By Kirk Petersen

Despite somber warnings in early June about the potential need for layoffs at the Church Center, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church (TEC) has approved a budget for the remainder of 2020 that makes only minor additional spending cuts.

The council met online in June and made $3.4 million in “low-hanging fruit” cuts from what began the year as a $45 million budget, with much of the reduction related to travel. On July 22 the council approved an additional $129,000 in cuts, mostly realized by trimming various program budgets without eliminating any program altogether.

Spokeswoman Nancy Davidge confirmed that no layoffs are anticipated in the budget.

Chief Financial Officer N. Kurt Barnes and Mally Lloyd, who chairs the council’s finance committee, described a series of metrics indicating financial strength:

  • Only one diocese (Mississippi) has requested a new reduction from the 15% annual assessment, and the percentage of 2020 assessments already paid is similar to last year.
  • Short-term reserves are at $12 million, well above the minimum $9 million benchmark.
  • The Church has $5.5 million in its checking account, and has not spent the $3 million it received from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
  • The new budget forecasts a $1.6 million surplus for the year.
  • Investment returns in the second quarter erased most of the losses experienced in the first quarter.

“We have $40 million in investments that we control as a council, but I think we’re far from having to talk about touching that,” Mally said.

The council did not discuss one of the biggest budget items looming for 2021: the triennial General Convention, which is both the governing body of the Church and a massive reunion of the Episcopal family. It is still officially scheduled for June 30 to July 9 in Baltimore, but there seems to be little chance of that.

Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry and President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings announced at the June 5 meeting that “We have concluded with regret that we must plan as if our traditional 10-day gathering of 10,000 people or more will not be possible in 2021.”

In the nearly seven weeks since then, there has been no organized outcry of support for an in-person event. Davidge said the announcement is the Church’s most recent guidance on General Convention, and a task force is actively exploring alternatives.

“For good or for ill, we’ve only just begun,” Curry said, in opening remarks about the pandemic. “We’re in this for a while.”