By Lauren Anderson and Matt Townsend
The House of Deputies passed the 2012-15 budget without amendment July 11.
The budget, the work of several meetings of the Program, Budget & Finance Committee and the subject of lengthy testimony, calls for a 19 percent asking rate from dioceses. It eliminates 12 positions from the Episcopal Church Center, reduces the communications budget by $887,753 and establishes block grants for several initiatives, including a development office.
Deputies suggested several amendments to the proposed budget, each soundly defeated. An amendment proposed by the Rev. Michael Russell of San Diego would have reduced budgeted staff expense by 25 percent, leaving it at $41.2 million. “It seems to me that we can make a gesture towards reimagining our future and re-envisioning our future by simply cutting that total staff line,” Russell said.
Prior the budget’s approval, communication funding and diocesan asking rates led the deputies’ debate.
Deputies spoke against the substantial reduction in funds allocated for communication in the proposed budget.
James Steadman of Northwestern Pennsylvania raised concerns about the reduction, saying that each of the Five Marks of Mission requires communication. Without sufficient communication funds, Steadman said, the church will be “left in the lurch.”
The Rev. William Stokes of Southeast Florida noted the cut to external communication funding, saying it may not be wise to reduce external communication in a time of membership decline.
“We continue to engage in communication efforts that are still fundamentally focused internally,” Stokes said. “We tell our stories to one another.”
Without adequate external communication funding, Stokes said, “the Episcopal Church will go back to being the best-kept secret in Christendom.”
Matthew Grizzle of Southern Virginia said the importance of digital communication may be overstated. As a college student, Grizzle said, he was drawn to the Episcopal Church because of a personal invitation. Grizzle said good mass communication is not as important as emphasizing personal interaction. “I don’t want your money, I want you,” Grizzle said. “It’s not the website, it’s the physical presence.”
The asking rate again arose during debate. Deputy Diane Pollard of New York said the Program, Budget & Finance Committee recognized it would not be wise to go above a 19 percent asking rate. The budget states that given the “significant downward pressure on income in some parts of the church,” the committee recognizes that some dioceses will not pay their full asking.
“We’re collecting 19 percent [from dioceses] to fund the same programs, and they are wonderful, but they are the same programs,” said the Rev. John Hiers of Southwest Florida. “Our money shows what we really think about reform.”
The Rev. Dr. Douglas Sparks of Minnesota said the asking rate had not been a major issue of discussion during hearings, and thus was taken as a lower priority. “We received testimony from a total of 12 people. Four people spoke to the apportionment question,” he said. “Seven people spoke to the development office.”
Image by PDPhoto.org.