More Reflections on the Budget
The Report to the 77th General Convention, aka “Blue” Book (it’s going to be a salmon color this time) will soon be released that will contain all the resolutions that have been submitted from Commissions, Agencies and Boards for this triennium. Provincial Synods will be gathering over the next few months (Province I just met this week) to discuss resolutions and the budget.
Currently on the House of Deputies Online Forum, is “The Budget and the Budget Process.” You can follow the discussion – if you’re a deputy, you can post a question; if you have a question, pass it along to deputy to post. Here is the ‘white paper’ that explains the budget. This forum will continue through April 22.
Over the past few days, several more people have shared their thoughts and reflections about the proposed budget that will be presented at General Convention in July. Some great ideas have been presented. Read more here:
Susan Brown Snook, a deputy from Arizona has written several posts on her blog, A Good and Joyful Thing. Her first post, Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce and Short-Term Solutions to Long-Term Problems offered an assessment of the budget with the eye of a CPA. A sampling regarding what she believes the budget will accomplish in the short term:
Avoid making major shifts. The Christian Formation office was cut under the rationale that such things are better done at the local level. I don’t agree, because I think it is tremendously short-sighted for a church that is suffering from failure to form new disciples (especially among the young), and from aging demographics, to cut youth and college programming. Strategic vision for the future would require increased, not decreased, resources for youth/young adult ministries, at all levels. True, this is a ministry that is essentially done at the local level – but we can’t simply remove all its churchwide supports and expect it to thrive on its own without strategic work to make sure other structures are in place to support it.
But that’s my argument; you can disagree. Here’s the point: if we cut Christian Formation in this budget, we are making a huge long-term decision based on narrow short-term thinking.
Short-term, it is perfectly possible to balance this budget without cutting Christian Formation. We can do this through our existing legislative structures, by advocating through PB&F public hearings, or even proposing an alternative budget.
Several days later, she offered her Long-Term Thinking plan entitled “Mission . . . Mission . . . Mission“. Focusing on the Five Marks of Mission as a way to look at the budget, she outlines a plan to restructure with mission as its focus.
If the church neglects to form disciples through evangelism, worship and education, in 50 years we will have no one left to do the acts of loving service to others that comprise what Sauls and Jefferts Schori think of as mission … mission … mission. It takes disciples to do discipleship work. And therefore, evangelism and Christian formation need to be at the foundation of our church’s mission.
Tom Ferguson, Dean of Bexley Hall Seminary, blogging at Crusty Old Dean reflects on the subject of subsidiarity, in “We Just Can’t Quite Subsidiarity“. He gives a overview of the history of the Episcopal church’s polity and the role that dioceses, provinces and ‘national’ church governance have had over the local congregation:
So we have our own kind of subsidiarity, one built deeply into our structures and which, to a certain sense, we simply can’t shake: part of being Episcopalians is this balancing of the local, diocesan, provincial, and denominational levels.
He references numerous studies that have been taken over the past several years that would behoove church leaders at all levels of the church to read:
About for the past 25 years or so, we have seen the beginning of seismic shift away from that kind of centralization, with new understandings of the nature of community and relationship to institutions, with changes brought by factors as disparate as the internet, social media, globalization, and so on. There’s lots written on this; check out Faith Communities Together’s survey here, some of the Barna Group’s work here, the massive Pew Research study on religion here, order Diana Butler Bass’s excellent new book on this kind of thing here, and so on, to get a sense not of what is coming down the pike, but what is here, has already happened, and we’re waking up to.
Do you have reflections on the budget? Have you read the reflections of others? Please share links to other blogs here for others to read that they might not have learned about on their own!
Mary Ann Kolakowsi, Deputy from Rhode Island reported from Province One’s Synod that focused on General Convention on an update to the budget, posted here.
The Episcopal Cafe in recent weeks has posted several articles from others around the church:
- Are we sure the budget won’t focus on mission? by Benedict Varnum, a transitional deacon from Kansas
- How Mission Shapes Budget by Jesse Zink, a deacon and student at Yale Divinity School