General Convention will be asked to approve a proposed budget for 2004-2006 that attempts to fulfill compelling mission priorities while keeping a sharp and conservative eye on expected revenues. The proposal calls for slightly increased spending of $146.4 million for the triennium, compared with the $138.4 million budget adopted for the 2001-2003 triennium.
“This proposed budget draft has built-in conservative projections of income, yet continues to strategize for mission and ministry based on priorities,” said Dean George Werner, president of the House of Deputies, in an introduction to the budget document. Projected revenue figures anticipate a continued fall in investment income, but predict increased giving from dioceses.
Emphasizing gospel values
Amid recovery from war and terrorism, and in a stalled economy, resources are shrinking rapidly, he said. “Yet dread and enmity are not Gospel values,” Werner noted. “It is precisely in times such as these that we must set an example of our faith in God’s abundance and in our commitment to use that abundance for the good of all God’s children.”
Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold, in a message to convention, spoke of the theme, “Engage in God’s Mission.” This mission “is not an abstraction,” he declared. “ And, it is very clear in these days that there is an urgent need to participate in God’s reconciling work in the world.”
Alabama bishop Henry Parsley, co-chair of General Convention’s Standing Commission on Stewardship and Development (SCSD), said that his group has for the past three years thought that focusing on the idea that Christians are created in the image of God will “draw us away from a life of sinful self-centeredness. The nature of our group is to really look at the income side, not on spending.”
In its report to convention, the commission focused on the theology of stewardship, holding up the biblical standard of the tithe and in its expression in “first-fruits” tithing. This is, explained Parsley, “giving off the top” to the church, in gratitude to God, from one’s income before using it for anything else.
Parsley said that Resolution A140, which calls for immediate creation of a Mission Funding Office, is extremely important. Other resolutions proposed by SCSD call for implementation of the Alleluia Fund, accountability of mission partners, 50/50 outreach for congregations, and affirmation of the work of TENS, the Episcopal stewardship network.
The Alleluia Fund: Build My Church is a concept that was confirmed by the last General Convention. It is an annual diocesan campaign during the Great Fifty Days of Easter, with each household invited to make daily contributions, in the same manner that contributions have traditionally been made to mite boxes during the Lenten season. Money collected is used by the diocese to fund new mission initiatives.
Funding the priorities
The budget process began with preliminary work by the church’s senior management and mission staff. Then Executive Council assigned its administration and finance committee to refine the initial work, approved the result and sent it to deputies, bishops and to members of the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance (PB&F).
This time around, PB&F asked the Executive Council to establish budget priorities to give focus to the budget. Five major priorities were approved and ranked in order of importance:
Reaching out to youth and young adults through inclusion and incorporation in the church’s thinking, work, worship and structure.
Reconciling and engaging those who do not know Christ by proclaiming the Gospel to those who are not yet members of the church.
Revitalizing and transforming congregations through leadership development, spiritual growth, dynamic and inclusive worship, greater diversity, and mission.
Reaffirming a commitment to diversity, promoting justice and peace and reaching out to the dispossessed, imprisoned, and voiceless.
Reaffirming our partnerships with provinces of the Anglican Communion and beyond and relationships with ecumenical and interfaith partners.
Program heads were then asked to submit proposed new and expanded initiatives that would respond to these priorities.
“All this work was done before we even looked at the numbers,” said former treasurer Ralph O’Hara in a preface to the budget document. O’Hara has since resigned to return home to Chicago and a position in the corporate sector.
Congregational development has been significantly strengthened in the areas of new church planting, research, and assistance to parishes with regard to engaging emerging generations.
Ethnic ministries are being redefined to include an emphasis on congregational development and there is significant growth in support for communications, particularly regarding enhancement of electronic media possibilities.
Other expanded initiatives include youth programs and support of the Fresh Start program, which helps strengthen congregations and clergy leadership.
Bonnie Anderson of the Diocese of Michigan and chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance, said her committee will hold hearings and listen to what is going on with legislation. “We will hold a funding hearing [on July 31] and later an open hearing on spending [Aug. 1].”
“For the first time ever, we have asked [House of Deputies] President Werner and the Dispatch of Business chair to encourage committee chairs to report out legislation with funding implications by the fifth legislative day. PB&F gratefully accepts the work of Executive Council in the form of the draft budget. Through open hearings, PB&F reworks and revises the draft budget,” she said.
The budget will be presented to the convention on Aug. 6, and put to a vote the following day.
“We try to be accessible to the convention and to make people understand what happens to their funding ideas,” she emphasized. “In particular, we are trying to close the gap of misunderstanding about the process. Just because a resolution has been passed on the floor doesn’t mean it’s in the budget.”
The Rev. Ted Malone, Jr., is a member of the Episcopal News Service news team at General Convention.