Solution to Episcopal Church budget woes?

Yesterday afternoon, the joint session of the House of Deputies and House of Bishops received a grim presentation. We were given a proposed budget for the years 2010-2012 with many cuts in program, based on projections of declining revenue.

By coincidence, I saw this item in the news last night. It seems that some Visa users were “accidentally” charged $23,148,855,308,184,500 on their bills. I did not make up that number. After two hours on hold, one user managed the get the extra charge removed (and the $15 “overdraft” fee). Not everyone is so patient. Some people would probably not even look at their Visa bills. And we don’t need to get 24 quadrillion (again, I did not make up that word) dollars from someone. We could knock off SIX zeroes. So if you know an Episcopalian who works at a credit card company, maybe they could just slap a few $24 million dollar charges onto a few bills. That amount would pretty much fix things.

On a more serious note, the proposed budget has some rough news. I’ve heard that this budget represents job losses for around 30 people at 815. That’s a lot of disrupted lives, and it would be a mistake to try to put a good spin on someone losing her or his job. My hope is that we could work out a transition in staff size through voluntary changes and gradual reductions. Sadly, it looks like this will need to happen quickly.

Financial scarcity will force us, as a church, to consider what is most important to us. That has the potential to be a good thing, since it jars us out of our complacency. Many of us have been saying for some time that we are top-heavy in the Episcopal Church. Programs that are seen to make a vital difference will be funded, while others will not be funded. We will be forced to consider innovative ways to get things done. My pleas to rethink how General Convention is conducted may finally see some serious consideration. There are too many commissions and committees in the Episcopal Church — we didn’t fix that one yet. Those committees and commissions will need to use modern technology to meet and to do their work. Finally!

Let us grieve the difficult days ahead for staff members and those affected by program cuts. And let us also pray for grace in the opportunities this situation affords us.

Failing everything else, let’s try to put the whole thing on someone’s credit card.

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