A drop in diocesan contributions to the national office’s budget along with lingering financial uncertainty spurred a conversation about the long-term stability of the Anglican Church of Canada’s finances in a Nov. 24 session of the Council of General Synod (CoGS).
Amal Attia, the national church’s treasurer and CFO, presented figures that showed that as of Sept. 30, General Synod was experiencing a revenue shortfall of just over $600,000, attributable mostly to diocesan contributions running $724,728 less than budgeted. Contributions from dioceses are expected to pick up by the time the year’s numbers are finalized, she said, and a deficit of $153,667 is projected for the year.
While the 2023 deficit is projected to be small enough to be manageable, the decline in diocesan contributions is part of a trend of declining revenue in the church, which Attia warned will likely continue in the long run. In the short term, it has been possible for the national office to balance the gap with other revenue and by cutting expenses. And in case of a severe and unexpected shortfall, it has a contingency fund it can dip into. But the size of that fund is limited, and General Synod may eventually need to make cuts to programming to compensate. She urged CoGS members to take that news to their dioceses.
“Take it to them and let them know that we try our best to protect everyone,” she said.
Meanwhile, she said, the 2024 budget is projected to break even partly through a reduction in total expenses from $10,666,325 expected for 2023 to $9,631,339 budgeted for 2024. The document Attia provided to CoGS for the 2024 budget forecasts that year’s diocesan contributions, which make up most of the national church’s revenue, to be $312,848 less than the projected total for 2023.
Later in the session, Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, weighed in on the question of eventual program cuts at the national office.
For the moment, she said, Attia’s hard work finding cost savings, preserving the contingency fund and finding revenue through things like renting out space at Church House has put the church in a stable position. But she also told CoGS members that when the time comes to make decisions about cutting programming, it will be CoGS that is responsible for making those decisions.
“If we look at a long-range forecast and we see a massive reduction being needed, the decisions about what we will stop doing will ultimately come here … This body will have to say, ‘We can no longer afford Faith, Worship and Ministry or we can no longer afford Global Relations or we can no longer afford the Anglican Journal,’ ” she said. “We’re not there yet, but that decision ultimately about what we stop doing cannot be on the staff. It would have to come from the whole church.”
Nicholls also spoke of the national church’s plan—the details of which are still being finalized—to sell its downtown Toronto property and move into a location shared with the United and Presbyterian churches. The hope is for that sale to generate some revenue the church can invest and use the resulting income partially to offset rental costs at the new location and partially to contribute to the national budget, she said. But that will be a one-time sale and with commercial real estate values in downtown toronto significantly lower in the post-pandemic economy, much will depend on what the church can get for it, she said.
Nicholls also discussed the financial future of the church in her opening remarks to CoGS. The church is likely to remain smaller and be less affluent than it once was, she said, but these things should not be taken as signs that it is ending or that it is no longer watched over by God.
“We need to get used to being a minority,” she said. “Throughout history, there’s been renewal and change and revival and transformation of the church. It’ll happen again. But we have to let go of our desire to be on top, to be in power, to be in control. We need to let go and be willing to be vulnerable and to be poor, frankly, and discover that poverty of resources in terms of money is actually the least of our worries.”
The Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil’s diocese of Amazonia, which she recently visited, could hold lessons for Canadian Anglicans, Nicholls said. It’s a vast diocese where six clergy and little money make a huge community impact. “When I see that kind of energy and passion and joy that has very little to do with physical resources, then I say, ‘Okay, we’ve got something to learn,’” she said.