Saturday, October 27, 2012

Necessary Endings

"The tomorrow that you desire and envision may never come to pass if you do
not end some things you are doing today." Dr. Henry Cloud

Look at what is happening today that spells doom for tomorrow.  Statistics
released by the National Episcopal Church for the year 2011 show us shutting
down 58 congregations last year with more then 300 congregations closed in
the past five years.  We lost 28,861 active baptized members last year and
17% of our active baptized members over the last ten years. Our overall loss
of membership in the last fifty years is nearly 50%. The average Sunday
attendance per congregation is just 65 persons per weekend. 

It is noted that twenty-four domestic dioceses reported slight membership
growth last year even though nationally we lost thousands of members and the
average Sunday attendance is up less then one person per diocese per year.
Most of those increases are statistically meaningless with half showing less
then a one hundred new members and several less then 10 new members.  In all
cases of reported growth the numbers are well within the margin of error;
the reality is that our Episcopal Church continues in sharp membership

We all know that endings are a part of life; this is especially true in the
Church.  Therefore, it is difficult to understand that after all the decline
noted above, our leadership still clings to yesterday's ideas, structure,
and strategies.  One of the most grievous failures is the current
multiplicity of dioceses which most bishops conceive to operate as though
the diocese is comparable to large parish. They hire staff and expand
programs all the while knowing what happens at diocesan level does not grow
local congregations. We have been tolerant of this arrogance long enough.
Until we do some drastic endings, we cannot be in a position for a new and
fruitful beginning!

It is time for the American Episcopal Church to do some serious pruning -
any gardener knows that a rosebush (or a Church) cannot reach its full
potential without systematic and purposeful pruning.  The gardener knows
that removing unproductive and inappropriate appendages puts an end to
diverting precious resources. Most of our dioceses, bishops, diocesan staffs
and diocesan programs are unproductive appendages when measured by the
standard of parish growth.

To be sure, some of the factors that adversely affect the Church are
external.  Nevertheless, many of our most destructive strategies are
internal; we are promoting our own decline!

The most strategic way to cut our 99 domestic dioceses back to a reasonable
number is to prune the bishop's budget. Let's not delude ourselves; the
diocesan budget in every domestic jurisdiction is the bishop's budget!
Items and activities supported by the bishop become part of a line-item;
requests not approved by the bishop fail to be included. This is not hard to
understand because the budgeting process is controlled by diocesan staff and
often veiled in secrecy. Some bishops actually write the diocesan budget
themselves.  One diocese presented a budget with more then 50% of the
expenditures going for the cost of bishop and staff and yet no detail was
provided; no justification for who got what, just one total.  Yes, it is the
bishop's budget.  (Kudos to those few unique bishops who are/were completely
transparent in budging and worked to reduce diocesan spending.)

The bishop's budget may be presented as a "Mission Statement" so that a vote
against the bishop's budget is a vote against "Mission."  Don't be fooled.
Challenge the bishop's budget for details; don't be put off by excuses such
as we are trying to protect employee privacy or the diocesan council voted
for secrecy.  People of the diocese have a right to know what compensation,
benefits and perks are provided to the bishop and each of the staff.  How do
diocesan position packages compare to the rectors, associate clergy, lay
professional staff and administrative positions in congregations?  You might
be shocked at how well people in the bishop's budget are compensated.

If the bishop's budget is not fully transparent and in complete detail -
move for a written ballot by individual line item so that obscure entries
can be rejected. Do not authorize diocesan council to approve a budget in
lieu of convention action. Regrettably it will most often be the
lay-delegates to diocesan convention that take the lead in challenging the
bishop's budget because many of the current clergy generation have yet to be
weaned from seeking the bishop's favor.  Others are simply acclimated to
staying under the radar of decent. 

Drying up the bishop's budget is a necessary ending that will force
consolidation of dioceses plus curtailment of diocesan staffs and programs;
in turn, this will free resources for local congregations who have always
been the front line in the Anglican Communion. "The tomorrow that you desire
and envision may never come to pass if you do not end some things you are
doing today."


  1. Yes, yes, yes! And that is just the beginning. . .

  2. You are SO right! It will take courage, but it must be done. There is almost nothing left to lose. Stand up, people, and demand an accounting as if this were your own money which is being used for who knows what.

    Oh, excuse me. It IS your money.

  3. I just posted this on my Facebook page.

  4. It is time for the clergy and laity to stand up at Diocesan Conventions everywhere to demand accountability and correspondingly reduce Diocesan budgets by either majority vote or, if necessary, a vote by orders. Gary, you article is absolutely on target.

  5. In today’s world leadership talent is critical in the Church; at issue is that we have called ordinary people to lead and expected extraordinary results. We needed to have sought and called extraordinary people; time to raise the bar.