Adjust Accordingly

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The Rt. Rev. Scott Benhase, Bishop of Georgia, writes about the need to decrease financial expectations as a matter of pastoral sensitivity:

The Task Force for Reimagining the Church has stated that diocesan expectations for supporting The Episcopal Church ought to be lowered to a more reasonable percentage, one that is realistic, manageable, and with which compliance by dioceses is more likely. This seems quite wise to me. We need to ask: What is the current pattern? What is the average percentage that is actually given? Where is the current median diocesan percentage? Answers to those questions will probably allow us to have a realistic conversation about the income side of the triennial budget. My hunch is that somewhere from 10%-12% will be the sweet spot for a new diocesan assessment (not asking) for the next ten years or so. That then will need further reduction after a decade or so to probably 5%-6%. Once that is projected out, then an expense budget can prudently be created that stays within realistic revenue. Executive Council’s proposal of going from 19% to 15% over the coming triennium is not helpful. It only continues our magical thinking, which will result in further guilt, blaming, and resentments.

With a greatly reduced, yet realistic, revenue budget The Episcopal Church’s triennial expense budget will take on drastic cuts that will be necessary in the short term as we begin to retool how we resource mission. As I indicated above, asking people to give more to their parishes, and parishes more to the dioceses, and dioceses more to the larger church is a dead end in the long term. Households and congregations are strapped as it is and many middle and working-class households in my diocese give well over $3000/year to support the congregation’s, and by extension, the diocese’s mission. Asking them for more is not pastorally sensitive to their own financial circumstances. The same is true when we go up the “food chain.” Asking congregations to give a larger percentage to the Diocese is untenable if those same congregations are going to engage in meaningful mission locally. That is why in Georgia four years ago we reduced our asking to a 10% percentage (and that will be too high within a decade or so and it will have to reduced even more).

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