt Lake City, Utah] The Episcopal Church's Executive Council Oct. 25 approved a reduced 2011 budget for the church and continued a discussion of church governance begun the day before.
The 2011 budget is five percent lower than the version adopted by General Convention in 2009.
The budget decision came during the council's final sessions of its Oct. 23-25 meeting here.
Continuing the discussion about governance
Council spent more than a half hour discussing Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's remarks from the previous day concerning the tensions inherent in the Episcopal Church's governance structure. Twelve members of council spoke during the conversation.
Council member Katie Sherrod, Diocese of Fort Worth, asked for time on the agenda and told Jefferts Schori that "while you did not question the need for a House of Deputies, I fear your remarks that bishops' vocation is 'their ability to do big-picture work, care for the whole flock, to invite others into the big-picture, long-term conversation while deputies are elected to represent the interests of their dioceses' will increase those tensions, not relieve them."
Sherrod said that she believes that "most deputies do indeed approach their work with a big-picture view of the church and a concern for all the people as much as, if not more than, many bishops do."
She said that her "deeper concern" is a "growing sense" that "some bishops are dangerously close to saying to the clergy and deputies, 'We have no need of you.'"
Jefferts Schori said that she was not aware of bishops who want to do away with the House of Deputies, adding that she was "sorry to hear that."
She said she was trying to point to the tension between bishops "who ideally in vocation are called to care for the whole and deputies who are elected by individual dioceses who represent the interests of those dioceses." When a murmuring of "no" arose, the presiding bishop said "just a minute, let me finish," explaining that she meant that dioceses elect deputies from out of the context of the diocese's stance on the issues facing the church.
"I'm not impugning the understanding of individual deputies that they are called to serve the whole church," she said. "What I am simply saying is that deputies in their election are called by particular dioceses. That's not a perfect distinction, but generally it's a tension and I hope I was careful to say that I don't think we should resolve that tension.
"If we resolve the tension, we have failed. That tension should be energizing and keep us talking to each other and honoring the gifts of different vocations."
Council member Gay Jennings, Diocese of Ohio, suggested that the councils of advice to the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies ought to meet together to consider the perceptions discussed during the council meeting.
"As we approach [the 2012 meeting of General Convention in] Indianapolis, I would hate to see this kind of tension become exacerbated," Jennings said.
Earlier in the meeting Jennings had reported that the council's Governance and Administration for Mission Committee, which she chairs, would lead a multi-meeting educational effort meant as a way for the council to strengthen its understanding of its role and responsibility.
Diocese of Michigan Bishop Wendell Gibbs told his council colleagues that "the body cannot afford to have any member say to another 'we don't need you.'"
He added that the members of the church must "trust not just in one another but trust our God."
"We're an incredible gift to the world given by God," Gibbs said of the Episcopal Church. "I come into this gathering trusting that every one of you is here for God's purpose and we have to go from that."
Council member Mark Harris, Diocese of Delaware, said that there are times that he values the discussion about how to be more nimble in the future, but sometimes feels "worn down and oppressed by the concern about organization rather than the concern about mission."
At the end of the discussion, Jefferts Schori thanked Sherrod for voicing her concerns.
"I intended to be provocative; I think that's part of my job," she told the council. "I am absolutely rejoicing that we can have a conversation like this. I don't think we could have had a conversation like this a year ago. We have grown in our ability to do this kind of work."
During her closing remarks to council, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson said that after eight terms as a deputy she still "marvel[s] at the democratic way in which our church governs itself and the way in which our authority is shared among all the baptized."
Anderson expanded on her view of the Episcopal Church's democratic governance. She told the council that "the Holy Spirit dwells among us, it dwells and presides in the councils of the church. What a council seeks to understand by its debates and votes is not the mind of the majority of its church members. We seek to understand the mind of the Holy Spirit."
She said people are attracted to the Episcopal Church for many reasons, including "by the way the authority shared for accomplishing God's mission."
"Our energy as a church, our ability to do much with few members, comes from a sense of ownership and investment that Episcopalians feel in the mission of their church," she said.
