By now most of you have become aware of the Executive Council’s proposed budget for the 2013-2015 Episcopal Church triennium, which reduces the Christian formation and vocations line item (all things children, youth, young adult, adult and older adult) from $3 million to $286,000. This 90 percent cut is explained as devolution or subsidiarization – the theory that in this extended season of economic strain, Christian formation is most effectively delivered and sustained at a more local level – province, diocese, or congregation.
Church-wide program cuts were anticipated in response to the continuing precipitous decline in membership and commensurate diminished voluntary giving by dioceses (optimistically estimated at 19 percent of diocesan budgets). The proposed budget virtually eliminates denominational staffing, resources, and programming for Christian formation. To make matters worse, the parish and diocesan structures from which Christian formation leadership is intended to devolve are themselves under severe stress. The aggregate number of staff layoffs far exceeds new hires as congregations and dioceses undergo “restructuring.”
It is no wonder the budget news has sparked a firestorm of indignation and protest. People are talking, blogging, organizing, petitioning and, yes, even praying! Perhaps this is not all bad. Oscar Wilde once said, “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about,” and then there’s always the popular (if debatable) adage, “any publicity is good publicity.” Christian formation is certainly getting press.
While there is much amiss with the process and priorities revealed in the proposed budget, the outcome may yet be holy (see the blog by Thomas Ferguson, Bexley Hall Seminary Dean, Crusty Old Dean). After over 30 years of hard, intentional work surrounding the baptismal covenant (inspired by the liturgical revisions of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer), the language and practices of faith formation across the life span are beginning to take hold. Read more…