It is tax time in this nation and many Canadians are understandably consumed with questions about how their money — taxes paid on everything they do, earn, purchase or consume — is used by the government. Auditor-General Sheila Fraser last month released a report revealing alarming irregularities and misuse of public funds, where $100 million of the government’s $250-million Quebec sponsorship program was funneled to friends of the federal Liberal party. Describing a systematic abuse of taxpayers’ dollars by a small group of powerful government officials, Ms. Fraser called the affair outrageous and scandalous and a “blatant misuse of public funds.”
It is a depressing example of how government can lose touch both with its constituents and its own sense of accountability.
Likewise, finances and budgets are on the minds of the employees and committees of the church. Throughout February and March, committees and councils are meeting for the last time before the gathering of General Synod, reviewing end-of-the-year budget figures as well as the year’s reports from the church’s main charities and appeals fared in 2003. These include the Anglican Appeal, the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) and, of course, our own Anglican Journal Appeal, which marked its 10-year anniversary last year.
Once again, as the numbers amply show, Anglicans gave tremendous support to their church and their newspaper.
In the decade since the Anglican Journal first appealed to readers for financial support, our readers have responded with donations of more than $3 million. The church’s 26 diocesan newspapers ? publishing partners of the Anglican Journal ? have received nearly $537,000 of that total. The 2003 appeal brought in $490,976 ? just 1.4 per cent less than the year before. More than 15,000 of you responded to our appeal for help to continue the quality newspaper that Journal readers have come to expect.
In recent years, your support for the Anglican Journal Appeal meant, for instance, that the newspaper was able to increase its size from 12 pages ? an untenable situation, considering the scope of activity within the Anglican Communion ? to 16 pages.
Your direct support also represents nearly $491,000 of what would otherwise have come from a General Synod grant to the Anglican Journal (which is funded by subscriptions, advertising revenue, Church Calendar sales and a grant from the national church). That is $491,000 more that the General Synod has at its disposal for its operations and mission work.
We would like to say thank you. Simply put, your donations will allow us to keep doing what we do, providing news and features that show the breadth of the Anglican church in Canada and abroad. And, despite our modest resources, the Anglican Journal more than holds its own in awards competitions, where it is judged alongside publications with bigger budgets and more staff.
The two other church fundraisers, the Anglican Appeal and PWRDF, also saw healthy numbers in 2003. Anglicans who only a few years ago might have been reluctant to support the church financially when it was embroiled in litigation over residential schools, have nonetheless remained confident in the national operations, recognizing the good work that is done beyond their dioceses and their own church doors.
Compared to the Episcopal Church in the United States (ECUSA), our sister church to the south, the Anglican Church of Canada operates on a shoestring budget. When Archbishop Michael Peers appeared before the church’s general convention or its house of bishops to speak about the Canadian church, he was met with fascination about how the church could get by on its comparatively miniscule budget of $10 million. Many U.S. bishops have diocesan budgets larger than that; some have churches in their dioceses whose building projects total more than the Canadians’ annual budget.
Additionally, Anglicans in many parts of the world had difficulty comprehending how, in 1994, ECUSA’s treasurer Ellen Cooke was able to embezzle $2.2 million US ($2.9 million Cdn) of the church’s funds before anyone noticed. The sheer amount was mind-boggling. But here, too, was a sad example of a bureaucrat losing touch with the constituency she was expected to serve.
In an interview prior to his retirement, Archbishop Michael Peers said that the last few treasurers of the Anglican Church of Canada have commented that General Synod staff do not need to be reminded of whose money they are using.
General Synod, which will meet for its triennial meeting from May 28 to June 4, meets in a university setting with members, from laity to bishops, staying in campus residences. Church committees and councils typically meet in convents and religious retreat centres and, like staff, are generally parsimonious with church funds.
You have placed your trust in us. May we always remember that.