Legal assistance to Dioceses tops nearly $1 million from National Church
By David W. Virtue
The national church budget for the next triennium is looking extremely shaky in its income projections as diocese after dioceses cut their pledges to the National church for 2009 in response to income shortfalls."
The Diocese of Pennsylvania will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a lawsuit to take back the empty parish of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont. At the same time, the diocese continues to bleed red ink and the cretinous crew that makes up the Executive Committee, Diocesan Council will eliminate $100,000 programmatic initiatives because the average Diocesan pledge to the program has plummeted to less than 2% of congregational income.
Millions of dollars have been spent on the purchase and maintenance of Camp Wapiti in Maryland, which is now on the chopping block with no takers. Leaders are now acknowledging that no new pledges have been received, nor has any church responded by offering to increase its support of the mission and ministry to the Diocese.
The 2010 budget will be so seriously compromised because of reduced pledge income that diocesan leaders say it will need "frank and substantive conversation as to how to begin to reverse a continuing trend of diminished support of the important mission and ministry of the Diocese."
In short, the diocesan ship is full of holes and nothing has seriously improved in diocesan coffers following the departure of the once feared much hated and loathed Bishop Charles E. Bennison.
The brain dead species running the diocese believes that putting a godly rector and its parish out on the street is more to be preferred than money spent for mission, however dubious and spurious that mission might be. The new assisting Bishop, Rodney Michel will be unable to stop the hemorrhaging unless he is prepared to let aided parishes sink beneath the waves of their own bankrupt theology and morality. It is a recipe for disaster with aging rectors waiting for fat retirement pensions as they head off to warmer climes.
It is a story being repeated around the country.
In the Diocese of Hawaii Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick wrote, "We will need to plan some tight budgets over the next few years." He said the progressive decline of the economy, the continuing volatility of business, banking, real estate, job, and investment markets created a dynamic monthly scene demanding a change in investment income available for the 2009 diocesan budget. "We face a $222,489, a 9% shortfall."
He said programs would have to be deferred, amended, or partnered with others. The diocesan Council noted that budget planning for the next three years will closely resemble 2009, with the need to maintain a tight budget.
The Diocese of Newark, a flagship diocese supporting the full pansexual agenda of The Episcopal Church and where some of its leaders have been critical of those dioceses' that don't pay their full assessment, announced that they would make pledge payments to the national church on a time plan basis. There was no opportunity to begin a repayment schedule this year because of current financial constraints, said The Rev. Canon Dr. Sandye Wilson. The diocese will roll over their 2008 pledge payment to their 2010 budget. This begs the question, what makes them think that next year's budget will be easier?
In the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, The Rt. Rev. Nathan Baxter said the diocese will reduce its budget for 2010. "As parishioners fortunes have ebbed, so have church endowments and the contributions they receive from their congregations. Even the largest congregations in the Diocese have reduced their spending. The 2009 budget of $1.99 million will be reduced to just over $1.85 million for 2010. The Diocese has also sought to further reduce the financial strains on diocesan congregations by easing the fair share contribution requirements. Income to the diocese was just under $1.6 million. During the year, Council lowered that expected contribution by roughly seven percent, to $1.475 million. For 2010, fair share contributions are budgeted at $1,464,621, a still further reduction.
The bishop said this has resulted in reducing the chaplaincy at Penn State-funded directly by the Diocese-to a half-time position. Funds available from the Called to Grow and Sharing the Vision campaigns have either been depleted or reduced because of declining investment returns. As a result, funds available for youth ministries and other programs will decline.
The Diocese of Iowa announced significant budget reductions in 2009. Last November, the Diocese adopted a budget for 2009 in the knowledge that congregations' responses and the economic situation might require modifications during the year. The Board of Directors instructed the Ways and Means Committee to implement reductions as necessary. The budget was originally based on congregational pledge income of $966,181. As of the end of March 2009, congregations had responded with pledges totaling $865,483. In early April, leaders were informed of potential pledge reductions of another $30,000, a shortfall of at least $100,000 for 2009. As the Diocese has no cushion to absorb such a shortfall, the Ways and Means Committee advised a reduction of expenditures in the amount of $100,000.
The diocese then announced that it would drop its pledge to the national church by $71,016 or 30%. Other areas that received reductions were chaplaincy, commission and committee program lines.
The diocese of Idaho saw their pledge shortfall drop by 14.5% in assessment revenue and a 19% shortfall in projected investment income. The Diocesan Council reduced expenditures by $88,339 and tapped designated funds for an additional $16,500. A shortfall of $6, 174 will be taken from reserve funds.
Budget cuts resulted in reduced office hours at the Diocesan Center. Should revenues increase, reinstatement of staff hours and salaries are the first priority, according to Council minutes.
Other impacts include a reduction in "The Messenger" from 12 to 9 issues, the elimination of mission priorities and deanery grant money, a reduction in funding for travel by staff and committees, and deferred giving to standing re-serve funds.
The Council also chose to suspend the 3/4% assessment for New Congregation Funds for the months of May through December, with the hopes that this would help, in some small way, the financial stress faced by congregations.
In the Diocese of San Diego, which has seen nine parishes defect from the Episcopal Church with considerable legal action, Bishop James R. Mathes told his people that the diocese would have to trim their operating expenses. "We continue to be burdened by capital expenses that have never been incorporated into our operating budget (the mortgage for St. Timothy's, property expenses in Coachella and Imperial County to name a few). In addition, just as you have struggled with the retracting economy, our diocesan resources have been strained as well."
Mathes gave no figures, but he announced major organizational restructuring that will include a single Canon to the Ordinary. To help regain financial stability, he announced the position of a diocesan Development Director. He will become the deployment officer of the diocese.
The part time rector of St. George's Episcopal Church in Carmichael, California, The Rev. John Mangels captured the overall situation in a posting "Downsizing in Church" when he observed, "Many of our congregations are small. Historically, small congregations have been very persistent. The smallest churches are families, and they survive difficulties that would swamp larger congregations. That has been true. What's changing, at least in the Episcopal Church model, is how we're going to have to do ministry. We've been talking about this on a diocesan level.
"Episcopal Churches are, generally speaking, Eucharistically centered. That is, Holy Communion (the Lord's Supper) is a pretty standard part of our Sunday celebration. Our Book of Common Prayer specifies celebrating the Eucharist and that requires a trained Priest. We do local ordination of Priests, raising people up from a congregation to serve in that place. But we have always required that they serve under a "seminary trained" Priest. So we've done things like cluster congregations to maintain (and pay) seminary trained clergy to carry out oversight. For our smallest congregations, this is now proving economically impractical. Some of our congregations will not have Communion regularly on Sundays or the models are going to have to change. We have no answers yet."
Said a self-described country parson of the situation in The Episcopal Church. "Recent national church conventions have been so consumed by big global issues that local worshipers have felt left out and ignored. Successive resolutions proclaiming decades of evangelism, commitment to youth or the abolition of world poverty were great ideas but had no impact at the local level and did nothing to help local congregations with local issues of their own. I know that the homosexual question has raised the most headlines, but for most congregations in most dioceses it quickly became a fringe issue of limited local import. The main thing it did was illuminate how out of touch the national church was in the eyes of ordinary pew sitting church goers."