Imagine

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Budget

Yesterday afternoon, the Program, Budget, & Finance Committee posted their proposed budget to the General Convention website. The budget is categorized using the Five Marks of Mission

1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom

2. To teach, baptize and nurture new believers

3. To respond to human need by loving service

4. To seek to transform unjust structures of society

5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and renew the life of the earth

Before offering any analysis, we and the whole Episcopal Church must first offer our gratitude to this committee and the Executive Council. It is exceedingly difficult to craft a $120 million budget. Now we turn to the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

The Good

Diocesan askings are being reduced from 18% to 15% over the course of this next triennium. This will ease the burden on many dioceses and should encourage those dioceses that do not give their full asking to increase their contribution. Furthermore, the draw on investments is projected to stay at 5%, below the average return rate of 8.3% since 1993.

On the expense side, there are many good programs and missions funded by the budget. For instance, the grants made to the historically black colleges and universities affiliated with the Episcopal Church have been increased. (You can read our analysis on those block grants here.) Also, an additional $1 million has been added to the church planting budget.

The Bad

The funding for the second mark of mission, about formation and instruction for new believers, has been reduced. While the Church is refocusing on mission, there is obvious concern that this reduced formation funding will not be adequate to nurture these new believers who will come to the Episcopal Church through our missionary efforts.

The income from rental space at 815 Second Avenue is projected to more than double over the next triennium ($4 million to nearly $10 million). At first glance, this is a great boon for the Church. However, there has been a great deal of conversation about selling the 815 office (including a resolution from 2012 calling for the Church Center to be moved from 815), and this seems to tie the Episcopal Church even closer to this office building in New York.

The Ugly

The proposed budget is rife with typos, errors, and numbers that do not match each other. The most obvious discrepancies can be found in the amount of income from diocesan askings. The budget resolution and the budget spreadsheet vary wildly, to the tune of nearly $30 million (a simple calculation will show that certain amounts were simply inserted in the wrong places).

The amount of income projected from diocesan askings is only 61% of the total budget. The rest of the revenue will come from rental income and draws on investment accounts. If a parish or diocese only relied on 61% of its budget to come from its constituent members, it would be a sign of financial illness. However, with the way the budget of the Episcopal Church is crafted, this low percentage does not seem to raise any eyebrows.

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What we do with our money is a sign of our commitment and faith to the Lord Jesus. Furthermore, the parallel conversation taking place on the structure of the Episcopal Church should have a great impact on the budget. If the Church can find a way to streamline our governance and create a more efficient system of polity, even more money can be allocated to fund the mission.