By G. Jeffrey MacDonald

Deputies showed new commitment to church-planting by amending the proposed triennial budget during floor debate Thursday and authorizing new spending from endowment returns to the tune of $5.6 million.

The increase came in the process of approving a $122 million budget that includes $2 million for a new initiative in racial justice and reconciliation. It also gradually reduces diocesan assessments by more than 20 percent in the next three years.

Seeing the proposed budget came in far short of requested funding levels for church-planting, deputies quickly rose to object.

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“We’ve got to more intentional about church planting,” said deputy Danielle Morris of the Diocese of Central Florida. “It must become a priority, and you can’t do that with the small budget that we have.”

Moments later, a member of the Program, Budget, and Finance Committee moved to modify the budget that his committee had approved. The Rev. Canon Frank Logue of the Diocese of Georgia called for an additional $2.8 million for Latino-Hispanic congregational development and another $2.8 million to create a churchwide network for planting new congregations. He said funds would be raised by drawing less than .5 percent annually from the Episcopal Church’s endowment.

General Convention Treasurer Kurt Barnes cautioned: while the endowment is expected to return 8 percent a year, those funds are already allocated to take account for spending commitments, portfolio management fees, and inflation.

“A larger draw means that you are decapitalizing, reducing the future purchasing power of the trust,” Barnes said.

But deputies were not discouraged. Supporters of new funds for church-planting won with 69 percent of the vote on Logue’s amendment.

Less successful was a push in recent days to fund a new digital evangelism initiative that aims to help people find Episcopal congregations and become involved via the Web. In a separate resolution, the House of Deputies approved the plan with a $3 million price, but the budget provides only $750,000 for it. Digital evangelism was not debated on the floor.

Stewardship, however, got a boost in the debate and the approved budget. The Episcopal Network for Stewardship (TENS), which equips congregations and dioceses with stewardship tools and tactics, had been slated to lose its $266,000 in funding on the grounds that local parish and congregational initiatives are developing their own effective tools. But deputies restored $150,000 in funding for TENS. The new spending would be offset by cuts in funds for development.

The budget now moves to the House of Bishops for consideration, but what General Convention decides is not binding. The Program, Budget, and Finance Committee will strongly consider directives from Convention, but can decline to follow them if it decides they are imprudent.

The Executive Council and presiding bishop-elect will work with staff to determine how to use the $2 million racial-justice allocation. The PB&F Committee had discussed using the funds to support reconciliation with African-Americans, indigenous peoples, and other groups. Reparations for past injustices are among the prospects being considered.

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