Setting the ball rolling

On Wednesday 12th October,  the Synod agreed to note an 'exposure draft' of the Statement of Funding Principles and Priorities. The document emerges from the Mission Board Strategy Committee. Synod Members were asked to provide feedback by next March.  Ted Brush gets the discussion underway.

This Statement is an incredibly important development in the life of our diocese with a number of far reaching consequences.  It is therefore critical that it receives close scrutiny and thorough debate. 

First of all, I think that the draft Statement is very helpful as it seeks to return us to a more objective understanding of our financial responsibilities.  All the funds available to the Synod are, under God, ours to steward.  There is no ‘centre’ and ‘parishes’ when it comes to our financial responsibilities as a Synod.  The Synod is made up of a number of parts, including our parishes.  I believe such a distinction grew out of how we viewed and managed our historical financial abundance rather than being a true understanding of where responsibility ultimately lies.

Second, the Statement suggests we bring three major sources of funds (namely the Endowment of the See, the Diocesan Endowment and Parish Cost Recoveries) under the one large administrative umbrella of the Synod.  Presently the Endowment of the See operates independently of the Synod.

I think that this is a helpful way to view our income streams, however there are significant questions I believe Synod needs to address including:

Are there only three sources of funds available to Synod?  For example, should we consider fund raising programmes for specific projects?  (Vision for Growth was such a project.)

Another example.  Just one hundred people willing to give just $20 per week would cover the Youthworks Year 13 budget line.  Having seen the benefits of that programme in my own family and in more than one ministry context, I for one would be glad to contribute!

Funding for development

Or, if we want to get a little more bold, could we use similar logic to establish a development fund?  Five hundred people giving just $20 per week, at today’s rates of interest, would pay the interest on over $6 million dollars that could be used to develop new, and redevelop older parish facilities.  As new churches come on line, and older churches grow, they could pick up their share of the costs, and God willing, over time begin to contribute back to further drive growth.

And, to go further still, if we expand our thinking to include interest free loans from our parishioners, perhaps $6 million is too small a target?

Perhaps this sort of thinking is naive, however I can’t help but wonder what might happen, under God, if we were to explore such ideas.

Another question.  Are we sure there will be no unintended consequences to this combining of income stream administration?  I think it would be imprudent to have the Synod voting on funds for the office of the Archbishop without ensuring that significant protection is in place for his office.  In the same way as we must always consider very carefully how much power an Archbishop is given by the Synod, so too I believe, for the sake of protecting the gospel of Jesus, we must be very careful to ensure his independence from a Synod vote on finances.

Third, the Statement proposes that expenditure items presently managed by the Synod and the Endowment of the See be combined into one single list that is prioritised into a number of broad areas, Anglican Essentials through to High Profile Mission Support.  (Details are available in the Synod papers published on the Secretariat web site under the Synod tab)

Prioritising expenditure is not something new to Synod.  There has never been enough income to meet all of our desires and so Godly wisdom has always been sought to determine what we will endeavour to fund, and what we will not.

The most significant change mooted in the Statement is that some expenses previously covered by the Endowment of the See will now fall under the umbrella of Synod.  I’ve no doubt that this part of the proposal will generate debate, however we do need to face the reality of where we find ourselves.  When it comes to the management of the EOS, beyond learning and applying our lessons for the future, we should not pointlessly seek to apportion blame or engage in ‘what if’ conjectures.  Our Archbishop is our Archbishop and we must find the funds to do what needs doing.

Examining priorities

And that brings me to the next area Synod members must satisfy ourselves with.  Are the priorities in the example list given to us in our Synod papers the priorities we ought to adopt?  Should we re-order them?  Ought we consider other expenditure items not yet on the list as priorities?

Perhaps it’s helpful to ask ourselves, ‘If we were a missionary society, would we allocate our expenditure in these ways, or would we do things differently?’

And, in allocating funds, Synod members need to ask,  ‘Are sufficient accountability measures in place from the recipients?’  I for one do not think it is responsible of Synod to simply pass over funds without an expectation of accountability.  We ought not become a ‘Nanny Diocese’, yet perhaps we could ask for more than we have?

Last of all, when it comes to the Statement, I believe that as Synod members we need to be sure that we are comfortable with the structures and assumptions that underlie the various expenditure items in the priority list.

While the Archbishop’s Commission’s report into such things is arguably a separate debate, the two areas do interrelate.  For example, the future funding needs of the EOS are predicated on continued regionalisation with regional Episcopal staff.  If there were more bishops, who were also incumbents, what would be the impact on gospel ministry and the funds needed for such a different structure?

