Work slightly curtailed

Council approves a budget for 2004 that reduces overall spending
February 29, 2004

RESPONDING TO a reduction in diocesan financial support to the budget set by last year's General Convention, Executive Council in February revised a budget for 2004 that reflects a 4 percent overall cut in expenses.

The action was not unexpected, and the cuts were less than many critics of General Convention's actions had forecast.

Total revenue under the revised budget is now $40.8 million and total expenditure is $40.3 million. Treasurer Kurt Barnes said these totals exclude the Episcopal Migration Ministries program because revenue is dependent upon the number of refugees that the federal government admits.

Barnes told council that, of 84 of the 113 dioceses that had made commitments to date, 40 had pledged or exceeded the 21 percent of diocesan budget sought according to the formula General Convention established. Another 42, some of whom historically have given less, had indicated they would give between 3 and 20 percent. The dioceses of Dallas and Pittsburgh stated they would give no support at all.

Connecticut and Newark dioceses exceeded the 21 percent support level, Barnes reported. Additionally, about 75 individuals have made pledges totaling $70,000 for the work of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, he said.

Total income from diocesan apportionment is expected to be down by 6.8 percent. The formula for funds from endowments was changed to a draw of 5.5 percent instead of 5 percent. "The mission of the church established will move forward," Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold told a press conference after the budget presentation. "The level by which we would like to do it has been slightly curtailed."

Barnes said a decline in income of 6 to 7 percent is "not material." Other charitable organizations, including churches and not-for-profits, suffered similar income restrictions this year, the treasurer said.

Under the budget Executive Council approved, all overseas and domestic and appropriations are reduced. No reductions are made in financial covenants with overseas churches, to the work of the Anglican Consultative Council or to ecumenical appropriations.

Council asked for patience in a statement issued at the end of the meeting. "We do not underestimate the difficulties that dioceses and congregations continue to face in light of the decisions of General Convention," it stated. "We urge all parties to continue their conversations in the spirit of what our presiding bishop calls ‘passionate patience.' "We must resist the tendency to push for speedy or easy resolution of our differences, but rather continue the hard work of listening to one another and searching for ways to accompany one another."

Asian American missioner

Bishop Arthur Williams, the interim director of ethnic ministries, announced the appointment of the Rev. Winfred B. (Fred) Vergara as missioner for Asian American ministries. The canon missioner for Asian American cultures in the Diocese of El Camino Real, he will begin work on May 1.

A native of the Philippines, Vergara served as a priest in the Philippine Independent Church for 15 years before he was received into the Episcopal Church in 1993.

Williams, who two months ago named the Rev. Angela Ifill as the new missioner for black ministries, said he expects a Native American missioner to be appointed by June. The three new staff join the Rev. Daniel Caballero, Hispanic missioner, to complete the team.

Renovation delayed

The Administration and Finance Committee defeated a motion for a complete renovation of the Episcopal Church Center in New York and instead decided to take only the next step in a proposed plan estimated to cost $28 million.

Members approved replacing the building's three elevators at a cost of $550,000 and ordered that architectural and engineering documents, with cost estimates, be completed. The committee will reconsider the renovation proposal in June.

In other business, council authorized a payment of $200,000 to General Theological Seminary in New York. Council and the seminary had been discussing the possible relocation of the church center to the seminary grounds and the redevelopment of Chelsea Square. That plan did not proceed.

Council also approved a grant of $250,000 to the Episcopal Church in the Philippines to help build an endowment fund. General Convention decided to support the fund in 1988, when the Philippine Church gained its autonomy from the Episcopal Church.