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The Governance of The Episcopal Church: The following information is another in an ongoing series discussing the governance of The Episcopal Church.
General Convention 2015 is two years away, but Executive Council’s 2016-2018 triennium budget preparation process is well underway.
“The new budget process is really a visionary budget process,” Executive Council member the Rev. Susan Brown Snook explained. “Our hope is to create a budget that learns from our experiences of the past, while identifying visionary priorities.”
Similar to the current budget of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS), approved by General Convention 2012, the 2016-2018 triennium budget that is drafted by Executive Council will focus on the Five Marks of Mission. In The Episcopal Church, Executive Council creates a draft budget and releases it to the Program, Budget, and Finance (PB&F) committee by the February prior to each General Convention. PB&F uses the draft budget and any legislation passed by General Convention to create a final budget proposal, which is presented to General Convention for consideration and approval.
Snook, of the Diocese of Arizona, and Bishop Mark Hollingsworth of the Diocese of Ohio are Executive Council members leading the multi-stepped visionary and budget process.
“Any budget process can and ought to be a conversation about more than money,” Hollingsworth explained. “It’s about what we believe and how we employ who we are, and the resources that God gives us, in mission. That conversation is important churchwide. It takes a lot of time and it’s why we needed to start early.”
“I believe that the church is in a time of great transition," Snook said. “The way we spend our money truly describes our mission priorities.” But first, she added, “We need to understand our vision and our priorities so we spend our money in the wisest way.”
The intention of the early work is to provide for means and opportunities for discussion on a range of topics, including the diocesan asking.
Hollingsworth explained that the Executive Council Joint Standing Committee on Finance for Mission (FFM) engaged this conversation starting last fall. “We understand that stewardship is not only about how we spend our resources but also about how we give, and therefore it requires us to have a conversation about the revenue side of the budget,” he continued. “The revenue side is equally about who we are and how we understand the body of Christ.”
The visionary process to date has included an overview and discussion at the Executive Council meetings in February and June; a request for input from Executive Council members and DFMS management; a visionary process for Committees, Commissions Agencies and Boards (CCABs), currently underway; and a survey, focusing on diocesan asking, prepared for Bishops and House of Deputies members.
So far, they report, the process has been welcomed and smooth. Hollingsworth pointed out, “My observation is that people have been grateful for an early conversation on how we spend our resources. We as a Church are not very good about talking about the revenue side, especially the diocesan asking. Yet I find many people are seeking a wider conversation about diocesan asking and how we can do that more faithfully.”
Looking to ministry leaders
The budget committee has asked members of CCABs for a wide assessment of priorities based on the Five Marks of Mission. “We are looking to ministry leaders across the church to ascertain what those priorities are,” Snook said. “Bishops, lay, clergy, all across age, race, diversity, geographic differences.”
The committee has turned to the CCABs for input because they already comprise this broad diversity. “Each CCAB is composed of a cross-section of the church, and each covers a particular ministry area, and hence can identify priorities for that area,” Snook said. In addition, asking the CCABs for input allows the budget committee to consider in advance any legislative proposals that might come from CCABs with funding requests.
Currently a survey has been developed and distributed to bishops and deputies to General Convention. The survey consists of only five questions, all focusing on diocesan giving to the church-wide body and what that says about our view of ourselves as a church united in mission, as well as the best way to calculate the diocesan giving formula.
“We are well aware that the diocesan asking formula is a hot discussion item,” she said.
Stated in the survey introduction: Executive Council’s Joint Standing Committee on Finances for Mission is conducting this brief survey of deputies and bishops, to help us consider the budget we propose to the next General Convention in 2015. Specifically, we are interested in considering the formula by which we ask each diocese to contribute money to the church-wide body, how that amount is calculated, and the consequences of dioceses paying less than the full asking.
“Part of the purpose of the survey is to gather input on what people are thinking, and another part of the process is to get the people thinking,” Susan explained.
The responses will be reviewed by the subcommittee on the budget process.
Working with other committees
Knowing that other committees and groups are looking at the structure of the Episcopal Church, Snook and Hollingsworth explained that survey findings and budget preparation data will be shared with both the Standing Commission on Structure and The Task Force for Re-Imagining the Episcopal Church (TREC).
“We are keeping the lines of communication open with groups focusing on structure,” Snook said.
“While our work is specifically for the 2016-2018 triennium, we recognize that we are doing this at the same time that TREC is undertaking their work," Hollingsworth noted. “We hope that whatever work we do will contribute to the future budget processes and to TREC.”
Snook noted that changes to the way the church operates, such as restructuring proposals created by TREC or any change in location of the Church Center, will be taken into account as those decisions are made. "There are a lot of moving pieces in this budget proposal," she said.
In addition, Executive Council's budget committee is keeping lines of communication open with PB&F. At least one PB&F member will attend each Executive Council meeting, so that PB&F will be fully informed of the details of the proposed budget. PB&F and FFM hope to have a joint meeting in June 2014 to talk about the budget proposal.
August 16 is the deadline for survey responses.
A summary of the survey answers will be prepared by September.
Reports on the surveys and comments will be presented at the October Executive Council meeting.
At that meeting, Executive Council's standing committees will hear CCAB reports and begin to rank mission-funded priorities, which will be forwarded to FFM for its use.
At the February 2014 Executive Council meeting, an initial visionary budget will be prepared and priorities will begin to be considered with an eye to revenue realities.
At the October 2014 Executive Council meeting a preliminary budget proposal will be prepared. It will be released to the public and comments will be received until February 2015, when it will be revised (if necessary) and a final budget proposal will be prepared and released to PB&F.
Members of the subcommittee are:
Executive Council Finances for Mission Group: The Rev. Susan Brown Snook, Subcommittee Chair; Tess Judge, Subcommittee Vice Chair; Bishop Mark Hollingsworth, FFM Chair; the Rev. Canon John Floberg; Francisco Quinones.
Executive Council Governance and Ministry Group: Stephen Hutchinson, GAM Chair
Program, Budget, and Finance: Bishop Stephen Lane; the Rev. Canon Mally Ewing Lloyd
Standing Commission on the Structure of the Church: The Rev. Canon Paul Lebens-Englund; Bishop David Reed
DFMS Staff: Bishop Stacy Sauls, Chief Operating Officer; Kurt Barnes, Treasurer
Five Marks of Mission
The Five Marks of Mission, developed by the Anglican Consultative Council, adopted by the General Convention in 2009, and the basis of the 2013-2015 triennium budget, are:
For more information contact Snook at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org