LINTHICUM HEIGHTS, Md. — Executive Council discussed possible changes to its committee structure and sought ways to close a $12 million shortfall in the proposed budget for the next triennium.

Even while faced with a shortfall, as TLC previously reported, the council voted unanimously to forgive nearly $6 million in debt owed by the Diocese of San Joaquin, one of five dioceses where bishops and many congregations left the Episcopal Church amid disputes on sexuality and doctrine.

Mally Lloyd, chair of the budget subcommittee, told the council at its closing plenary on Oct. 21 that in consultation with other committees her committee had narrowed the budget gap in the course of the meeting. The draft budget for the triennium 2019-21 now shows $128.7 million in income and $137.1 million in expenses, leaving a shortfall of more than $8 million, according to discussions during the council’s four-day meeting.

In the discussion period, council members focused on the proposed cut of 41 percent in the evangelism budget, while some other budget lines were increasing. Lloyd explained that the evangelism budget for the current triennium was funded in part by a special draw against endowment income, which the finance committee felt could not be repeated. “Our reserves are dangerously low,” Lloyd said.

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All of these numbers are still very preliminary, and the entire working budget has not yet been made public. In the complicated budget process, Executive Council finance committee members were to meet immediately after the council meeting with members of the Program, Budget & Finance Committee, which is composed of deputies to General Convention.

PB&F in the coming weeks will post the draft budget online for comment by members across the church.

Executive Council will continue working with staff to find areas to cut expenses or increase revenues, and the council will take its final vote on the budget at its January meeting. PB&F will then use that document as a starting point in preparing the budget to be voted on at the July 2018 General Convention in Austin.

“The Episcopal Church is not retreating from our passion for evangelism,” said the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe, executive officer of General Convention, who also serves as the secretary of Executive Council. “We will find the resources to do whatever God is calling us to do.”

On a previous day, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, outlined some ideas for revising the committee structure of Executive Council, in part to enable the body to focus more on strategy and less on nuts and bolts. The presentation sparked animated conversations, with several council members asking what problem the proposal was intended to fix.

In subsequent committee meetings and other discussions, council agreed to step back to research and discern best practices about board jurisdiction in large non-profits agencies, before talking about changing committees.

Other topics discussed or acted on at the four-day meeting:

  • Episcopal Migration Ministries is continuing to adjust to a “new normal” of reduced refugee admission to the United States, said the Rev. Canon Mark Stevenson, the director of EMM. The new normal appears to be 45,000 refugees a year, down from a historical average of 96,000. This has had a dramatic effect on the agencies that work with EMM to resettle refugees at sites around the country, because those agencies are paid on per refugee. Stevenson said the number of sites working with EMM nationwide has declined from 31 to 22, and EMM has cut staff from 22 full-time equivalents to 14.
  • As previously reported, council made a moving expression of support for the work of Episcopal Relief & Development: dropping cash at the feet of Abagail Nelson, senior vice president of Episcopal Relief, after she reported to the council on recent natural disasters. Council members, staff, and visitors contributed a total of $776, which Nelson later described as “amazing” for a spontaneous event.
  • The Rev. Bradley Hauff, hired earlier this year as missioner for indigenous ministries, made his first appearance at council to discuss his ministry. Hauff, a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, told council that the focus of indigenous ministries has shifted from reservations to urban areas, where 80 percent of Native Americans now live. There are 101 primarily indigenous congregations throughout the church.

Kirk Petersen

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