There are no doubt many other questions that might be raised.  Perhaps some of my thinking is more wishful than practical, however we do face a real need to reform our financial principles and practices, and the sooner we do that the sooner we can devote more of our energies to the primacy of the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus to the lost in whose midst God has placed us.

Members of Synod, we have a few months.  Please speak up!  Ask questions!  Push hard!  Our collective wisdom needs to be heard and applied.

In the meantime, please pray for all involved, particularly for the Mission Board and Standing Committee as we work hard to, under God, discern the best way forward for us all.

 

The Rev Ted Brush is Rector of the Lower Mountains Parish.  He also serves on the Mission Board.  Ted and his family lived in Southwest Sydney for some twenty five years before moving to Glenbrook early last year.

 

 

 

Comments (16)

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  • Craig Schafer
    October 14, 11 - 4:27am
    The most significant change mooted in the Statement is that some expenses previously covered by the Endowment of the See will now fall under the umbrella of Synod.


    I would have thought that the most significant change mooted is that many expenses currently funded from the endowments are to be funded by significant increases in parish assessments.

    After all the rhetoric I have heard over the years about 'the priority of the parishes' I was stunned about how easily synod prioritised it's own ministry funding priorities over those of parish councils by shifting 'the big bill we have to pay, that none of us really want to pay because it doesn't contribute to ministry' to parish assessments.
  • Richard Blight
    October 14, 11 - 4:31am
    Thanks for putting your ideas out there Ted. It is certainly a once-in-a-generation opportunity to start with a blank sheet of paper (although it's not really blank . . .).

    One thing we will have to have made clear are the ground rules, for example, I believe that there may be some rules of the national church about Bishops - ie. having to have sufficient funds to cover them before they are recognised. Then again, we have gone against the 'rules' before - I'm just saying that we ought to know the ground-rules.
  • Ted Brush
    October 14, 11 - 5:08am
    You've got it Craig. That's the question we need to debate. And it's by no means a done deal. The discussion has only started and has a long way to go.

    The Synod, whose majority is made up of Parish representatives, does need to bear its financial responsibilities. The question is where the money comes from.

    As for whether any particular line contributes to ministry, well, that is why we need to decide what our priorities should be and why we should only pay for those things we believe we must.
  • Ted Brush
    October 14, 11 - 5:13am
    Hi Richard, good question there. I'm sure there are fundamentals and it would be good to have that clarified. Presumably those things called 'Anglican Essentials' are at least a part of them?
  • Craig Schafer
    October 14, 11 - 5:37am
    You've got it Craig. That's the question we need to debate. And it's by no means a done deal.
    It did seem like a pretty done deal on Wednesday night. After all the speeches about how we were just beginning the conversation about funding principles and how lots of input was necessary before we implement them; the very next piece of synod business was the implementation of one of the 'proposed' funding principles; that somehow belonging to a diocese that has membership of general synod is 'essential' to the identity of an Anglican parish. Does that mean St John's Vancouver (as it is now known) is some how lacking in an essential characteristic of an Anglican church because they are no longer part of the constitutional framework they used to belong to?. I think the idea of the 'essentials' needs a lot more solid grounding, but none of it happened before we took that last vote on Wednesday night.

    That our response to that 'big bill we have to pay that nobody wants to pay' was to require the parishes to raise more money if they want to maintain (let alone grow) their local funding for ministry, when there is still fat in the synod allocations (at least in my view) was something that depressed me and made me very nervous about the impact of these funding principles that we are apparently carefully considering before we implement them, and yet also implementing at the same time.
  • Ted Brush
    October 14, 11 - 5:47am
    Hi Craig,

    After all the speeches about how we were just beginning the conversation about funding principles and how lots of input was necessary before we implement them; the very next piece of synod business was the implementation of one of the 'proposed' funding principles; that somehow belonging to a diocese that has membership of general synod is 'essential' to the identity of an Anglican parish. ... I think the idea of the 'essentials' needs a lot more solid grounding, but none of it happened before we took that last vote on Wednesday night.

    Your right. Good point. I was surprised myself at how little debate took place.

    there is still fat in the synod allocations (at least in my view)

    What do you think we can trim? Good input for the Mission Board Strategy Committee.
  • Craig Schafer
    October 14, 11 - 5:53am
    The problem is that what I think of as fat, the Mission Board Strategy Committee clearly thinks of as fundamentals strategic drivers!

    On presentation of the General Synod invoice, I would have immediately cut two line items that together total $300,000 and scraped together the remaining $30k or whatever it is from across all the other categories, thus not materially affecting any of them. Which two line items do you think I'm talking about and how do you think I'd cut them? Anybody? Anybody?
  • Richard Blight
    October 14, 11 - 7:30am
    Can I say that the label "Anglican Essentials" used in the discussion paper was the most obvious clanger. To me "Anglican Essentials" are the Word of God, the solas of the reformation as laid out in the Book of Common Prayer and the 39 Articles.