The shape of the 2011 budget
Revenue in the 2011 budget is $2.1 million less than originally projected, with income from dioceses projected at $682,946 less than expected. The revenue reductions come "as a result of an unpredictable delayed payment by one diocese," as well as major cuts in Church Center spending that also will result in less revenue, according to a memo to council members from the church's Finance Office. The diocese involved has not yet been disclosed.
Total revenue is projected to be $37,147,458, while total expenses are budgeted at $36,963,127.
Council changed little of the budget as proposed by Church Center staff. The one exception was a decision by council's Finances for Mission Committee, which reviews the proposed budget prior to a council vote, to put on hold a proposal in the 2011 budget to revamp the Church Center's Mission Funding Initiative.
Sandra Swan, former president of Episcopal Relief & Development and chair of a subcommittee which FMM had appointed to review the initiative's performance, gave the committee a verbal version of the report Oct. 24. However, the committee decided that it needed more time to review the written version of the report, which it received later that day. The committee said it would make recommendations to the full council based on the report at council's Feb. 16-18 meeting in Forth Worth, Texas.
During the course of the discussion during the FFM committee sessions on Oct. 24, Episcopal Church Treasurer Kurt Barnes reported that the Mission Funding Office, created by General Convention in 2003 and chartered by Executive Council in February 2005, has received $355,000 in "actual cash through the door." Its initial fund-raising goal was $250 million and has grown to nearly $375 million as other projects were assigned to the office, according to conversations during the committee's sessions. The General Convention-adopted budget for 2010-2012 allocated the office (in lines 185-196 here) $1.5 million in operating expenses.
The approved 2011 budget also includes payments of $1.1 million in interest and $1.2 million in principal towards a $37 million loan used for Church Center renovations authorized by council in 2004 and completed in 2007.
By way of a related resolution proposed by FFM, the council approved borrowing of up to $60 million to refinance $46.1 million in debt that comes due at the end of this year. The $37 million renovation loan makes up the bulk of that amount. In addition, close to $10 million was spent on property in Austin, Texas, as a potential site for relocating the Archives of the Episcopal Church. The resolution said that the borrowing authority is also meant "to provide continuing working capital and liquidity."
The resolution requires that any refinancing agreements include a mandatory repayment schedule for the $37 million at a fixed interest rate. FFM chair Del Glover told his committee earlier in the meeting that because of past budget decisions, only about $500,000 of the principal has been paid off.
"To the extent that we are not paying debt, we are borrowing money to do the ministry of the church," he said.
The resolution calls for mortgaging the Episcopal Church Center in Manhattan and securing the rest of the borrowing with unrestricted endowment assets. The current debt is in the form of a line of credit.
Finances for Ministry initially discussed the borrowing authority during an Oct. 23 session that grew somewhat heated when Barnes objected to Glover having appointed a subcommittee to look into the refinancing possibilities and the borrowing philosophies behind them. Barnes said he was told that the subcommittee was to be a council of advice for him, but said "the council of advice never invited my opinion, so I don't feel it's a council of advice."
He said that the subcommittee's report did not take into account the work that he and Margareth Crosnier de Bellaistre, the church's director of investment management and banking, had been doing for many months to explore refinancing options and solicit proposals from lenders. "It acts as if we've been asleep," Barnes said of the report.
"The way it was approached, my staff and I absolutely felt that our intelligence or ability was always being challenged," Barnes said. "We give 10 hours a day to this church and then we have other people who say, 'but you don't know what you're doing.' That's our problem and if we have misread it, then I am sorry."
Glover said that the finance office staff had misread the subcommittee's intent. He said the group, made up of former members of the Joint Audit Committee of Executive Council and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and those with expertise in the area, was in fact offering advice and contacts, not implementing policy. He said the need for the subcommittee grew out of the audit committee's concern about the level of debt the church has and about the payment coming due at the end of the year.
Jefferts Schori told the committee during its Oct. 23 session that the appointment of the subcommittee "points to a large issue in our system."
"The job of Executive Council is to set policy, not to implement it and that's where the rub has come," she said.
