Building the Continuum

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An Official Statement on the Budget

by The Right Reverend Stephen Lane

At last week’s Province I Synod Pre-Convention meeting, I presented the draft proposed budget for 2013-2015. Present with me were Province I’s Executive Council members, members of Program, Budget and Finance, PB&F Chair Diane Pollard, the President of the House of Deputies, the Secretary of General Convention, and Del Glover, Chair of Executive Council’s subcommittee on finance. In the course of my presentation and the subsequent question and answer period, it became clear that there are a some internal inconsistencies and at least one error in the draft proposed budget.

The draft proposed budget is balanced at $104.9 million. However, there is an internal inconsistency related to the Development Office. The amount proposed as income for the Development Office is $3.7 million and the amount proposed for expense is $2.5 million. If the two numbers are brought into alignment, either by decreasing income or increasing expense, then the budget will be unbalanced by about $1.2 million.

There is also an apparent inconsistency in the sum of the amounts proposed for Grants and Covenants. The total listed is $15 million. Adding the internal line items results in a sum of something less. When I do the math it’s about $14 million, but it’s not clear at this time if the active spreadsheet would correct this seeming error in the pdf copy of the draft proposed budget.

Finally, the amount of $286,438 for Formation and Vocation is an error. Although Executive Council was clearly reducing the amount for this part of the budget, the actual number was lost in the complex process of combining the 15% and 19% cases the Executive Council used to build the draft proposed budget. The budget was adopted and Executive Council adjourned before the error was discovered. Questions have been asked regarding what the “real” number might have been. Council members at the Province I Synod suggested something in the range of $1.9 million. Other knowledgeable persons suggested $1 million. PB&F will need to address this matter at General Convention. Restoring funds to Formation and Vocation will require taking funds from other places.

Diane Pollard and I are both very aware of the concern many have about errors in the draft budget. However, we want to emphasize that this is the Draft Proposed Budget that was submitted by Executive Council in January to the Joint Standing Committee on Program Budget and Finance.  This draft budget cannot be changed until the General Convention meets in Indianapolis in July.  In July the budget will be changed not only to reflect the numerical corrections, but it will also be changed to reflect General Convention Committee decisions, hearing discussions and other input that has and is being received.

We encourage your participation in the Provincial Synod meetings that are being conducted at this time as well as the hearings at General Convention, the House of Deputies online forum, and our blogspot. Thank you to all for your continued support.

Steve Lane and Diane Pollard
Program, Budget & Finance (PB&F)

The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane is bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Maine. This letter first appeared on a list-serve reserved for bishops and deputies to discuss matters of General Convention on April 17, 2012. It is shared here with Bishop Lane’s permission. 

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More Reflections on the Budget

Budget

Budget (Photo credit: Tax Credits)

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.   Read more…

What IS General Convention?

The General Convention is the primary governing and legislative body of The Episcopal Church. With the exception of the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Constitution and Canons, it is the ultimate authority in the Episcopal Church. General Convention comprises two houses: the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. It meets regularly once every three years; however, the House of Bishops meets regularly in between sessions of General Convention. From July 3 – 12, 2012, General Convention will be convened in Indianapolis, Indiana.

You can learn more about the schedule of events, resolutions to come before the two houses, who the deputies and bishops are as well as more information on the General Convention 2012 official website.

All diocesan, coadjutor, suffragan, and assistant bishops of The Episcopal Church (active or retired) have seat and vote in the House of Bishops. Each  of the 109 dioceses in 16 countries of The Episcopal Church are entitled to representation in the House of Deputies by four clergy deputies, either presbyters or deacons, canonically resident in the diocese and four lay deputies who are confirmed communicants in good standing. Resolutions must pass both houses in order to take effect.

The convention is divided into committees which consider resolutions. Resolutions arise from four different sources: 1) “A” resolutions from interim bodies whose work is collected in what is referred to as the “Blue Book” 2) “B” resolutions which come from Bishops 3) “C” resolutions which come from dioceses and provinces and 4) “D” resolutions which originate from Deputies. Each properly submitted resolution is referred to a convention committee which makes its recommendation to the House. When one house has acted on the resolution it is sent to the other house for consideration.

The Education Committee (#15), a cognate committee comprising House of Bishops’ Legislative Committee #15 and House of Deputies’ Legislative Committee #15, will hear legislation regarding education and formation issues as assigned. Their meetings will occur throughout General Convention, often first thing in the morning. These meetings are generally open to the public and hearings are held so that the individuals may have their voice be heard regarding various issues. No one needs to be a deputy to speak at these hearings or attend to observe their deliberations. Resolutions from the Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Formation and Education will most likely be addressed by the Education Committee.

The House of Deputies is the house of Initial Action for resolutions that are assigned to the cognate committee #15. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori (President of the House of Bishops) and Bonnie Anderson (President of the House of Deputies) determine which resolutions are sent to which Legislative committee for hearings and discussion before being sent to either house for a vote of approval or denial. Votes in committees are done by both Houses – a vote by bishops and a vote by deputies. Their representatives then report back to their House at its legislative committee.

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