    I don't argue that there are some "Constitutional requirements" (we might even call them 'essentials'), but if we are going to try and label things as being essential to being Anglican then we need to be a little more Theological!
  • Ted Brush
    October 14, 11 - 7:32am
    Hey Craig,

    Might be a bit unfair to suggest that the MBSC considers all the 'Anglican essentials' as 'strategic drivers'. I suspect 'non-negotiable' might actually be a bettter description than essentials. (In line with what Richardis just said)

    I'd be interested in hearing from others who know more about that area of the funding priorities.
  • Craig Schafer
    October 14, 11 - 9:29am
    Sorry for any confusion, but I didn't mean to suggest that MBSC considers any of the 'Anglican essentials' as 'strategic drivers'; I don't think there is anything in the documentation to suggest that they do.

    What I meant was that there are things the Committee describes as strategic drivers that I think are, at best 'the sort of thing that it is maybe nice to have when you have lots of money floating around'. To lay my largest card on the table - I think we could cut the Mission Areas line item with little if any negative impact on our ministry effectiveness in this city. I'm not sure that is a suggestion the Committee is likely to pay much attention to, given the emphasis coming out of it's documentation. But I've been asking the rectors I know (none of whom are Mission Area Leaders) about the value of mission areas and the very best response I've had is 'lukewarm'.

    There's the first 200k right there.
  • Andrew Bruce
    October 14, 11 - 9:00pm
    I think the value of Mission areas will improve over time, and does help to reflect part of the nature of the organisation we belong to. We have a lot of 'outlets' across Sydney and yet have largely been running them in the past like they are completely independent of each other and gaining none of the ministry value of being part of a bigger organisation.

    I am finding them really helpful to get to know people in the parishes around us and think through ministry and partnership - maybe if you are on your own in a small parish like me it tends to make it more useful than if you have other staff with you in parish?

    I think accountability on the use of money is important, but their was an underlying theology of Church being implied the other night that was a little light weight for mind. The Parish is the center of our church life for sure, but we are also part of a wider fellowship. We should help financially with those responsibilities, however, it seems some think we should on principle never pay toward the center.

    The center paid those costs in the past - was that because of our theology or pragmatics of having a large trust fund since the late 60's? (perhaps a bit of both)

    I think it is good to contribute because now more people are paying more attention to the line items like this discussion, but I also think it is unfair to imply that the center doesn't contribute to ministry.

    Having previously been in a parish where it went pear shaped, I was glad for a center.
  • Richard Blight
    October 14, 11 - 10:24pm
    There is another fundamental question to ask: If we are going to consider lumping all our expenditure together in one pot, why not combine the endowments into one?

    If we are not prepared to do this, then we do need to consider why we have the two separate endowments and whether they should be managed as such. If they are to be managed separately then it follows (doesn't it) that they are intended to be linked to two separate aspects of ministry. We then need to consider whether they are (individually) adequate for their needs and what each of these organisations must do and wish to do with the money.

    This all goes toward the transparency of these ministries . . . it would be 'a bit rich' to ask parishes to pay for ministries which are not transparent or accountable!
  • Craig Schafer
    October 14, 11 - 11:35pm
    @andrew:
    I also think it is unfair to imply that the center doesn't contribute to ministry.
    I agree, and wouldn't want to imply that at all and I'm not sure I heard anybody suggest that the other night.

    There are lots of line items in the synod allocations and assessments that I wouldn't want cut any further. There are others I think can be sacrificed without any significant impact on our ministry effectiveness in this city, especially if the alternative is less money in the parishes for running ESL groups, paying student pastors or associate pastors, producing flyers for door-knocking, maintaining ministry building etc.
  • Craig Schafer
    October 14, 11 - 11:43pm
    BTW Andrew, St Peter's shows that good website design doesn't require a big budget (assuming small church = small website budget!)
  • Andrew Bruce
    October 14, 11 - 11:56pm
    @craig - $26 was what the website cost from the budget -and quite a few hours from me. So yeh I suspect a little less than most..

    In essence as a diocese we need to be more clever with our money - and I think we are showing progress in that area. But it is a Big organization and that brings lots of challenges..
  • Allan Patterson
    October 16, 11 - 12:12am
    I think we should amalgamate all the funds as well as impose a levy for the good working of the diocese. We have a great diocese and a great leader worthy of our support. Many of the problems we see in the world and in our society exist because we are not willing to share. Maybe we could have an opt-out situation with the levy for those who don't want to be part of the bigger picture