"It denigrates the staff, that's not helpful," she said of the creation of the subcommittee, adding that "it overreaches the authority of this committee."
"I think people have gotten past the anger and the insult," she told Glover, "but let's not have it happen again."
In other business, council:
- authorized a letter to be sent to the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina, which had asked the council and the House of Bishops to investigate a series of actions which it said "are accelerating the process of alienation and disassociation" of the diocese from the Episcopal Church. The letter says that the council and the presiding bishop are "committed to doing what we can to help the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina continue to participate fully in the life, work and mission of the Episcopal Church," but notes that "there are canonical limits to how her office and the Executive Council can intervene." Jennings told the council that those limits prevent the investigation that the forum requested. Council member Jim Simons, Diocese of Pittsburgh, offered any help he could by drawing upon his 25-year friendship with South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence. Jefferts Schori encouraged Simons to make informal, personal contact with Lawrence, saying "the more bridges we can build, the better."
- elected Fredrica Harris Thomsett, a retired historical theology professor at Episcopal Divinity School, to succeed Scott Evenbeck of the Diocese of Indianapolis, who resigned from the council in June. Evenbeck said his appointment as the founding president of a new community college of the City University of New York would take up much of his time. Harris Thomsett will serve until the end of the next meeting of General Convention in 2012, and can be elected to a full term.
- heard that it will be asked in February to give its consent to a site for the 2015 meeting of General Convention. Episcopal Church Executive Officer and General Convention Secretary the Rev. Dr. Gregory Straub said that the three finalists (Atlanta, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City) will be narrowed to one. The presidents of the church's nine provinces, as well as Jefferts Schori and Anderson, must also give their consent.
During its meeting, the council adopted several resolutions which are summarized below.
Appoint Grant Thornton as Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society auditor for 2010 (EC014).
Advocacy and Networking for Mission
Authorize filing a shareholder resolution on behalf of the DFMS, asking that Arch Coal's board of directors report on the company's mining policies as they affect access to water (A&N015).
Finances for Mission
Adopt revised official travel guidelines for the DFMS (FFM026).
Designate 2011 tax-deductible housing allowance as requested by clergy employees of the DFMS pursuant to Internal Revenue Service regulations (FFM027).
Withdraw $73,317.50 from six trust funds upon receipt of properly executed request from the bishop and Standing Committee of the Episcopal Church of Liberia (ECL) for scholarships and property improvements or completion (FFM028).
Revise language of Trust Fund # 483, Ramsaur, William Hoke, Memorial Building Fund (1935) Gift of, A Special (FFM029).
Authorize DFMS treasurer to enter into agreements to borrow an amount not to exceed $60 million to refinance existing debt and to provide continuing working capital and liquidity to the DFMS; that a minimum of $37 million include a mandatory repayment schedule at a fixed interest rate; that the treasurer continue to examine sources of long-term financing that might be secured by the Episcopal Church Center property (FFM030).
Approve 2011 budget for the Episcopal Church (FFM031).
Reaffirm its commitment to initiate a fundraising appeal to begin rebuilding the infrastructure of the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti with a goal of $10 million for the initial phase; that the appeal support priorities articulated by the leadership of the diocese and involve grassroots participation of all Episcopal communities of faith; retain the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) to coordinate the appeal and that Executive Council members support this appeal through prayer, financial contribution, and the identification and recruitment of volunteers and donors (FFM032).
Governance and Administration for Mission
Adopt a revised whistleblower policy for DFMS employees (GAM008).
Local Ministry and Mission
Recognize new companion diocese relationship between the Diocese of Western Michigan and the Diocese of the Dominican Republic until such time as this relationship is terminated by mutual consent (LMM014).
Review and affirm a list of Jubilee programs (LMM015).
Recognize new companion diocese relationship between the Diocese of West Tennessee and the Diocese of Haiti, beginning March 2010 and continuing until March 2015 unless terminated by mutual consent (LMM016).
Accept an invitation to participate in the second Mutual Responsibility in Mission Conference of the Provinces of the Americas (WM015)
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 provincial synods for six-year terms, plus the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies.