BREAKING NEWS: Better budget released by PB

Budget logoToday someone has finally stepped up and offered a budget for the Episcopal Church that makes sense. Here’s the PB’s letter and proposed budget. As I wrote earlier, our current budgeting process is completely and utterly broken. Crusty Old Dean was even more scathing.

But back to this news. I haven’t had a chance to scrutinize every line, but this one looks like something I can get excited about.

  • It massively increases mission funding.
  • It provides money to (*gasp*) plant churches.
  • It increases our investment with our overseas partners.
  • It increases funding for work (advocacy and service) to alleviate domestic poverty.
  • The Five Marks of Mission now compose over 60% of the budget.
  • Oh, and it cuts 13ish positions from the Church Center staff, with only one department seeing an increase: the office of the President of the House of Deputies.

A few people — mostly people on the PHoD’s Advisory Council and Executive Council insiders — will howl that the PB did this. [UPDATED: I received a kind note from a reader of 7WD who pointed out that I should not assume what the PHoD’s Advisory Council will say. This is of course correct, and my tone was not what it could have been here. In the past certain people in the EC and PHoD/AC have been among the most partisan in what I perceive to be a battle. But past performance does not guarantee future returns, and we can add to that–there is plenty about our current situation that I don’t understand. At the time I posted this, I had already seen some signs of defensiveness among some of these folks, but again, who knows what people will say? While I aim for a gentle blend of inspiration, information, humor, and friendly snark here on 7WD, I try not to ascribe motive — and I should not box people into behaviors that I expect to see. It’s not the way forward. So we’ll see if there is howling. On this point, I would be pleased to be wrong.]

Three things. First and most important, even if it’s a problem for some reason that the PB has proposed a budget, let’s talk about the numbers. We cannot let our conversation get bogged down by quarrels over turf. And it’s not like our current process is in any way ideal.

Second, I do not want to live in a world where PB & F or Executive Council “thought police” must generate every idea. We can see what happens then. Instead, shouldn’t we be grateful for anyone who wants to create a budget proposal? If a church-goer in Alabama wants to send in a better budget, let’s have a look. She or he should not need a permission slip to think or to submit ideas.

Third, it is, in fact, the Presiding Bishop’s job to lead our church. She does not — nor should she — do this alone or apart from consultation with others. But if a leader wants to lead, I’m all in favor of that. She cannot, nor would she wish to, dictate to us what we must do, but it seems fine and even ideal to know what she thinks about our direction, especially when there has been a complete breakdown in the system. At this moment in our history, we can’t afford to sit on protocol, ceremony, and protection of fiefdoms. There’s canonical support for the PB doing this.

In fact, as I wrote earlier, I think this is closer to the ideal priorities. The General Convention sets priorities, the staff creates a budget, and then the elected leaders approve a budget. In this case, General Convention said the Five Marks of Mission were our budget priorities. The staff has responded with a budget. And now General Convention can have a look and decide what to do. Sounds pretty great to me.

So let’s marke our conversation here about the numbers. Once I have a chance to dig into the budget, I’ll have more to say on that front.

15 Comments so far

  1. Kevin Montgomery on June 21st, 2012

    Cautiously encouraged.

  2. Jared Cramer on June 21st, 2012

    Thanks for this, Fr. Gunn. I’m sure some will cry fowl, but I agree that this needed to happen. GC needs something to consider that is not the train wreck of a budget currently proposed.

  3. Lauren Stanley on June 21st, 2012

    Thanks, Scott, You’ve read this faster than I was able to, but I think we’ve come to the same conclusion: Leadership. Mission. Agility.
    Good stuff.
    Blessings,
    Lauren

  4. Danny Cutting on June 21st, 2012

    Thank you for this…it vastly improves on the prior effort. I dont think it matters WHO made the suggestions… but if the PB did, I’m thrilled. We need to have a leader who cares about the church in the world more than the staffing etc!…we are Church, not a finance company!

  5. Lelanda Lee on June 21st, 2012

    I totally agree that we need a pragmatic rather than a political response to the PB’s proposed budget. The reality is that ONLY the PB and the COO had the requisite access to staff and data to accomplish this budget. Those who have fielded the slings and arrows of this triennium’s budget process with our bodies and souls need to forgive and keep our eyes focused on doing holy work in submission to the good of the Body. I’m not saying it’s easy….

    Lelanda
    Member, Executive Council 2009-2015

  6. Melody on June 21st, 2012

    I am interested to see and hear more about what these numbers actually mean. I understand it is being played in terms of increased focus on mission and ministry, and I dearly hope that is the case. But like previous posters, I am cautiously optimistic.

    I also hope that, if we move forward with a budget like this, we honor the 12.75 staff persons whose jobs will be cut by this budget. While I agree, whole-heartedly, that we need to be putting our money into mission and not structure, I also want to honor that there are names and faces associated with those numbers… I hope we will do a good job, as a church, of remembering that fact.

  7. Elizabeth Anderson on June 21st, 2012

    I agree. I’m actually pleasantly surprised by a lot of this, including the commitments to Christian formation, ecumenical relations, overseas partners, and church planting.

