Convention accepts $134 million three-year spending plan

July 12, 2018

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] After rejecting all three amendments put to them, deputies on July 12 accepted the proposed 2019-2021 budget and sent it to the House of Bishops for their consideration.

The bishops acted minutes later, approving the budget in a voice vote without any debate.

The Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance had presented its proposed $133.8 million 2019-2021 budget during a July 11 joint session of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

The budget reflects the presiding bishop’s priorities of evangelism, racial reconciliation and justice, and creation care. The priorities have been referred to as the “three pillars” of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement.

It also continues to be built on what Maine Bishop Steve Lane, vice chair of PB&F, told the joint session is “the foundation of our continuing ministries as a church and our commitments to others both within and beyond our church.” In addition, it includes the foundation of the church’s “ongoing commitment to conciliar governance, and the legal, financial and other services of the Church Center [the denominational offices in New York].”

Of the three proposed amendments from the floor, one called for shifting a hard-fought $650,000 for director’s and officer’s fees for the president of the House of Deputies into program for racial justice and reconciliation. The other two proposed adding money into the budget to support the work of The Episcopal Network for Stewardship, or TENS.

West Missouri Deputy Curtis Hamilton told his colleagues they ought to accept his amendment not to provide compensation for the president of the House of Deputies because the church should not be paying more people when PB&F had been faced with $15 million more in program requests than it had revenue to cover.

“A decision was made to prioritize an internal governance issue over other priorities such as racial justice and reconciliation in order to balance the budget,” Hamilton said.

Deputy Scott Haight of West Tennessee objected to Hamilton’s suggestion, saying that the house had tried for 40 years to gain some sort of compensation for its president. Part of that goal was to respond to the sense that “persons of color who have been historically, disproportionately been excluded from serving in this position.” He urged the deputies not to pit priorities against each other.

The Rev. Winnie Varghese, deputy from New York, agreed. “This amendment pits two yeses of this house against each other,” said Varghese, who left the dais where she serves as the house’s voting secretary to enter the debate.

The Rev. Nina Ranadive Pooley, deputy from Maine, said the push to earn compensation for the president of the House of Deputies was “a matter of racial reconciliation for this house” because offering compensation means that any member of the house can run for the post. “Any race, ethnicity, any gender, any socio-economic status,” she said.

East Carolina Deputy Tess Judge, former chair of Executive Council’s Finances for Mission committee which crafted a proposed draft budget for PB&F, urged defeat of the amendment.

“We also are very pleased that our bishops have come together and want to work with us on this and move this forward,” she said. I ask that this amendment be defeated and that we work for fairness so that others who want to serve in the role of president of the House of Deputies may be able to do so from an economic standpoint as well.”

Hamilton’s amendment failed on a loud voice vote with only scattered approval.

Neither of the TENS amendments (0116 or 126) to return $150,000 to the budget succeeded.

The 2013-2015 budget had given $385,264 to the organization, which is independent of the churchwide structure, calling it (on line 138 here) a partnership “to support a local network empowering churchwide stewardship ministry.” The 2016-2018 cut that amount to $150,000, noting (on line 138 here) that the funding originally had been entered into as a one-time-only grant partnership.

The Rev. Candice Frazer, an Alabama deputy who proposed the first amendment, said 65 dioceses in the Episcopal Church as well as dioceses elsewhere in the Anglican Communion belong to TENS and use its stewardship resources and training. “My amendment simply requests that we continue to uphold and value stewardship as a practice committed to us both biblically and traditionally,” she said.

Both of the amendments failed on voice votes.

The budget now becomes the shared purview of PB&F and the Executive Council. Between meetings of convention, the canons assign oversight of the budget to council while convention’s Joint Rules of Order assign very similar responsibilities to PB&F.

Council crafts annual budgets out of the spending plan that General Convention passes. Typically, council adjusts each of the three annual budgets based on changing income and expenses. At least one PB&F member typically attends each of council’s nine meetings during the triennium.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is the Episcopal News Service’s senior editor and reporter.

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