In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Looking at the budget for the next triennium of the Episcopal Church through the lens of those challenging words, a reasonable assumption could be made that the heart of the Church is set upon earthly things.
Passing the budget for the Episcopal Church is one of the primary tasks of General Convention. The Executive Council has posted its proposed budget here, and the Program, Finance, and Budget Committee has scheduled legislative hearings on this budget for the evenings of Friday, June 26 and Saturday, June 27.
Simply put, this budget funds the status quo of the Episcopal Church. Dollars are heavily weighted toward administrative and meeting costs in proportion to mission work. For example, the draft budget calls for $400,000 to be given in the form of grants to campus ministries in the Episcopal Church. In comparison, each meeting of the Executive Council costs $200,000 (Executive Council meets four times over the course of a triennium). The total allotment for the Executive Council comes in at just over a $1,000,000. College ministry is a major opportunity for evangelism for the Episcopal Church, but the budget appears to ignore this possibility.
The Committees, Commissions, Agencies, and Boards (CCAB’s) of the Episcopal Church are also beneficiaries of this draft budget. The adopted budget for all CCAB’s for this last triennium was $630,449, though it is forecast that the actual costs will be $842,643. Noting a higher frequency of meetings planned for the next triennium, the draft budget calls for $1,000,00 to be allocated to their work. While the work done by many of these groups is important to the structure of the Church, the growth in budget dollars should raise some eyebrows. To compare, Hispanic/Latino ministries are only allocated $430,000 in this draft budget. That does represent an increase of $93,000 (30% growth) over the last triennium, but that pales in comparison to the increase given to the CCAB’s of $369,551 (59% growth). Again, the needs of the institutional body take precedence over ministry to one of the fastest growing demographics in the United States.
It is easy to get lost in the numbers, so perhaps a reflection on the name of the Episcopal Church will suffice. The incorporated name of the Episcopal Church is the “Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society,” commonly called “DFMS.” Our Church, at its very core, is a missionary body. After looking through the draft budget, one could be forgiven for mistaking those initials to mean the “Domestic and Foreign Meeting Society.” This draft budget, and the priorities it represents, are far removed from the core values the Church espouses.
For the Episcopal Church to thrive in the future, money must be given to mission and evangelism. Anything less is storing up treasures where agendas and meetings consume, and where travel expenses and reimbursements destroy.