    On an initial read, I do have a couple of concerns, but those are really very minor compared with my reaction to the EC budget…

    -I’m not sure that I would cut staffing for Anglican Communion relations based on “normalized relations” in the Anglican Communion. I don’t know if I would describe things as all THAT normalized yet, and even if they are, it seems to me that we have to dedicate ourselves to nurturing those relationships on an ongoing basis, not just whenever a crisis erupts. It’s really not that much money, and so I would maintain that…

    -I remain concerned about using the budget as a way to completely eliminate the General Board of Examining Chaplains. I happen to like the GBEC. I also know that other people disagree, and if it comes down to a vote, then the church as a whole might very well decide that it’s not something we want to maintain. But right now, we’ve said that we do want it, haven’t reversed that position, and it certainly seems to me that the canons require it. I would like to see it continue, but I absolutely think that if we do choose to eliminate it then it needs to be a deliberate and considered decision, passed by a formal resolution and not just quietly defunded as part of the budget…

    But there is really a lot to be happy about here, so I don’t want to seem too critical. This is a well put together document, and one that I see a surprising number of positive things in….

  8. Jan Nunley on June 21st, 2012

    A few points to ponder, in the midst of the hosannas.

    1) Yes, politics is tiresome, but isn’t there a whiff of politics in all the high-minded rhetoric here? Couldn’t this proposition, despite its positive aspects, also be a political end run by the PB and her COO around the canonical budgeting process *in which they participated.* Doesn’t that feel a little funny to anybody?

    2) Doesn’t responsibility for the “incoherence” of the Executive Council budget ultimately rest with the DFMS/GC Treasurer’s office, which ran the numbers for EC, and the staff, which contributed to that document? And now we are to grant the Treasurer and his staff a mulligan at the expense of the democratic process?

    3) Well-intentioned as this proposal may be, it carries the seed of a dangerous precedent, for as we well know, what is innovation this year in the Church becomes tradition next year. Much as we may agree with what is proposed here, if GC cedes the budgeting process to the PB’s office, we may find the next PB’s proposals not so much to our liking, and then where will we be?

    4) It is most emphatically NOT the PB’s job to “lead the church.” That is the direct responsibility of the bicameral General Convention, with the PB and the PotHoD serving as *presiding* officers. Politics is hard work, but it is out of the struggle of ideas that God is able to forge a stronger and more committed Church. The PB’s position is very “charismatic” in our media-soaked age, as is the House of Bishops, and that makes me nervous.

    The proposals look great, on their face. The way they are proposed, with its “end run” character, not so much. History is full of such paradoxes coming to bad ends. Let’s not get caught in one.

    But I’m just a simple country priest; YMMV.

  9. Scott Gunn on June 21st, 2012

    Jan, thanks for stopping by and for leaving such a thoughtful comment. A few points:

    1. Sure, all of this is politics. It doesn’t feel funny at all that someone has responded to a dysfunctional budgeting process and a broken budget with a better one. No kidding, I was working with some other people on a better one myself until this morning.

    2. No one has yet explained what happened with Exec Council’s budget — which is what Tom writes about in the linked article above. My understanding is that the staff has not consulting — or hardly consulted in the construction of that budget. I dunno.

    3. People might well differ on what the budgeting process should be. My view, as I’ve written before several times, is that GC should set priorities, and the staff should prepare the budget. That’s the way it works in most board-run organizations. So this seems like a step toward how it should work.

    4. See canon I.2.4(a)(1). The PB shall “Be charged with responsibility for leadership in initiating and developing the policy and strategy in the Church and speaking for the Church as to the policies, strategies and programs authorized by the General Convention.” I think she did just that.

    Also, I was clear to say she leads the church, but not alone. I would also say that every deputy and bishop–and many other lay leaders are called to lead the church. No one has invited a papacy at 815.

    I don’t see this as an “end run” as a “step toward sanity” but I’m just a simple priest who lives in the heartland, unlike you, who basically lives in NYC. :-)

    Thanks for your note again. These conversations can make a difference for our whole church if we have enough of them.

  10. Jan Nunley on June 21st, 2012

    Scott, please. In the City, they call where I live “upstate.” By which they mean: those people who live only a little closer to us than those people in the Heartland. Don’t try to pull geography on me, son: I’m from Texas.

  11. Small Farmer in Frisco on June 21st, 2012

    Jan as a fellow Texan I get where you are coming from…I find myself wondering if the international resurgence of Bishop-Primates and the whole ACNA debacle isn’t causing folks to question the works of bishops in church governance?

    In fairness I do believe what the PB has put forward seems to make more sense missionally than the ECEC version – it strikes me that it might make more sense if budgets were set AFTER the GC had set triennial direction so folks could have a better idea of where the dollars would be going concretely.

    And maybe folks would feel better if we had 815 sold and they moved the executive operations to Dallas…I’m sure the Mayor and City Council would be willing to put up some incentives…and with DFW it would sure be easy to get folks in and out – hey, maybe Jerry Jones would let us have Cowboys Stadium for GC? smile

  12. Sarah Dylan Breuer on June 21st, 2012

    Dude!

    Nobody told me I had status as an officer in the Thought Police!

    When do I get my uniform, and will this get me out of speeding tickets?

    Blessings,

    Dylan

  13. Scott Gunn on June 21st, 2012

    Officer Dylan, the thought police status only gets you out of intellectual tickets, I fear.

    Srsly.

    When I ran across people saying that it was improper for someone outside of EC or PB&F to suggest a budget, it pushed my buttons. That’s ridiculous. We have a process for budget approval, and that process should look at good ideas wherever they come from. Period.

    Seems simple, but new ideas are called unconstitutional. So, yeah, you EC types are the thought police, I guess.

    Sigh.

  14. […] To highlight just one reaction to the new budget proposal: Scott Gunn, over at Seven Whole Days, wrote, “Today someone has finally stepped up and offered a budget for the Episcopal Church that […]

  15. […] To read more about what others are saying about the PB’s Budget Proposal: The Lead,┬áSusan Snook, Crusty Old Dean, and Scott Gunn. […]